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A Heartbeat Away by [Palmer, Michael]
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A Heartbeat Away Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 180 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Palmer (The Last Surgeon) offers a nifty plot premise in this high-concept medical thriller, but a plethora of subplots distracts from the more interesting primary issue. As the U.S. president, James Allaire, is beginning his State of the Union address, a number of small containers of a viral agent explode and infect the more than 700 people, including every important member of the government except the director of homeland security, who have gathered in the House chamber. The Capitol must be sealed off and the infected audience held inside until a cure for the disease can be found. The plotters behind the attack, a group of domestic terrorists known as Genesis, demand, among other things, that the government abolish the Patriot Act and cease unchecked spying on ordinary Americans. Overblown prose does little to make the implausible scenario more believable. Readers with a low tolerance for the hyperbolic are advised to give this one a pass. (Feb.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Palmer’s early novels were smoothly written, tightly plotted, and memorable. Lately he’s had his ups and downs—more downs than ups, unfortunately—and his latest medical thriller sort of straddles the two. On the upside, it’s got a wicked cool story. Terrorists have let loose a highly virulent virus in the Capitol building on the night of the State of the Union address, forcing the president to lock down the building, trapping inside most of the hierarchy of the American government. Only Griffin Rhodes, a virologist who’s been in prison for allegedly trying to steal the same virus from a research lab, can save the day. On the downside, the writing is, at best, mediocre. The characters are thinly drawn, and the dialogue is wooden and clumsy. This could have been a first-rate thriller; instead, it’s a novel that depends on our loyalty to the author and our interest in its plot, not its characters, to keep us reading. Palmer continues to command an audience, but this is not his best work. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Palmer’s track record (15 medical thrillers, 15 international best-sellers) assures a full-court press on the promotional front, and his latest, though disappointing, will get it, from national print and radio ads to an electronic avalanche. --David Pitt

Product Details

  • File Size: 1484 KB
  • Print Length: 415 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; Reprint edition (February 15, 2011)
  • Publication Date: February 15, 2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00457X86M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,793 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've read each of Michael Palmer's books, and from the first scene of A Heartbeat Away I was thinking "This one's his best." When I turned the last page and my heart stopped racing, I hadn't changed my opinion.
During the President's State of the Union address, a terrorist releases a bio-agent in the chamber with potentially fatal consequences, and the only man who can save the group is a scientist the President has had locked away for treason.
The characters are well-drawn, the action is fast-paced, and unfortunately the scenario is believable. I'll say it again. This is Palmer's best so far.
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Format: Hardcover
We're big Palmer fans, having read his every novel. We usually totally enjoy his medical thrillers, but find a disturbing trend in his two recent books. It seems the author, almost shades of Robin Cook, has run out of stories with a plausible medical plot and somehow feels compelled to branch out into the political arena ala David Baldacci. Our biggest gripe with "Heartbeat", the title itself almost a spoiler, is that it is entirely implausible -- not merely the initial shocking development at the State of the Union address, but virtually every plot turn thereafter. With people escaping secured compounds, stumbling across the one person they are searching for in a city of 10 million, etc. etc, there is almost nothing we found anything but farfetched. We don't remember short chapters (ala Patterson) to be Palmer's style, and to us it did nothing to sustain or create suspense; rather, it just gave us so many scene changes we found ourselves reading two or three pages, then setting the book aside for another time. When it takes us three weeks to read one of our favorite writer's efforts, that time frame tells the whole story. As much as we hate to say it, and we may well be in the minority, we find this to be his worst book to date; and one we found thoroughly unenjoyable. We gave up Robin Cook when he went over and stayed over the top -- we surely hope Palmer's next gets back to what made him great.
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Format: Hardcover
If you like one dimensional characters, an improbable series of action scenes, formulaic plotting and an predictable ending, then this one's for you. I thought that a 4 star average on Amazon indicated a potential good read, but it doesn't. Apparently good scientific information, but overshadowed by a pedestrian style of writing. It had all the basics: scheming politicians, scheming businessmen, righteous scientists, evil scientists, a crusading reporter, love interests and life and death decisions. But with these ingredients, the result is less than the sum of its parts.
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Format: Hardcover
This is not that book, not by a long shot. Unless you're saying "Wow. How did this piece of crap get published?"

Now I love a good bio-medical political thriller as much as the next guy. But there were too many plot holes and inconsistencies for a book that already required a ton of suspension of belief. The basis of this book is that a terrorist group called Genesis is terrorizing America. Yet security at the Capitol for the State of the Union is lax enough to get a bunch of explosive containers of biological hazards in? And to allow someone to set up a complicated system of surveillance cameras inside the Capitol a week before? No and No. And the President and the entire Congress are sequestered in the Capitol for a week and there's apparently little national news coverage on the topic? And the President decides to only get ONE virologist (and one who just spent 8 months in prison as a suspected terrorist) to try to solve this crisis? And a virologist who doesn't believe on animal testing to boot?

And then there's the little holes. Like when Griff talks about not having internet access to help solve the virus puzzle but then a few pages later googles "what's the longest a human ever stayed awake?" And then there are the numerous FAXES Griff and the President exchange. Hello? 1993 called and they want their technology back.

Now on the bright side, you are virtually guaranteed to be surprised at the ending. I tried to save myself some misery and skip to the end after reading 150 pages, and I didn't recognize *a single name* in the penultimate chapter. (Yes, I went back and finished it. No I shouldn't have bothered)

I'm pretty sure this book is actually PETA propaganda camouflaged as a novel, but I'm unwilling to read anymore Michael Palmer to find out.
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Format: Hardcover
Interesting plot, but shallow presentation.
I am ambivalent about Michael Palmer's A Heartbeat Away. The plot was interesting but Mr. Palmer's presentation was rather shallow and at times rambling. A terrorist group calling itself Genesis unleashes a virulent, highly contagious virus into the House of Representatives chamber during the annual State of the Union Address by the President. Only the President, James Allaire, knows how deadly this virus is. The plot swirls around the President and disgraced and imprisoned virologist Griffin Rhodes, who the President calls upon to develop and antidote. Rhodes was imprisoned by President Allaire because he supposedly stole the virus in league with Genesis. The clock is ticketing as President Allaire sequesters everyone who attended the State of the Union Address in the Capitol building to keep the virus from spreading From there the plot takes off, as Rhodes is determined to not only prove his innocence but to find an antidote.
There is a lot going on in A heartbeat Away, maybe too much, as Mr. Palmer just could not get into any depth as multiple subplots muddled the story. Because of that, character development was spotty and shallow. We engaged the various characters on a very superficial level with pro forma dialog that just barely kept the story moving along. I counted 4 wonderful characters who could have been developed but were just left hanging. The terrorists, Genesis, were never really developed as they were just a prop for the virus story. Too bad as there was a lot of potential. A Vince Flynn, Lee Child, Michael Connelly or Robert Crais would have had a field day developing these terrorists and what they wanted. Mr. Palmer just told us over and over they were bad men.
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