The Trudeau Vector by Juris Jurjevics. Viking, 2005; 402 pages; $24.95.
FROM THE DUST JACKET:
As the international team of scientists at the spectacular Trudeau Research Center prepares for six months of unrelenting Arctic winter, three of their colleagues are found dead, their pupils missing, and their bodies contorted in ghastly, unnatural positions. An American epidemiologist, the talented and unconventional Dr. Jessica Hanley, is summoned to investigate the medical riddle posed by these grisly deaths. At the same time, a decorated Russian admiral in Moscow is assigned a top-secret mission to locate and retrieve a Russian submarine that has suddenly and inexplicably vanished from central command's radar. The die is cast. Their lives will cross in Jurjevics's engrossing debut thriller, brilliant and terrifying in its medical and historical accuracy. Hanley's inquiry and Admiral Rudenko's quest bring them up against hazards much bigger than microbes -- scientific megalomania, lingering cold war tensions, world-threatening environmental toxins, all unfolding in the unforgiving extremes of the Arctic.
A thriller that superbly depicts the precarious, volatile area where science and global politics can clash with disastrous results, The Trudeau Vector is reminiscent of the classic suspense of Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal and the terrifying realism of Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain. With its disquieting and revelatory authenticity, readers cannot help but fall under its spell and ask themselves, "Could this really happen?"
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
Publishers Weekly: Soho Press cofounder and publisher Jurjevics gives a knowing nod to apocalyptic plot expectations for biohazard thrillers, but the real passion of his debut lies in presenting difficult science clearly, creating complex characters, and playing Cassandra on the environment. Four members of Arctic Research Station Trudeau go missing: three of them turn up, still in their cold-weather suits, twisted into positions of inexplicably grotesque and agonizing death; the fourth lays nearby, naked and frozen solid.... Jurjevics's debut will lure those with a taste for deep science, medical intricacies, and a plot that twists and shines like the aurora borealis.
Kirkus Reviews: Jurjevics weaves his great fondness for the fragile, seductive, polar environment with carefully researched viral lore.... Offshore-educated M.D. Jessica Hanley, famous for her intuitive epidemiological solutions, draws the short stick when the call comes from the Trudeau Research Center, which houses a collection of scientists way up at the top of Canada.... Parachuted in at the last possible moment before the Center becomes unreachable in the months-long arctic night, Hanley deputizes a couple of assistants and starts sorting through every last personal belonging of the departed, looking for what must either be a very vicious bacterium, or a virus.... Hanley is one busy epidemiologist. But a good one. She has the culprit identified just as some very dashing Russians return to clean up the mess left by their dead colleague.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Juris Jurjevics was born in 1943 in Latvia and emigrated to the United States. He served in Vietnam and is the cofounder and publisher of Soho Press. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife. His daughter, Rosa, is in her last year of college.
A CONVERSATION WITH THE AUTHOR:
Four dedicatees are named in The Trudeau Vector. I asked Mr. Jurjevics who these gentlemen are. "The first one is my godfather, whom I never met. He died in 1948 in Latvia, under an assumed name, hiding from the communists who had seized the country. The next three also are gentlemen I've not met -- Russian whistleblowers. They helped document and describe the irresponsible way their government disposed of nuclear waste, by scuttling ships with liquid waste aboard, by sinking obsolete subs with reactors intact, and so on.
"Russia has pretty much ignored any kind of restrictions or reasonable measures in dealing with their radioactive leftovers. They have steadily and secretly been dumping since the 1950s. Between 1964 and 1986, some 7000 tons of solid radioactive waste and 1600 cubic meters of liquid waste was pitched into the Kara and Barents Seas from the base in Murmasnk, which serviced the Soviet fleet of nuclear- powered naval and merchant ships. Likewise, nuclear reactors from at least 18 nuclear submarines and icebreakers were dumped in the Barents Sea, and an entire nuclear sub was deliberately sunk after an accident in May 1968. Another nuclear submarine, the Komsomolets, sank 300 miles off Norway with the loss of 42 sailors. It went down with two nuclear warheads. Finally, the Russians were dumping unprocessed nuclear waste into the Sea of Japan. As late as October 1993, the Russians confirmed that one of their ships discharged 900 tons of radioactive water from scrapped nuclear submarines. They simply fill up ships and barges with radioactive materials and sink them in the oceans, or discharge nuclear wastes into major rivers. They dump nuclear reactors with rods intact. They've abandoned sunken subs with nuclear missiles carrying plutonium warheads, ignoring the danger of its leaking out. Container drums with radioactive waste are pried open to help them sink. Tens of thousands of such have been tossed into the sea. Often in waters less than 3000 meters deep, meaning sea life may become polluted by the wastes and contaminated.
The Arctic Ocean is a particularly favored spot for dumping, but the Sea of Japan, the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the Kara, the White Sea, even the Baltic have been subjected to these disposals. In 1990 six million starfish, shellfish, seals, and porpoises washed up dead on the shores of the White Sea. Three years later seals in the White Sea and the Barents suffered outbreaks of blood cancers. So the contamination seems to be moving up the food chain. The three Russian dedicatees provided information about these activities, probably thinking it acceptable, given the new attitudes in their homeland toward openness. All three were imprisoned and charged with treason. The last one, Sutyagin, is still imprisoned, serving a 15-year sentence for no more than doing research. His trials were a travesty. You can make donations to support his family on PayPal from http://www.sutyagin.org/eng. "