“Snakehead” by Peter May opens with the recovery of a submarine from the icy waters. “The Seadragon” looms overhead the carcass of some giant beached whale as observers wonder how it was possible that twenty-two men had once lived and died aboard her. The scene quickly shifts to Texas as Deputy J. J. Jackson follows the bumpy road up to the parking lot on a big empty stretch of dusty tarmac. A large refrigerated food tractor-trailer sits unattended, its back doors slightly ajar. Jackson approaches with caution, his gun drawn. Inside he finds produce scattered around and something else, bodies, ghostly pale Asian faces. Margaret Campbell receives the call from the sheriff’s office in Walker County. They need her help with ninety people dead in a truck. Campbell teams with past “associate” Detective Li Yan, and they soon find that the crime scene hides another secret, a biological time bomb, the flu, and a particularly nasty form of flu.

The plot is fast-paced and engaging as the team races against time to solve the crime, uncover human traffickers, and decode the medical time bomb, thus averting a widespread bio-terrorist attack. The book is chilling, disquieting, and filled with surprising twists, but discerning readers might pick up a few clues along the way. The characters are multi-faceted and believable as they struggle with personal emotions as well as international politics. They are resilient, and yet at times vulnerable and human.

May also paints a vibrant picture of the setting of all this terror and potential destruction.

“The sky was a clear, pale blue. Dew lay white on the grass of Sam Houston Park. The long shadows of downtown skyscrapers reached across the tiny patch of parkland like dark protective fingers. The sun peeped between the glass and concrete structures, flashing off windows, lying in long yellow strips. A mist rose off the pond like smoke, sunlight playing in the water of the fountain.”

 Even though “Snakehead” is not set in China, May still weaves lots of culture and international maneuvering into the plot line. I am a huge fan of May’s other books, and find the China Thriller Series to be just as compelling. I was given a copy of the re-release of  “Snakehead” by Peter May, Quercus, and NetGalley. Readers will not put down this thrilling, compelling book until finished. As a coffee-lover, I looked twice at my cup.