“What Lies Behind” by J. T. Ellison is a realistic, frightening novel about bio-terrorism. Because the plot takes place in one harrowing day, the action never seems to stop. It can be seen as a warning for a terrorist threat that seems to have fallen under the radar.
The main character, Dr. Samantha (Sam) Owens, is no longer a medical examiner and is now teaching and working with the FBI. Samantha is awakened by a police investigation in her Georgetown neighborhood. Her friend, homicide detective Darren (Fletch) Fletcher, asks her to look over the evidence and help solve the murder/suicide case. Instead, she discovers hidden toxic substances, which turns the case upside down.
As they try to figure out what is happening, Fletch and Sam are summoned to the State Department. In typical Washington D.C. fashion, they find themselves up against red tape, smoke and mirrors, and a one-sided discussion. Sam and Fletch must navigate between the different agencies to thwart the terrorists and find the killers.
“After reading this story on hemorrhagic fevers, I became fascinated with the subject,” Ellison noted to blackfive.net. “I talked to a virologist, Eric Mossel, PH.D who was instrumental in helping me develop the story and finding the right path between fiction and reality. Since I wanted to make the plot realistic I had him guide me through everything I was planning. He gave me the details on the creation of vaccines. I found out that it is not hard to taint them. I started the story about four months before the Ebola outbreak. I remember having to change things because I wanted to stay away from the headlines. It seemed every day something captured what I had written. “
The other storyline involves Sam’s fiancée, former Army Ranger Xander Whitefield, who recently started a personal protection company. He and his partner are protecting a British industrialist from an assassination attempt. Ellison skillfully merges this storyline with the bio-terrorism plot to make for a riveting and suspenseful novel.
A small sub-plot presented in the middle of the book has Sam investigating a series of unsolved murders that have spanned 20 years. Bringing this in during the intense main plot presented some distraction. However, at the end of the storyline she does a good job of foreshadowing the plotline of the next Sam book.
All the characters are very well developed, especially the newly created Robin Souleyret. She is reminiscent of a female Mitch Rapp, the famous Vince Flynn CIA operative. While investigating her sister’s murder and the connection to bio-terrorism, she must decide what moral lines to cross. Having to overcome a severe head injury from an IED she sets out to prove she is capable of making the correct decisions.
The author feels Robin is an “awesome, incredible character. She completely takes over the story and resonates with readers. After disappointing her sister in the worst way she is attempting to redeem herself. Robin is a compelling character because she is a moral person doing immoral things for the greater good, killing people who need to be killed.”
“What Lies Behind” has an explosive storyline that is all-too realistic. The plot is a compelling mystery with a lot of action and terror.