April 24, 2011

Book Review: A HEARTBEAT AWAY by Michael Palmer

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  The New York Times bestselling author and master of suspense delivers another novel at the crossroads of politics and medicine in this shocker of a thriller. 

On the night of the State of the Union address, President Max Hilliard expects to give the speech of his career. But no one anticipates the terrifying turn of events that forces him to quarantine everyone in the Capitol building. A terrorist group calling itself “Genesis” has unleashed WRX3883, a deadly, highly contagious virus, into the building. No one fully knows the deadly effect of the germ except for the team responsible for its development—a team headed by Hilliard, himself. The only one who might be able to help is virologist Griffin Rhodes, currently in solitary confinement in a maximum security federal prison for alleged terrorist acts, including the attempted theft of WRX3883 from the lab where he worked. Rhodes has no idea why he has been arrested, but when Hilliard offers to free him in exchange for his help combating the virus, he reluctantly agrees to do what he can to support the government that has imprisoned him without apparent cause.

Meanwhile, every single person in line for presidential succession is trapped inside the Capitol—every person except one: the Director of Homeland Security, who is safely at home in Minnesota, having been selected as the “Designated Survivor” for this event. With enemies both named and unnamed closing in, and the security of the nation at stake, Griff must unravel the mysteries of WRX3883 without violating his pledge as a scientist to use no animal testing in his experiments…and time is running out.

Tense, thrilling, and entirely plausible, A Heartbeat Away will make you reflect, wonder, and be truly afraid.


This is my second novel by Michael Palmer and he continues to impress me.  Palmer takes his medical thriller genre, throws some politics in and what emerges is a book that is nearly impossible to put down.  The storyline of A Heartbeat Away is simply stellar, beginning with a terrorist group and the night of the State of the Union address when a lethal virus is released in the Capitol building, putting everyone at risk - - including the President.  The lives of all involved, if not the entire country, rest in the hands of a man a world away . . . a man who is bitter and has every reason to walk away from the challenge of a cure. 

The character of Griffin Rhodes is the heart of A Heartbeat Away (no pun intended). His virologist character, accused unfairly of terrorism and placed in solitary confinement, who must work jointly not only with his former girlfriend, a journalist on the prowl for a newsworthy story, but also with the very President who placed him in solitary confinement, makes for an amazing protagonist and a hero this reader could really root for. Especially exciting was the very real sense that Griffin was working against the clock to save not just the lives of the people already exposed to the virus, for whom time was quickly running out, but humanity as a whole.

I loved the plot and I loved how Mr. Palmer created such an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride from start to finish.  Nowhere in the book will you find predictability. A Heartbeat Away is definitely not a book you can get comfortable enough with that you believe you know what's coming next.  I gasped in several places, so surprised with the plot twists and turns.  And don't expect to put this book down to do anything else (sleep, eat) because this is the type of book that you need to read in one sitting, if possible, or as quickly as you can.

If you like medical thrillers, this is your kind of book.  If you like your books to have intrigue, action, terrorist groups and politician corruption, you will be in literary heaven.

A Heartbeat Away is is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

For more information on author Michael Palmer, please visit his website here

Review copy of this book provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.

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