Gripping new novel set in post-viral Edinburgh of the future

MEDICAL thrillers have long been one of my favourite means of passing the time. I'm sure it all harks back to the BBC drama Survivors.

Thursday, 15th June 2017, 4:19 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st June 2017, 2:21 pm
Lesley Kelly: 
The Health of Strangers
Lesley Kelly: The Health of Strangers

Penned by Terry Nation, the man who introduced the Daleks to Doctor Who, created Blake’s 7, and scripted episodes of series such as The Avengers, Department S and The Persuaders, Survivors first aired in 1975.

The post-apocalyptic story of the last humans on Earth after a devastating plague, Survivors centred around the battle of those left to survive in a world devoid of technology and industry - a disturbing yet equally fascinating concept.

Until now, my ongoing love of medical thrillers has been fuelled by East Lothian thriller writer Ken McClure, not least his Dr Steven Dunbar series, which have proved chillingly prophetic over the years.

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If you have yet to discover Ken’s gripping page turners let me recommend The Lazarus Strain, The Gulf Conspiracy, Eye of the Raven and Past Lives.

That his novels have the eerie ability to predict real-life crisis such as the Ebola outbreak comes as no surprise when you realise that McClure’s meticulous research stems from a background as an award-winning research scientist.

Check out for a full list of his 20 plus novels. Meanwhile, I eagerly await the new Steven Dunbar novel, The Devil’s Landscape, which I’m told is currently being written.

In the meantime, there’s a new kid on the block in Lesley Kelly, who first made her mark with the gritty Leith set crime thriller A Fine House in Trinity.

Her new novel The Health of Strangers, published by Sandstone Books earlier this week, is also set in the Capital, but it’s an Edinburgh very different to the one we are used to, as fellow author Lin Anderson opined, it’s “an intriguing tale of crime in a post viral Edinburgh.”

The action follows the investigations of the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team.

Nobody likes the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team, least of all the people who work for it.

An uneasy mix of seconded Police and health service staff, Mona, Bernard and their colleagues stem the spread of the Virus, a mutant strain of influenza, by tracking down people who have missed their monthly health check.

Now two young female students are missing, raising question after question for the HET, who are all immune to the Virus itself.

Why were the girl’s drinking in a bikers’ bar? Who are the mysterious Children of Camus cult? And why is the German government interfering in the investigation?

Mona and Bernard must find the missing girls - before anyone else does.

Like Survivors before it, The Health of Strangers’ near-future setting makes it all the more recognisable as a catastrophe waiting to happen. Like McClure’s novels, the science is so feasible it doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to envisage just such a world.