The best thriller books about pathogens with a touch of humor

Why am I passionate about this?

I enjoy combining science, wit, and satire in my stories. I’ve observed life for 75 years, practiced food-animal veterinary medicine, and used molecular biology to earn a PhD in microbiology. The evolution of virulence in pathogens has long been an interest of mine. From observation, I’ve learned never to underestimate the destructive power of a well-intentioned fool, and that no situation is so bad that an idiot can’t make it worse. Heroes are flawed. They make mistakes, but they grow. They kick themselves in the ass and move on. Their opponents aren’t supermen, either. 


I wrote...

The Iceman's Curse

By Gary F. Jones,

Book cover of The Iceman's Curse

What is my book about?

Nature, climate change, and human stupidity threaten to create a pandemic.

A post-doctoral student at the University of Minnesota and a physician from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) struggle to save the country from a deadly viral epidemic as eccentrics in a snowbound Wisconsin village clash with the CDC and the drug dealers who unwittingly unleashed the threat.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pandemic

Gary F. Jones Why did I love this book?

Pandemic includes my two favorite themes: molecular biology and viral infections. It introduces a problem I’ve seen discussed in a scientific journal. If a gene editing tool (CRISPR/Cas 9) is used to raise pigs whose hearts have important human proteins so they are recognized as “self” by a human’s immune system, the waiting lists for heart transplants would be a thing of the past. However, a virus, avirulent in the pig but fatal to people, could accidentally be carried along with those hearts. The ensuing coverups make things exponentially worse.

By Robin Cook,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pandemic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times-bestselling author Robin Cook takes on the cutting-edge world of gene-modification in this pulse-pounding new medical thriller.

When an unidentified, seemingly healthy young woman collapses suddenly on the New York City subway and dies upon reaching the hospital, her case is an eerie reminder for veteran medical examiner Jack Stapleton of the 1918 flu pandemic. Fearful of a repeat on the one hundredth anniversary of the nightmarish contagion, Jack autopsies the woman within hours of her demise and discovers some striking anomalies: first, that she has had a heart transplant, and second, that, against all odds, her DNA…


Book cover of Life Support

Gary F. Jones Why did I love this book?

Gerritsen’s Life Support is a suspense-filled cliffhanger that makes use of spongiform encephalitis, a brain disease caused by prions. Remember Mad Cow Disease? It’s a type of problem that stretches the meaning of “infection.” The story is based on the fictional use of fetal pituitary cells from aborted fetuses to return youthful strength and vigor to elderly rich people. The group making millions from this obtains fetuses from a Mexican village where the cows are dying. A year later, several of their patients die of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an extremely rare human type of spongiform encephalitis. Corpses accumulate and suspense builds during the coverup.

By Tess Gerritsen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life Support as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

DON'T COUNT ON SEEING TOMORROW

'If you like your crime medicine strong, this will keep you gripped.' Mail on Sunday

Dr Toby Harper's quiet night is disrupted when a severely ill man stumbles into ER. She suspects a viral brain infection. But shortly after trying to treat him, he disappears without a trace.

When a second person is admitted with the same symptoms, she starts to trace the deadly infection backwards. And begins to suspect foul play.

And that she may be on borrowed time . . .


Book cover of Skin Tight

Gary F. Jones Why did I love this book?

Skin Tight mixes suspense with satire. Mick Stranahan, a retired state investigator, kills a would-be assassin with a stuffed Marlin. To stop further attempts on his life, Stranahan investigates his list of old enemies, including a hitman of dubious talent, an inept personal injury lawyer, an incompetent surgeon, and an irritating journalist. The mix of bumbling criminals and satire of authorities and politicians is hilarious. I relish tales with suspense, humor, flawed protagonists, and sendups of people in power.

By Carl Hiaasen,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Skin Tight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bestselling author Carl Hiaasen serves up a humorous helping of "taut, fast-paced action...crisp and hot" (The New York Times).

After dispatching a pistol-packing intruder from his home with the help of a stuffed Marlin head, Mick Stranahan can't deny that someone is out to get him. His now-deceased intruder carries no I.D., and as a former Florida state investigator, Stranahan knows there are plenty of potential culprits. His long list of enemies includes an off point hit man, a personal injury lawyer of billboard fame, a notoriously irritating TV journalist, and a fumbling plastic surgeon.

Now, if he wants to…


Book cover of C.B. Greenfield: The Piano Bird

Gary F. Jones Why did I love this book?

This witty and wryly humorous murder mystery features two amateur sleuths. Maggie, a reporter from up north, is vacationing on an island off the coast of Florida when a murder takes place. She investigates, is stumped, and convinces her irascible boss, editor C. B. Greenfield, to come down and help. Thereafter, she grouses about him as he puts his formidable intellect into solving the mystery.

By Lucille Kallen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked C.B. Greenfield as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stated First Edition. A Near Fine copy in a Near Fine dust jacket. Dust soiling to the jacket's rear panel.


Book cover of Toxin

Gary F. Jones Why did I love this book?

Studies since the publication of the book have found it to be in error on a few minor points (e.g., the DNA encoding the Shiga-like toxin of E. coli O157:H7 is on a virus infecting the E. coli cells, not on a plasmid), but that doesn’t make the story outdated. The toxin is as nasty as it is portrayed, no matter how the E. coli acquired it, and the blame leveled at the meat-packing industry and the USDA for the contamination that causes the problem is spot on. The only reason the disease isn’t more common is that most fast-food restaurants deliberately overcook their hamburgers.

By Robin Cook,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Toxin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When his daughter, Becky, becomes ill from bacterial poisoning, Dr. Kim Reggis, a cardiac surgeon, is determined to track down the cause, no matter what the cost.


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The Road from Belhaven

By Margot Livesey,

Book cover of The Road from Belhaven

Margot Livesey Author Of The Road from Belhaven

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader Secret orphan Professor Scottish Novelist

Margot's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Road from Belhaven is set in 1880s Scotland. Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small girl that she can see the future. But she soon realises that she must keep her gift a secret. While she can sometimes glimpse the future, she can never change it.

Nor can Lizzie change the feelings that come when a young man named Louis, visiting Belhaven for the harvest, begins to court her. Why have the adults around her never told her that the touch of a hand can change everything? When she follows Louis to Glasgow, she begins to learn the limits of his devotion and the complexities of her own affections.

The Road from Belhaven

By Margot Livesey,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a novel about a young woman whose gift of second sight complicates her coming of age in late-nineteenth-century Scotland

Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small child that she can see into the future. But her gift is selective—she doesn’t, for instance, see that she has an older sister who will come to join the family. As her “pictures” foretell various incidents and accidents, she begins to realize a painful truth: she may glimpse the future, but…


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