Archaeologist LISA DONAHUE and her physician husband, JAMES BARBER, hope a Nile cruise in Egypt will be the honeymoon they never had. Lisa's idea of relaxation is crawling in and out of tombs and exploring obscure parts of Luxor, whereas James plans to take a zillion photos with his new digital camera. As the trip begins, Lisa and James ride camels and gawk at the Cairo skyline. All is well until James is called on to aid a fellow tourist who breaks her arm falling off her camel. His role as a doctor becomes vital as the news of a possible smallpox outbreak in the area casts a shadow over the group as they fly south to Aswan to begin a four-night cruise on the Nile River. James realizes that his long-awaited honeymoon is going to become a medical mystery tour as the smallpox scare turns out to be a real threat. James and Lisa are pulled into a complex and terrifying adventure that includes kidnaping, an old flame and a bio-terrorist plot that could engulf the entire middle-east region.Review by Mark Laughlin: http://www.smilepolitely.com/arts/sarah_wisseman/
Sarah gives an overview of the book:
“Okay, now tell me. What’s going on?” asked Lisa, once they were safely in their double stateroom on the Shehrayar. She dumped her daypack on the queen-sized bed.
James faced her. The muscles at the back of his neck tightened. “I may have been exposed to a particularly nasty disease. I don’t want you to get it.”
Lisa stood stock still, staring at him as her face paled.
“What disease?” she whispered.
He wished he didn’t have to frighten her. “I think that woman back there on the Avenue of the Sphinxes has smallpox—and that’s a medical emergency because it’s contagious and there’s no cure. Stan Rosenberg was there with me after you left. He thinks I’m right—and that I should not sleep in the same bed with you until we know for sure.”
“Holy Toledo,” said Lisa, exhaling loudly and plunking herself down on one side of the bed. “How do you find out for sure?”
James unbuttoned his filthy, sweat-stained shirt and tore it off as if it were on fire. “I don’t know the system over here. But the World Health Organization has been called. Stan says first they’ll do saliva and blood tests to see if it’s really smallpox. Then, the CDC in Atlanta, and maybe NAMRU will be called in. If smallpox is confirmed, they’ll try to quarantine that house on the Avenue of the Sphinxes—almost impossible, I imagine, with the number of people who appear to live there.” He rubbed his hand over his face. Some vacation from medicine this was turning out to be.
“It’s a U.S. Navy outfit—started during World War II. I think NAMRU stands for ‘Navy Medical Research Unit’ or something like that. They did early work on cholera and typhus and started a lab for other infectious diseases in the Cairo area. They’re connected with WHO, too.”
“How contagious is it, exactly, if it is smallpox?”
“If I’m remembering right, it spreads through the fluids that form into pustules and scabs that are shed from the skin. I don’t think you can get it through the air, by someone sneezing in your face like with the common cold. But on the other hand…” He frowned and looked away from her. James didn’t want his wife to know exactly how scared he was—or how little he knew about the threat facing them.
Lisa stood up. “You just remembered something you’re not telling me.”
James groaned. “Remember that dinner at Sheila’s house last spring when we talked about infectious diseases? Daniel Lathrap told the story of how the British gave smallpox-contaminated blankets to American Indians during the French and Indian Wars. And the Indians got sick from those blankets.”
“So you can get smallpox from clothing or bedclothes?”
“Yes, it looks that way. But I don’t know exactly which stage of the disease is the most contagious…”
His wife interrupted him, hands on her hips. “Did you touch that woman’s clothing?”
“I pulled back the edge of her shirt, when I was looking for pustules on her neck and chest.”
Lisa’s hands twisted into a knot. “Is that enough to catch it?”
“I don’t think so. I think the Indians were infected by dried-up pox scabs.” What if he were wrong? What if microscopic particles were already in his lungs, poised to spread all over his body?
“There must be a treatment, if you do get it?”
James sighed. There was no point in hiding anything he already knew from Lisa. She was too good at reading him.
“No, and there’s no cure. You can prevent smallpox with vaccination, but people don’t get vaccinated as children any more.”
She gasped. “But I had a shot as a kid—didn’t you?”
“Sure, but that was a long time ago. Who knows if I’m still immunized.”
He refrained from telling her that once someone was infected, the mortality rate was around thirty percent. He tried to reassure her, and himself. “As soon as the CDC gets here, I’m sure I’ll be vaccinated again, just to be on the safe side. We’ll be okay. But that poor woman…” He rubbed Lisa’s back.
“We wait for the cavalry.” James remembered he hadn’t meant to touch her and pulled his hand away. “Hmm. Those reported symptoms—fever, vomiting, and rashes—they’ll have to test the sick tourists at Alexandria and Petra for smallpox, too.”
Lisa gasped. “You think it’s connected? But that means bioterrorism…”
He glanced down at her face. Her forehead was dewed with moisture; she was just as scared as he was.
James looked at his watch. “Should we go get some lunch? I’m not particularly hungry after that little adventure, but it will be hours before we get another chance.”
“Me either. Normally I’d be starving,” she said, trying a weak smile. “But wait a minute, should you even go into the dining room?”
“There’s an incubation period, remember. I probably won’t be contagious for a few days if I’m going to get it.”
“So why can’t you stay here with me? The bed is huge.” Lisa’s tone was acid.
“You know why,” he said. “I can’t keep my hands off you. And I’m being super protective of you.”
“You can say that again,” said Lisa, not meeting his eyes.
James locked their room with the big, old-fashioned key, and they walked towards the lobby. As she pushed open the door at the end of the corridor, she turned her head. “James, what if…”
Lisa collided with a thin, dark-haired man her own height.
“Excuse me,” he said, and Lisa jerked as if she’d been stung by a bee.
“Greg Manzur! What in the world are you doing here?”
Sarah Wisseman writes the Lisa Donahue archaeological mysteries. She hadn’t a clue that she wanted to be an archaeologist until she traveled to Israel right after her freshman year in college. There she ate felafel, fell in love with Jerusalem, camped illegally on Masada, and...
"What a wonderful story! Author Sarah Wisseman takes us on a journey with archaeologist Lisa Donahue, as she arrives in Jerusalem to arrange for artifacts to be loaned to her home museum in Philadelphia....
"...Sarah Wisseman’s second entry in the Lisa Dona hue series is entertaining and satisfying. It is a slim volume (only 150 pages in length) and this is a strength. Her prose is spare but evocative and...