Monday, July 30, 2012


Quarantined, by Joe McKinney

Official Blurb (which, I warn you, is full of spoilers):
The citizens of San Antonio, Texas are threatened with extermination by a terrifying outbreak of the flu. Quarantined by the military to contain the virus, the city is in a desperate struggle to survive. Inside the quarantine walls, Detective Lily Harris is working burial statistics duty at the Scar, San Antonio's mass graveyard, when she finds a murder victim hidden amongst the plague dead. But Lily's investigation into the young woman's death soon takes a frightening turn as yet another strain of the deadly flu virus surfaces, and now Lily finds herself caught up in a conspiracy orchestrated by a corrupt local government intent on hiding the news from the world and fighting a population threatening to boil over into revolt. As the city erupts in violence, Lily is forced to do the unthinkable. With the clock ticking toward annihilation, Lily must lead her family through the quarantine walls and escape with news that just might save us all.

My Reaction:

The mystery aspect was a bit predictable and the "reveal" was rather rushed.  (Actually, if you've read the blurb, you pretty much know the gist of the whole story.)  In many ways, it felt like your typical police-procedural / crime novel-- but the setting (San Antonio, TX, under a quarantine after a deadly flu outbreak) is unusual.  (Well, I haven't seen a lot of quarantine-themed crime novels, but maybe they're a dime a dozen.)

Certain aspects of the book felt amateurish.   For instance, there was the mention of just about every character's height in feet and inches, and most characters weren't very well developed.  Some editing issues also cropped up repeatedly, such as question marks where periods ought to have been used and a few issues with verb tense.  The novel simply wasn't as layered and polished as it could have been.  I think some of the characters and plot-lines could have used a little more fleshing out, but it was a quick read with an interesting-enough premise, and two of the main characters (Lily and her partner, Chunk) grew on me sufficiently that I cared what happened to them.  It was a decent read for the genre (crime/thriller with a mild, realistic horror setting)-- just not outstanding.

More Particulars (Including SPOILERS):

--  Some readers seem to have found this book terrifying.  I didn't.  I was a bit grossed out by some of the more graphic descriptions of disease-- and if I think too much about the possibilities of the next pandemic, that scares me, certainly-- but I didn't find myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading... No nightmares or vaguely unsettled feeling.

--  The most emotional moment of the book for me was when Chunk decided not to escape the city.  I was a bit surprised, because up until then, I didn't think I really cared especially about any of the characters... but evidently I did!  I still think it's a bummer that he didn't leave...

--  I am picky about child characters.  Most often, I seem not to like them in modern novels or where they are not protagonists.  So, no surprise that I wasn't crazy about Connie.  She got on my nerves, honestly.  I kind of just wished she wasn't in the book at all, but considering that she was Lily's main motivation for wanting to escape (like it would be too selfish to want to escape for your own sake?!), I guess she had an important purpose in the story.

--  There are a lot of unanswered questions.  If the powers that be could quarantine H2N2, why will they be unable to do the same with the new, deadlier strains?  At the end, when Lily sends her story and evidence to the newspaper reporter, she writes that there's only about a month for him to act (before the grackles return to San Antonio and spread the new strains of the flu).  I don't know much about these things, but I do know that it takes a while to develop and manufacture vaccines.  What exactly could be done in just a month, beyond the very basics of preparation for a pandemic?  It seems like very short notice!

--  "Rumor has it that the government started building the pieces to the wall years before the epidemic in San Antonio-- not as a means to quarantine a city, but to keep the Mexicans from jumping the border."  Ha!  Yeah, right.  (What wild flights of fancy.)

--  Some of the humor was juvenile, to say the least.

--  Someone needs to learn the difference between "dominate" and "dominant".

--  For once, when politics were (briefly) mentioned, I didn't feel that the author was a flaming liberal with an agenda to not-so-subtly push through his/her work.  (Note to random passers-by:  Yes, I'm conservative, and I get tired of authors using "Republican" as code or shorthand for "evil".)

--  Getting tipsy (if not downright drunk) at a kid's birthday party?  Classy.  I get that the adults needed a break from the stress, too; I simply don't understand why that break almost always has to come in the form of alcohol, in so many books, movies, and TV shows.  It's bizarre (from my non-drinker's point of view). 

--  As I mentioned before, the mystery is very tidily and quickly resolved.  It felt less like Lily and Chunk solved the crime than that it just sort of solved itself.  Thank goodness for tell-all confessions, right?  Dr. Cole is an odd character-- the way he chuckles over the whole thing like it's some sort of joke... and yet it feels like we're almost supposed to applaud his selfless devotion to the Greater Good... It was weird.  But by that point, I really didn't care about the mystery.  I'd moved on to the escape plan and was waiting to see how that would work out.