A.G. Riddle’s Extinction File Series

About the author:

Grew up in: Boiling Springs, North Carolina

Education: 

B.A.- Business Administration and Management, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Website: www.agriddle.com

Thriller Sub-genre: Techno-thriller

Future of the Series: The next book in the series is entitled Genome and will tentatively be released on 10/12/17.

The Simon Review

As of May 20th of this year, the World Health Organization has announced that 37 suspected cases of Ebola have occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 4 known deaths. With this outbreak the distribution of a possible vaccine is being considered and experts believe that this epidemic will likely be contained. So for the moment all the rest of us can breathe a sigh of relief that we won’t be catching Ebola, but what about the next epidemic? Will the CDC and WHO come to the rescue and save humanity? That is to be seen. The cover of TIME’s May 15th, 2017 edition is entitled ‘Warning: We Are Not Ready for the Next Pandemic’. Experts believe the next pandemic will likely be caused by a flu virus strain known as H7N9 which is presently infecting mostly birds but is starting to make its way into humans with a mortality rate of 41%.  Infectious disease professionals believe that it is not a matter of ‘if’ a deadly pandemic will occur but ‘when’ and it may just be around the corner.  Which brings me to A.G. Riddle’s new series, The Extinction File, with the first book in the series entitled Pandemic.

Riddle’s pandemic is an Ebola-like disease but unlike most pandemics this one is not from natural origins but through human means. Pandemic starts out with Desmond Hughes waking up in a Berlin hotel room with a murdered person by his side. If waking up next to a dead person isn’t bad enough, Hughes can’t remember anything including his own identity. The only connection that he has to his identity is some potential clues that appear to be left by him. One of the clues is to warn Peyton Shaw that she is in danger. It turns out that Shaw is the lead epidemiologist for the Center of Disease Control and is on her way to investigate a possible outbreak of Ebola in Kenya.

I get the feeling that Pandemic is setting the stage for the rest of the series. Throughout most of the novel, Hughes is slowing remembering bits and pieces of his life and how it connects to the other characters in the series especially with Peyton Shaw. By the end of the novel, it becomes clear what role all the characters play and what motivates them, and I think this may be important for what Riddle plans with the rest of the series. The pandemic is only part of what seems to be a bigger puzzle which means you will have to read the next book in the series entitled Genome to find out.

What about the science? It is quite telling that Riddle has spent some time researching pandemics and does a reasonably good presentation on what it would be like if a deadly pandemic became global without being too technical. Riddle gives a nice layout on his website on what is factual and what is fictional as far as the technology goes.

The Peyton Shaw Technical Word in Review: Monoclonal antibody– The cells within our immune system that make antibodies are known as B cells. A single B cell has the capability of making copies of one type of antibody that is highly specific to a target also known as an antigen. In 1900 Nobel Prize winner Paul Ehrlich proposed the term ‘magic bullet’ to describe the ability of an agent or drug to specifically target a disease-causing entity such as cancer or a microbe and destroy it without causing harm or side effects to the host. Monoclonal antibodies are the closest thing to a magic bullet.

The biggest challenge in producing a specific monoclonal antibody is to be able to make enough of it which means that the single B cell that makes the ‘magic bullet’ antibody has to be isolated and go through cellular division indefinitely. But a healthy normal B cell only has a limited number of divisions and the cell line eventually dies. This problem was solved with the development of what is known as hybridoma technology.  A hybridoma is the fusion of an immortal B cancer cell known as a myeloma with a normal B cell that that has been challenged to produce the ‘magic bullet’ antibody. Once the fusion occurs, the monoclonal antibody can be produced in large quantities indefinitely.

Hybridoma cells in culture (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The production of the monoclonal antibody is one of the greatest achievements in the biological sciences. It can be used in diagnostic testing to determine the presence and/or concentration of a specific protein. One good example is the pregnancy test where a monoclonal antibody targets the protein known as human chorionic gonadotropin (HcG), which is a protein that is produced in high concentrations during pregnancy.  Monoclonal antibodies are also used in what is called immunotherapy which targets viruses or cancer cells allowing the immune system to destroy them.


“Can anybody tell me what type of therapy ZMapp is?”

A voice called out, “A monoclonal antibody.”

“Correct. ZMapp is a monoclonal antibody or mab. In fact, it has three mabs. They’re grown in tobacco plants, strangely enough, and they bind the Ebola protein as if they were antibodies made by the patient’s own immune system. So, how might that impact future treatments? Anybody?


The way that the ZMapp monoclonal antibodies are made from tobacco plants is an extra step beyond the hybridoma technology. Once the hybridoma is created, scientists find the sequence to the gene that creates the antibody. Once that is known, the genetic material specific for that antibody can be inserted into a virus vector that in turn infects the tobacco plant. The virus injects the genetic material into the cells of the tobacco which then incorporates into its own genome. As the tobacco grows it will produce the antibody which can then be extracted. Growing the tobacco that can produce the antibody is considerably less labor intensive and less expensive than obtaining the antibody through cell culture.

Books in the Series by Order:

#1-Pandemic- 2017

First Line:

The US Coast Guard cutter had been searching the Arctic Ocean for three months, though none of the crew knew exactly what they were searching for.


Characters

Peyton Shaw: Lead epidemiologist for the CDC

Desmond Hughes: Technically inclined, Hughes spends a good part of Pandemic trying to figure out his identity

Avery: Hughes beautiful rescuer that has an unknown relationship to Hughes

Millen Thomas: A veterinarian working with the CDC team in Kenya

Elliot Shapiro: Peyton Shaw’s supervisor at the CDC

William Kensington Moore: Peyton Shaw’s father

Elim Kibet: Kenyan physician that first discovered the pandemic in Kenya


The Setting

Kenya, Berlin, Atlanta, and Australia


In Africa, a mysterious outbreak spreads quickly. Teams from the CDC and WHO respond, but they soon learn that there is more to the epidemic than they believed. It may be the beginning of a global experiment–an event that will change the human race forever.

* * *

A hundred miles north of Alaska, a US Coast Guard research vessel discovers a sunken submarine. It has no national identification. No corporate identity. It has been down there for decades, and deep inside, teams find evidence of an experiment that may answer the deepest mysteries of human existence.

Ten days later, in a remote village in Kenya, several local residents contract a mysterious disease. The next day, two American aid workers fall ill. The WHO and CDC send teams, led by Dr. Peyton Shaw–an epidemiologist who has stopped some of the most deadly outbreaks in recent history. Peyton is good at her job, but she is driven by her own dark secret–and haunted by mysteries in her past.

What Peyton finds in Kenya is an outbreak very different from any she has ever seen. As the pandemic sweeps the globe, Peyton is drawn deeper into a conspiracy of unimaginable scope, a plot that appears to be linked to her past. The answers, and the key to stopping the pandemic, are revelations that carry a price–for all of us.


“Over a million in Asia, another million in Europe. Maybe two hundred thousand in South America so far. But we think there are a whole lot more. We’ve got half a million cases here in the US, but we’re getting updated stats from the state health departments so we expect that number to climb.”

It was officially a pandemic. Peyton wanted to present her theory, but she needed to get all the facts first.


Looking for a review of Pandemic?  Check out:

The Review Court

Haunted Library

Curmudgeonly Reader


Amazon Rating-US: 4.41 out of 5 stars based on 982 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.66 out of 5 stars based on 29 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.19 out of 5 stars based on 3,441 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.38 out of 5 stars based on 4 ratings

Total Score 4.24 (updated 7/25/17)

 

 

#2-Genome- (Expected Release date October 12, 2017)

A code hidden in the human genome…
Will reveal the ultimate secret of human existence.
And could hold humanity’s only hope of survival.

In 2003, the first human genome was sequenced. But the secrets it held were never revealed.

The truth was discovered thirty years ago, almost by accident. Dr. Paul Kraus had spent his entire career searching for what he called humanity’s lost tribes–human ancestors who had gone extinct. When Kraus compared the DNA samples of the lost tribes with our own, he found a pattern of changes: a code. At the time, the technology didn’t exist to unravel what it meant. To protect the secret, Keller hid his work and disappeared. Now the technology exists to finally understand the mysterious code buried in the human genome, but finding the pieces of Keller’s research is more dangerous than anyone imagined.

Dr. Peyton Shaw and her mother have obtained part of Kraus’s research–and a cryptic message that could lead to the remaining pieces. They believe his work is the key to stopping a global conspiracy–and an event that will change humanity forever.

The ultimate secret, buried in the human genome, will change our very understanding of what it means to be human. For Peyton, finding it may come at an incredible price. She must weigh the lives of strangers against those she loves: Desmond Hughes and her mother. With time running out, Peyton makes a fateful choice–one that can never be undone.