Readers know they can count on Robin Cook for a thriller that never lets up in intensity until the final page, and Vector is no different. It's a true page-turner, with a little levity thrown in for good measure.

Yuri Davydov is a Russian emigre who drives a cab in New York City. He hates it. He has also begun to hate his adopted country because he believes it has denied him his slice of the American Dream. He is snarled at by customers, ignored by other drivers, and pushed to near distraction by his wife, a compulsive eater and chronic complainer.

Davydov has the skills to strike out at the whole world. In his homeland, he was a technician in the Soviet biological weapons program his last assignment being at a plant identified only as Vector.

He falls in with a couple of firemen named Curt and Steve who find out about Davydov's capabilities. They have a deadly project of their own they want to blow up a federal building. Davydov would simply like to release anthrax in Central Park and kill a few thousand people.

He has already experimented on a few poor-tipping fares and sundry other souls. Now, at the behest of Curt and Steve, Davydov decides that his wife must be killed for security reasons so he kills her.

In the meantime, Drs. Jack Stapleton and Laurie Montgomery begin to witness some rather curious things in their capacity as forensic pathologists, including the fact that a young, reasonably healthy black woman is dead of respiratory failure. She is Yuri Davydov's wife. But before Stapleton can get through the bureaucracy to request permission for an autopsy, she is cremated.

Stapleton begins to think that a series of curious coincidences is really a string of murders, but nobody except Laurie believes him; his superiors and colleagues are skeptical. Some think Stapleton is off his rocker, to put it mildly.

It becomes a race against time for Jack and Laurie to solve what amounts to a jigsaw puzzle with lots of missing pieces. If they do not, thousands may die in a city most vulnerable to biological weapons. Cook has a super-charged story to tell, and as usual, he tells it very well. Lloyd Armour is a retired newspaper editor.

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