Once a molecular biologist with a patent to his name, Chris’s novels are not only award winning, they’re addictive!
Gayle Lynds: A big excited welcome to Chris Holm, the remarkable author of the new fact-based thriller, Child Zero. Publishers Weekly (“bible” of the book world) gave it a Starred Review, heralding it as an “alarmingly plausible thriller.” Stephen King tweeted: “The twists go off like a string of firecrackers.” And Lee Child “highly recommends” it!
First off, many thanks to Gayle — and the rest of the Rogue gallery — for having me! It’s an honor to find myself in such fine company. Now let’s get to the part where I scare the living daylights out of y’all with dire warnings of impending doom.
Imagine a world reeling from the collapse of the antibiotic era. Diseases long thought beaten, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, are once more major public health threats. The risk of postsurgical infections renders organ transplants and implants of any kind — hip, knee, cosmetic — a thing of the past. Steroid and chemotherapy treatments become weapons of last resort, because they decimate the immune system, leaving patients at increased risk of infection. Hospitals and healthcare workers are perpetually overwhelmed, like a COVID peak that never goes away.
Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? I wish it were. The fact is, the UN, CDC, and WHO have been sounding the alarm about just such a collapse for years. Their predictions read like something out of a horror novel… or a breakneck thriller. That’s why, as a scientist myself, I decided to set my latest novel, Child Zero, in a post-antibiotic near future.
My publisher, Mulholland Books, describes Child Zero as a scientific thriller in the vein of Michael Crichton about our species’ next great existential threat — but I like to think of it as the story of a little kid with a big secret that many powerful people would kill to learn.
Mateo Rivas, twelve, is the sole survivor of an assault on a shanty town in Central Park that left one hundred of his fellow villagers dead. Now he’s on the run through a Manhattan transformed by disease, with few resources at his disposal, and even fewer friends.
Detective Jacob Gibson is home caring for his sick daughter when his partner, Detective Amira Hassan, summons him to Central Park to investigate the attack. To Jake and Amy’s surprise, the medical examiner informs them that the victims were in perfect health prior to their murders — a virtual impossibility, given the encampment’s horrid living conditions.
When their only suspect dies in custody, Jake and Amy are taken off the case, but a chance encounter with some violent paramilitary types — and, more importantly, the frightened boy they’re chasing — thrusts them back into its center.
Soon they’re on the run from the authorities and paramilitary types alike, not to mention an apocalyptic death cult dedicated to hastening the twilight of mankind. The question their lives, and the lives of countless others, hinges upon is: “Why?”
I don’t want to reveal much more, for fear of spoilers. Suffice to say that, while every scrap of science in Child Zero is rooted in fact, it’s less a textbook than a jolt of pure adrenaline.
That said, if those who read it wind up learning a thing or two about a looming crisis before it’s too late to avert, so much the better.
Chris Holm is the author of the cross-genre Collector trilogy, which recasts the battle between heaven and hell as old-fashioned crime pulp; the Michael Hendricks thrillers, which feature a hitman who only kills other hitmen; thirty-odd short stories that run the gamut from crime to horror to science fiction; and the scientific thriller Child Zero. Chris’ work has been selected for The Best American Mystery Stories, named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and won a number of awards, including the 2016 Anthony Award for Best Novel. He lives in Portland, Maine.