The Bottom Line: A first-rate medical thriller that establishes new author James Marshall Smith as one of the year’s best newcomers.
Among local law enforcement, scientist Damon Keane is something of a celebrity in Atlanta. So when Atlanta police’s Special Operations Section find themselves faced with three ghoulish deaths and no solid leads, the mayor himself finds Dr. Keane – who is volunteering at a camp for wayward teens – and cajoles him into joining the effort.
As Keane reluctantly returns to Atlanta, more victims emerge. He suspects radiation poisoning, but after a full battery of tests, there’s no trace of polonium-210, thallium or any other bacteria or virus. Still, Keane is convinced that these people have been murdered. But how?
Riding along with Keane as he discovers the answer to that question is pure joy. In a genre full of eccentric detectives and narrative gimmicks, author James Marshall Smith distinguishes Keane with the plausible investigative processes he employs to get his answers. All Keane needs is a worthy adversary, and Smith gives him an exceptional one in a technician at a local oncology center that turns out to be far more than he seems. The ensuing race against the clock spirals into a breathtaking and readily believable global manhunt.
Smith, founding chief of the radiation studies branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obviously brings a wealth of knowledge to the subject, but he never lets the story get so bogged down in the details that it ceases to entertain. It’s not going too far to say that every note rings true. If you like medical thrillers based upon actual science, put Silent Source at the top of your reading queue.