R. Scott Reiss

"Black Monday"

(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky APR 2, 2007)

“Name the most powerful narcotic in the world,” he asks the former beggar boy.

“Oil,” the mentor says.”  More than opium, more than heroin.  The pipelines are syringes. The addicts pay anything for their supply, kill for it, steal for it, topple governments for it.”

Black Monday by R. Scott Reiss

Dr. Gregory Gillette, a thirty-nine-year old epidemiologist, finds himself at the center of a maelstrom in R. Scott Reiss's apocalyptic novel, Black Monday. Greg's job usually entails finding germs that cause disease outbreaks. Lately, he has been seconded from the Centers for Disease Control to the National Biological Warfare Defense Program, which helps plan responses to potential germ attacks.  He and his wife of fourteen years, Marisa, live in a close-knit Washington, D. C. neighborhood with their two adopted children, Annie and Paolo. 

Read ExcerptSuddenly, airplanes start to fall from the sky, cars and trucks become unaccountably disabled, and machines that use oil stop functioning.  The cause of all this mayhem is an exotic, oil-eating microbe that has infected the fuel supply; the race is on to find a solution before society descends into chaos.  Who is responsible for this scourge?  Could it be the work of terrorists?

There are far more questions than answers.  No one knows the type of microbe that could do this much damage, how the microbe was introduced into the oil supply, or how it managed to survive the refining process.  Before long, the world's leaders face an impossible situation.  Without oil, how will people travel, heat their homes, and carry on the everyday tasks of living?  At first, good citizens try to ration and cooperate with one another, but as conditions deteriorate, the worst of human nature comes to the fore: looting, riots, bloodshed, and even cannibalism.

Greg Gillette is a dedicated doctor, loving husband and father, and highly respected member of his community, but he is also a maverick who disregards rules when they get in his way.  His enemies are inept bureaucrats and hypocritical politicians who put their own interests ahead of the public's welfare.  Greg is put to the test as he uses his keen intuition and analytical skills to find the source of the plague and its antidote before more lives are lost.

Black Monday is an involving thriller with a timely theme.  The author's use of the present tense provides an excitement and immediacy that rapidly propel the narrative forward.  On the down side, the villains are a bit one-dimensional: a former beggar boy who becomes a killing machine at the behest of his shadowy mentor, and a cop turned sadistic thug who terrorizes Gillette's neighborhood.  However, Reiss includes enough solid detail to make his improbable plot seem almost realistic.  He handles his complicated scientific explanations with aplomb, takes the time to focus on a variety of compelling characters, and creates a terrifying scenario that will make thoughtful readers think twice about the world's dependence on the ultimate narcotic--oil.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 9 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Black Monday at MostlyFiction.com

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About the Author:

R. Scott ReissR. Scott Reiss is a screen writer. He lives in New York.

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