Pandemic (The Extinction Files, Book 1), by A. G. Riddle

A decades old abandoned submarine is boarded under the arctic sea. A man with amnesia wakes in a hotel in Berlin to find a body nearby. An medical clinic in Africa confronts its first case of a strange multi-symptom disease. A doctor is called by the CDC to travel to Africa to determine the nature of the new outbreak.

These are some of the chopped opening scenes to the first book of a new thriller series by A. G. Riddle. Like any good modern thriller it keeps to brief chapters and small scenes, sweeping back and forth in time and location. The book is mostly well-written and the plot works well as it gradually peels away the identity of Desmond Hughes, follows the investigation of epidemiologist Peyton Shaw, with whom Hughes has some kind of relationship, and ultimately exposes a pandemic which appears in multiple areas simultaneously and may be an act of terrorism.

Some of the stories within the book are compelling: a courageous African doctor risking his life to save others, Desmond’s expanding memories of being the sole survivor of his Australian family and being sent off to his tough abusive uncle in Oklahoma.

The main problem with the general plot is that as it becomes clear who the bad guys are, what they want, and the execution of the plot it becomes such a small and incestuous group that the reader rightfully feels like the rug has been pulled out from under. I’m happy to follow a weird plot in a thriller, most tend to stretch believability to near breaking in an effort to build an interesting plot-line. The reader follows along with a faith that all these different lines will all lead to a conspiracy that may be bizarre and on the edge of reality but not go over that edge. The “ahas” in this book run off the edge like lemmings in a fogbank. Family ties, one character come back from the dead with another out of nowhere, and several plot element dead ends make the reading put into this book irritating rather than satisfying.

Other volumes are threatened in “The Extinction Files” series. This book has been selling well and I’m sure the next will be rushed out. Some people love this kind of book but I tend to resist reader abuse of the kind Riddle offered here and really have no interest in the next episode.