A Pyrrhic Victory, a Timely and Satisfying Medical Thriller by N.E. Miller

The Bottom Line: An exhilarating, timely, keeps-you-guessing medical thriller about the race to stop a deadly mosquito-borne virus. 

N.E. Miller introduced us to Giles Butterfield, a brilliant Oxford medical scholar on the verge of a retirement, in The Achilles Gene (voted last year’s Best Medical Thriller). But after his heroics in The Waynflete Trilogy’s first two installments, where he achieved celebrity status by uncovering a massive medical research fraud scheme that threatens the reputation of the storied Nobel Prize, he’s back with a new life and a new mission.

A Pyrrhic Victory finds Giles sporting several new titles, including Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the Polar Star, bestowed upon him by Sweden for his role in preserving the standing of the Nobel Prize. Readers who have been with him since Book 1 will relish seeing Giles flex his newfound status to convince his boss to greenlight his next project. Giles has been working in cancer research as of late, but is eager to get back to his first love, virology. And he’s hoping to do that at INDOMED, a research lab in Indonesia that has an ambitious plan to develop a vaccine that would inoculate against every mosquito-borne illness.

His plans take on a new urgency as a mysterious mosquito swarm ignites a deadly epidemic on the tiny Hawaiian island of Ni’ihau. Bites are fatal. Soon Giles and fellow researcher (and love interest) Fiona are caught up in a race to identify the virus and what or who might be behind it. 

As the mystery deepens, the pair begin to uncover familiar hallmarks of arch nemesis Stephen Salomon. Soon, Giles and Fiona find themselves on a harrowing journey through rainforest, mountains and desert to avoid a global humanitarian disaster. 

Series fans will love the quickened pace of this third instalment, as Giles and Fiona begin to hone their growing powers of criminal deduction. What follows is an Outbreak-style thriller for our times, with the kind of real-world stakes that no longer seem the stuff of fiction. Miller, who has had his own storied career as a medical scientist and geneticist perhaps best known for discovering the link between “good” cholesterol and protection against heart disease, remains a master at deftly dropping you into the world of academia and medical research, but never at the expense of great storytelling. That’s especially true when it comes to the book’s dialogue. It goes without saying that conversations crackle with wit, but Miller also has a flair for layering in just enough academic ego to give Giles an edge without ever making him unlikable. 

Readers already invested in Giles and Fiona’s relationship will not be disappointed. But if you’re new to the series, start with The Achilles Gene. You’ll be utterly lost if you don’t, as Miller doesn’t waste much time on backstory. Rest assured that the journey to this – perhaps the series’ finest hours – will be well worth your time investment. With seemingly higher stakes than the first two books, and a generous number of twists and turns, the trilogy concludes with satisfaction nearly guaranteed. 

Bella Wright

Bella Wright blogs about books, film and media.

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