‘The Red Death’ by Birgitte Margen – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

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Juan froze when he herd a scuttling sound, he looked behind him as two young men turned down the street at the end of the alley. He had to be cautious at this time of night, it was 4AM, and robberies were rampant in his neighborhood. The sound of sirens was as natural here as the chattering of birds in the trees. 

When he turned back around he noticed a gleam of silver lying next to one of the trash bins. He walked over to the bin and picked it up. Juan stared down at the profile of the man on the coin, the first president George Washington, he remembered from his citizenship test. In the small village he is from, there was a superstition that if you find money, you must pick it up, or you will anger the gods and all of your fortune will be taken. 

There was more clamoring inside the bin next to him, and he jumped back as one of the garbage bags tipped over, leaking its contents onto the ground. All of a sudden a large black rat, the size of a chihuahua thrust its head out of the bag, a piece of tattered meat hanging from ts mouth. It startled him, and he fell backward, landing on his back. 

Chupacabra,” Juan said as he crossed himself. He watched as the rat disappeared back inside the bag. He quickly stood up and wiped his hands on his turquoise scrubs as he stepped away from the bin. 

He continued walking, picking up his pace. One of the street lights above him buzzed softly and blinked on and off as he made his way toward his apartment. Juan rubbed his index finger across the smooth coin as he hummed a tune his mother sand to him as a child. 

 

Synopsis – (Taken from Goodreads)

AN ANCIENT DISEASE re-emerges in the heart of New York City—a deadly bacteria that gave rise to the Black Death. Maggie De Luca, an epidemiologist who is fighting her own demons, works to uncover clues to contain the disease, but is always one step behind—her fate determined by the flip of a coin. Microbiologist Michael Harbinger believes he can make a vaccine that can stop the disease, but to do so would require an elusive plant that only grows in a remote region of the Amazon.

With the help of J.D. Stallings, a paleoanthropologist, and Samantha Boutroux, a bacteriologist, they set out to find the plant that holds the key before the Red Death pandemic grips the world—or has the First Horseman of the Apocalypse, Plague, already opened the gates to our final annihilation?

The mother of all plagues is back . . .
Let the death toll begin . . .

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Thoughts – 

The Red Death is a confused novel. The book starts off being extremely vague as we are introduced to a New York emergency room with ‘bags of clear liquid’ and a ‘bag valve mask’ – anyone who has ever watched a medical show knows about IV drips and oxygen masks. But as the story progresses, the vagueness gives way to far too much information. Chapters are started with present tense, hard to swallow chunks of scientific and geographic information that seem copy and pasted straight from text books, and this is in contrast to the past tense of the plot and narration of the story. Most readers don’t have a background in microbiology unless it’s just me in which case… what the hell? But at times in the lab it felt like I was reading an advanced textbook when I had no basic understanding. It dampened the exciting plot and impending doom and had me skimming large paragraphs just to get back to the characters and the story.

New characters are constantly introduced and we are told, rather than shown their current life only to see them in the very next chapter spewing up more blood than the elevator in The Shining. In between these chapters of death, we meet the main characters who are working to find a source and vaccine for the new virus or plague. Following so many individual cases made the virus seem like it could only go effect one person at a time, and I discovered by the biology lesson on airborne diseases, that that’s not this virus should work. It made the whole novel feel like the disease never gets off the ground and only the handful of people we see are actually affected at all. There’s also a lot of inner monologue from everyone which is basically a rant on what they think society today is. A lot of ‘people are lazy’, ‘we’re on our phones too much’, and a random thought from Maggie De Luca, our hero, that she hates homeless people and there’s a ‘trend’ among young homeless people of drugs and prostitution? That’s not a trend, thats a horrible fact of life that some people have to choose to survive and had nothing to do with what was happening in the story at the time.

Maggie also has a ‘love interest’ or disinterest really.  She’s constantly lamenting the fact that she isn’t interested and even though he knows this he still wanders in to try and flirt when she’s trying to stop an entire city from exsanguinating themselves. It’s jolting, stops the tension of the plot, and she doesn’t in anyway like him so he just ends up being annoying, I wanted to grab him by the shirt and yell at him that people were dying. But that’s nothing to the other female scientist, oh boy.

Maggie is a mostly competent CDC worker who only wants to use her expertise to stop the disease and save people’s lives. Samantha Boutroux is a introduced as a multi-degree bacteriologist who speaks several languages and is brought along on the weird Amazon trip side story for her biology expertise and… is the ditsy, pretty idiot for the misogynistic, ‘the jungle is no place for a woman’ and ‘scientists shouldn’t use technology, they should crawl through the dirt and hope for the best like back in my day’ paleoanthropologist to save. If you replaced her with a sexy lamp, not a single thing would change about the story. Along with an odd story of this guy being livid that a woman he dated for two years TWENTY YEARS AGO has moved on, and the weird cannibal Amazon tribe gimmick, this whole part of the book really annoyed me. I hoped that she would prove him wrong or at least tell him to fuck off, but instead she ends up in his bed at the end serving him wine because of course she does. It really was a slap in the face compared to Maggie’s character or any other female character in the story.

 

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Red Death is a slow burn virus that looks too closely at individual cases and doesn’t grasp the global scale of an actual plague with a bonus random, Indiana Jones style, Amazon adventure complete with a cannibal tribe and a female scientist who left her brain at home. Might recommend to a biology student who could understand the science parts.

 

About the Author – 

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(Taken from Goodreads) Birgitte Märgen began writing stories at the age of nine. Her eclectic style of writing crosses over many genres. An avid thrill-seeker, she can usually be found high above the ground or far below. Her books include the bone-chilling thriller The Red Death and the gothic fairytale, Evie and the Upside-Down World of Nevermore. She lives in the mountains with her family.

 

Links to Buy and Review – 

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

 

 

What’s your favourite pandemic story? Do you prefer to have the technical side kept in or at a minimum? 

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