Anyone who has read Porter’s books knows he is a first-class thriller writer, and his latest, the third in a trilogy starring onetime M.I.6 agent Paul Samson, should bring him even more fans. It has never been easy being Samson, given the various attempts on his life and his tendency to help people with their own set of enemies, but he has never met a more lethal foe than the Russian criminal Anatoly Stepurin. For those who like their international spy thrillers shaken and stirred, The Old Enemy is the ideal tonic.
In the early days of the pandemic, Burleigh skipped the bread-making part of lockdown and wisely picked up her tattered copy of Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Yearand noticed the similarities between the epidemic that gripped London in the 1660s and our present one: the rumors, the closing of theaters, the conspiracy theories, the rich fleeing the cities, and the shocking death toll. Yet here was the United States, the richest country on earth with health care that did not rely on leeches, and still some half-million Americans died. In pungent and persuasive prose, Burleigh indicts the Trump administration first and foremost, while crediting the scientists who persevered and produced the mRNA vaccines. Burleigh has delivered a book that will be read for years to come by anyone interested in a first-rate chronicle of our own plague year. Oh, and by the way, do not throw away your masks—Burleigh makes clear there will be a next time.