After the greedy founders of a scientific research laboratory intentionally infect subjects with a deadly plague in order to develop a lucrative vaccine, the plague spreads beyond the lab’s control. A top-secret government team of scientists covertly begins to research a solution. They turn their attention to the seventeenth-century—the only other time when a widespread plague ravaged the world—for clues on how to prevent this disaster from happening again. In particular, the scientists are interested in how eighty people from the village of Eyam were able to remain virtually untouched by the plague at the height of the Black Death’s deadly reign over Europe. But trouble is afoot in Eyam—grave robberies, grisly murders, and the bizarre reappearance of the Blue Monk—a legendary, spectral figure from the time of the plague. Can he be real? And who’s trying to stop the team from discovering the truth about Eyam? Distinguished authors Paul McCusker and Walt Larimore, M.D. have collaborated to deliver this sweeping, fast-paced novel that spans the globe and transcends time. Sure to leave readers wanting more, The Eyam Factor is a riveting introduction to the authors’ new Time Scene Investigators series.
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About the Author
Walt Larimore, M.D. is a noted physician, award-winning writer, and medical journalist who hosted the cable television show on Fox’s Health Network, Ask the Family Physician. He lives in Monument, Colorado.
Read an Excerpt
Rebekah Smythe loo ked down at her brother's lifeless body, his eyes staring vacantly toward the heaven he had hoped and prayed to inhabit. With a pale and trembling hand, she reached down and closed his eyelids.
She had done the same for her father and three of her sisters all lying still now in their shallow graves not far from their home; so silent after their days of suffering and anguish. She could not weep for them. Her tears were spent long ago.
She looked at the makeshift cots on which her mother and youngest sister slept fitfully. They had come down with the symptoms just two days earlier. She dared not hold out hope for their survival. In another day or two, if all went as it had for the rest of her family, they'd be gone and she'd be alone. Alone.
By the grace of God, she had resisted the illness. Yet the outcome of her survival would be loneliness. In her darker moments, she wondered how far God's grace could carry her.
Agnes Hull, who lived in the next cottage down, had also survived the Black Plague and claimed that the warm bacon fat she drank was the reason. She left bottles of the wretched liquid at the doors of afflicted families, but unfortunately, it didn't work for Rebekah's family.
John Dicken, who worked in the local mines, was also a survivor. Believing himself immune, he had established himself as Eyam's village grave digger. He would offer his services the instant he heard of another victim. After burying the body away from town, he would return to claim the burial fee reportedly taking whatever he fancied. Most were too sick to stop him. Besides, what use was their money if they were dead? Few of the men were well enough to take the job from Dicken, and it wasn't as if anyone new would arrive to challenge him. After all, the village was under strict quarantine.
Rebekah sat on a stool, staring at the fire. Pushing a lock of hair away from her face, she was overcome by a feeling of selfpity. How had it come to this? Who could have foreseen last September that something as unassuming as a box of cloth from London would start such an epidemic? Mr. George Viccars, a traveling tailor, certainly couldn't have. As he opened the box wet from a rainstorm and laid the cloth out to dry, he could not have imagined what he was unleashing upon them all. Within a day, he developed the telltale symptoms of rose-colored spots on his skin and quickly died.
The Earl, the village's patron, sent his personal physician from the castle to examine the tailor's body. The doctor's diagnosis was Black Plague. It had arrived in Eyam.
And so began a year of terror.
The village had rallied together. Catherine Mompesson, the vicar's wife, bravely visited the sick families. Ignoring the risk to herself and her family, she had brought words of comfort and a bouquet of sweet-smelling posies, believing it would ward off the stench of disease.
As she sipped some ale, Rebekah thought about the rhyme sung by local children:
Ring a-ring o' roses,
A pocketful of posies.
We all fall down.
The rhyme went through her mind again and again
The knock on the door startled her. Few of the villagers would be out and about at this late hour. Perhaps it was the vicar's wife or the grave digger.
She stood and crossed the room to the door. Her hand was poised above the latch when it occurred to her who might be calling.
Despite the still warm air of the summer night, she felt a chill go down her spine.
He came to the families to aid the sick, comfort the dying, and offer peace to the grieving. The women of the village spoke of him as an angel of light. The men called him a demon, unnerved as they were by the mysterious way in which he appeared and disappeared into thin air. Worse was his appearance. Rebekah had not seen it for herself, but the village gossips claimed that beneath his monk's cowl, he had skin the color of deep water. Blue, they said. The monk's skin was blue. A curse, the men said.
She could not believe that a man of God, one so merciful and compassionate, could be cursed.
She lifted the latch and opened the door.
The Gabon Virus © 2009 Paul McCusker and Walt Larimore, M.D.
Reading Group Guide
1. The book deals with characters who are Catholic (Nora, the Sisters of Mercy), Anglican (Father Andrew, Joan, Philip the Gardener), Evangelical Protestant (David and Aaron Mosley, Pastor Wyn, and the members of The Compound), agnostic (Mark), and atheist (Sam, Nathan Dodge, and others). To what extent was each faith group accurately or inaccurately portrayed?
2. When General Sam Mosley pushed the button to destroy the underground lab, was he “playing God”? Do you think he may have killed anyone? Was his action justifiable?
3. Ahaz Pharmaceuticals paid David Mosley and his congregation a great deal of money to test an experimental vaccine. What was their motivation? Were their actions or motives ethical? Were they right to do this? Why or why not?
4. On the flip side, were the leaders of the Compound right to participate in this experiment? Do you think they knew all the risks and benefi ts? If so, do you think they fully (or should have) explained these to every member of the
5. Do parents have the right to subject their children to medical experiments like this? If so, under what circumstances?
6. David Mosley and his congregants chose to commit suicide rather than face a certain and horrible death. They believed a peaceful, painless death was preferable to a horrible death. Was their thinking rational? Would the Bible
offer any insight to them? Does the Bible give us any insight as to what we should consider when we face pain and suffering?
7. Do you believe groups such as the Return to Earth Society exist? Upon what would they base their beliefs? How do you feel about animal rights groups that
seem to place more emphasis on animal rights than human rights?
8. When Mark Carlson’s daughter died, he became angry with God and abandoned his faith. Have you ever had an experience in which you became angry at God? Have you ever felt God didn’t make sense? Did this strengthen or weaken your faith? How?
9. The illness and death of their daughter put a terrific strain on Mark and Donna’s marriage, eventually leading to their divorce. Have you walked a similar path? If so, how did you deal with this?
10. Georgina was falsely accused of being a member of the Return to Earth Society? Have you ever been falsely accused of something? How did it make you feel? Have you ever accused someone of something they did not do? Did
you apologize? Was it difficult? How did this affect your relationship with the other person?
12. General Sam Mosley realized a number of mistakes he had made as a father and grandfather. What were they? What do you think he would do differently? What could you do to become a better spouse and parent?
13. In the book, the Blue Monk seemed to reappear as a ghost. Do you believe in ghosts? Do you think the theological explanations given by Mark and Father
Andrew are valid?
14. Aaron fl ed from a number of enemies, both imagined and real. Have you ever felt that you were surrounded by people who mean to hurt you? How did you respond? What gave you hope? What help did you fi nd in your time of need?
15. Margaret, the members of the mob that hunted the Blue Monk, and their descendents returned every year to the Silver Cathedral to honor the Blue Monk, his ministry, his legacy, and to pay homage and penance. Which of their
activities would have Biblical support? Which would not? Were they right to keep this secret? Were they right to make the vow they made?
16. Margaret chose to forgive Joshua Parke for his roll in the death of her beloved brother. Could you have done the same? If Joshua had not asked for forgiveness, would Margaret have been right to withhold forgiveness? Why
should she forgive him? What might have happened to her had she chosen not to forgive him?
17. Margaret adopted young Joshua Parke. Why do you think she did this? Why do Christians support and emphasize adoption and care of orphans? How did this
change Joshua’s life? How do you think it might have changed Margaret?
18. Mark risked his life to bring the medication to Sam and Aaron. In what circumstances would you consider doing the same thing? For whom would you do this? Loved ones? Total strangers? Why?
19. How did Mark’s faith change as he was challenged by Nora and witnessed firsthand how faith works in the lives of others?
20. Have you encountered someone whose faith seemed so real that inspired or challenged you? Who was that person? What attributes did he or she exemplify to you? Do you demonstrate your faith in a way that speaks to others? If so,