Thrillers often explore espionage and intrigue from the inside, but Janette Turner Hospital's new novel Due Preparations for the Plague plunges the reader into the shadowy world of terrorism and intelligence from an outsider's perspective. The result is a mesmerizing tale of grief, mystery and revelation.
Due Preparations opens as Lowell, a house painter, tries to cope with the approaching anniversary of his mother's death in a skyjacking. As the date nears, the reader sympathizes with Lowell's grief and anxiety. Already troubled by anger and guilt, Lowell is further shaken by unwanted phone calls from Samantha, who was among a group of children released from the doomed flight. Now a member of a support group for survivors of the incident, she pesters Lowell for any information he might have. Lowell's troubles expand when his estranged father, a former intelligence agent, is killed in a traffic accident. Information he leaves his son sets Lowell and Samantha on the path to learning more about the tragedy that marked both their lives. An intense, riveting reading experience follows that explores the overlapping worlds of national security and international terrorism.
As civilians and proxies for the reader Lowell and Samantha have a tinge of the sinister about them. But Hospital skillfully imparts in them the idealism that drives many to enter the nation's intelligence services, as well as the isolation and loneliness that are the toll of a lifetime in clandestine activity.
Gregory Harris is a writer and editor living in Indianapolis.