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Book Review
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Stone Barrington Mingles With the Head Honchos

"Severe Clear" by Stuart Woods (Putnam's, $26.95)

Another great entertaining novel, "Severe Clear," is the 24th book in the Stone Barrington series and the 50th novel from the New York Times bestselling author, Stuart Woods.

Like many other Stone Barrington novels, "Severe Clear" (the term describes a bright, cloudless sky with infinite visibility) moves from the east coast to the west; in this instance for the grand opening of a new hotel in Los Angeles called The Arrington.

But this is not just any grand opening. The Arrington is special because it was built on the grounds of the estate of the late movie star Vance Calder, murdered many years before. His Bel Air estate became the home of his widow, Arrington Calder who became the wife of Stone Barrington; unfortunately, Arrington Calder Barrington was also murdered. Beyond this notable history of the property, the opening of The Arrington has drawn international interest because of the special guests invited to the exclusive resort's opening -- specifically, the presidents of the United States and Mexico.

The security surrounding this event already involves the private security firm of Strategic Services (Stone Barrington's most important legal client). But the security level is raised significantly due to a garbled cell-phone conversation intercepted by the National Security Agency between someone in Afghanistan and someone in Yemen. The only two English words picked up were "The" and "Arrington."

As the notables begin to arrive at the Arrington, many characters from past novels become involved, including Michael Freeman, head of Strategic Services. Of course, Stone arrives with his best friend, Dino Bacchetti, the New York City detective and his former partner on the New York police force. Other regular characters include Stone's son Peter, his girlfriend and Dino's son, Ben, as well as Herbie Fisher, a law partner in the firm with Stone. Also involved is Holly Barker, new assistant to the Director of the CIA and another familiar name with her own series of novels by Woods.

All of the plans, logistics, supplies and guests are moving toward a successful opening at The Arrington as additional bits and pieces of the original garbled message from the Middle East begin to surface. This includes the names of "Wynken, Blynken and Nod," thought to be al Qaeda operatives who have in fact secured positions at the hotel Arrington. This could be the terrorist plot that challenges the foundation of the free world.

-- Reviewed by David

and Nancy Beckwith

"Kills 99.9% the Next Pandemic?" by Patrick Ottuso, M.D. (FastPencil $13.95)

To both the layman and the medical professional, the very word pandemic is frightening. The suffix "-demic" is even vaguely threatening. It denotes something very broad in scope and is derived from a Greek word meaning people or populace.

When combined with a prefix like "pan," derived from the Greek word meaning panoramic or wide scope, it denotes an epidemic that has spread through the human populations across a large region, possibly multiple continents or even, like with HIV or AIDS, worldwide. Other notable pandemics from history include cholera, smallpox, measles, tuberculosis, leprosy, malaria, yellow fever and influenza.

Pandemics have long been popular topics for literature and films. Michael Crichton's runaway 1969 bestseller "The Andromeda Strain," Stephen King's "The Stand" and Janine Ellen Young's "The Bridge" come to mind. Movies like "The Omega Man," "Doomsday" or "Rise of The Planet of The Apes" have exploited the pandemic theme. So it's not surprising that Dr. Patrick Ottuso's recently released novel, "Kills 99.9% The Next Pandemic," instantly caught our attention.

A researcher at Rockefel-ler University in New York City is attempting to develop a hand sanitizer that is more than just perfumed alcohol. He is attempting to develop a sanitizer that will kill 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses while maintaining a healthy environment for the skin. Dr. Fabrini dreams of fame and wealth. He is willing to take risks in his research and on several occasions his experiments have actually proven to be dangerous. He hires as his assistant a young female veterinarian, Allison Carter, and convinces her to allow him to test his formulas on some zoo animals under her control. Together they unwittingly create a highly resistant strain of bacteria and ultimately launch the most lethal pandemic the world has known since influenza and the bubonic plague.

"Kills 99.9% The Next Pandemic" is Ottuso's first novel. He's a graduate of the Ponce School of Medicine and has been a board certified dermatologist and internal medicine physician in Vero Beach, Fla., for the past 21 years.

-- Reviewed by David

and Nancy Beckwith