Friday, November 14, 2014


Robin Cook is a doctor and author of medical thrillers. A New York Times Bestselling author. I have heard of him before but never actually picked up one of his books until now. Better late than never. Others have said that all his novels follow the same pattern of a doctor finding out something is wrong in the system and then running around trying to beat the clock. I can't either agree or disagree because I haven't read one of his novels yet...well, I have now. Let's talk about Outbreak:


Hardback copy
When the director of a Los Angeles health maintenance clinic succumbs, along with seven patients, to an untreatable virus, Atlanta's Center for Disease Control goes on red alert. Unless the virus is isolated and checked, mankind may be facing its gravest medical crisis since the Black Death.

Assigned by the CDC to investigate the disease, Dr. Marissa Blumenthal is soon caught up in the ultimate nightmare. The California case is merely the first in a burgeoning series of outbreaks that occur in unrelated geographical areas but with puzzling commonalities: The locations are always health-care facilities, and the victims are only physicians and their patients.

As her investigation takes increasingly bizarre turns, Marissa finds that behind the natural threat lurks a far more sinister possibility: sabotage.

Before she discovers the truth, Marissa must overcome her superiors' fury, her colleagues' doubts—and the wrath of a powerful cabal, sworn to achieve its aims, no matter what the cost in human life—including Marissa's.


This novel was many things. A thriller was one. I picked it because of the title alone. It so happens to be about an Ebola outbreak. Seemed like another timely novel. It was a quick read and fun. I happen to be studying epidemiology at the moment and so there were smiles on my face whenever he reference medical terminology that I actually understood. The medical jargon was fun! There was a lot to like here--and some not.

The author is a doctor in real life. I always find that those little details to be intriguing. Makes me feel like the author knows what he's doing. Of course, maybe he tried to drive that point a little bit too hard. There were scenes where our MC spends too much time in contaminated hospitals doing the same thing over and over again, and we were told step by step why she was doing and how she was doing it.

Example: Marissa had to travel from hospital to hospital whenever an outbreak got out. She was sent by the CDC. In each situation there were steps that needed to be taken. After the first outbreak, we were well aware of the procedure. No need to hammer that in every single time she visited another hospital. It got repetitive at best. Repetition was one of the factors of the novel that I didn't enjoy. Marissa goes to the airport about a dozen times. Marissa with Ralph. Marissa eats hotel food. Marissa's feelings on Dubchek. Marissa gets attacked--and always gets away. Marissa at the CDC at night doing things she shouldn't be and and so on. I would've liked to have skipped to the chase.

The love stories in this novel also rubbed me the wrong way. Not because I don't enjoy them. But because there wasn't one, really. Ralph was an older friend of hers. He was always just there. Not much happening with him, which made me wonder about him. Tad was a younger co-worker who did whatever she wanted her to and then fizzled out at the end. Then there was Dubchek. The man hit on her once and kissed her without her consent. She rejected him and so he spent the rest of the book making her life a living hell. Marissa spends too much time blaming herself for the whole incident and that just didn't sit well with me. I won't say how that part of the relationship unravels, but lets just say, that alone ruined the ending for me.

Marissa's motives also bothered me. She went far and beyond to find out the truth when it could have caused her a good job and friends. Her obsession with the outbreak was taken to extreme levels. Marissa had up to that point been a bit of a people pleaser and then suddenly she just needed to travel all around the country, breaking the law, and fighting criminals in order to learn the truth. Why? I just never felt that she had a really good reason to do any of it. At one point she acknowledges that she was endangering herself and that she had little proof of anything. I agreed. I also didn't buy that she was the only doctor who understood what was going on. The index case and everyone who began the individual outbreaks had all been mugged or attacked at one point. No one seemed to have noticed this or taken note except for our MC who also happened to have been new at her job.

Despite all the flaws in the novel, I still enjoyed it. The first part was spent learning and setting the scene for the second half which is  the thriller part. I wanted the story to end with more of a bang because the second half rode hard, but it didn't. I was left wanting a tad more. Again, despite all this the last few chapters kept me at the edge of my seat, and I did not stop reading until it all ending. For this alone, I give the book a huge amount of credit. It entertained me and taught me. Also, it was fun reading about the 80's.