Medical thrillers about epidemics


With stories about Ebola taking center stage in the news, it’s easy to let your imagination get carried away by fears of a national epidemic. After all, thriller writers have been doing just that for years, penning suspenseful novels about deadly pandemics. These medical thrillers each paints a different portrait of what might happen if a deadly outbreak were to grip the country, offering compelling insights, frightening possibilities, and even providing a little hope along the way.

One of the original pandemic page-turners, The Andromeda Strain is a compelling story of survival that mixes suspense with the supernatural. Michael Crichton’s debut thriller was published in 1969 when America was embroiled in the space race and begins with a satellite that accidentally falls to earth and wipes out an entire town 12 miles away. Bacteriologist Jeremy Stone and his team work to identify the unknown biologic agent that’s responsible and neutralize its effects before it leads to a deadly outbreak that wipes out the planet.

Anything Stephen King writes is utterly chilling, and The Stand is no exception. This medical suspense novel looks at what might happen if a weaponized strain of a virus were accidentally released and 99% of the population was killed. The book follows the consequences of the pandemic, examining the effects it has on the survivors – and on the fabric of society and even civilization itself. Written in 1978, the book was recently rereleased with new material cut from the original publication and includes a new beginning, new ending, and new characters for a whole new audience.

One of the most well-known stories about deadly pandemics, Robin Cook’s Outbreak was published in 1987 and was later adapted into a movie. This all-too-real medical thriller follows a doctor from the CDC investigating an Ebola outbreak in Los Angeles. As more outbreaks erupt across the country, she begins to suspect a saboteur is deliberately spreading the disease and must stop the culprit before the epidemic spirals out of control. Thrilling at the time of publication, Outbreak takes on even more relevance today in light of current fears about Ebola.

More recently, Leonard Goldberg penned the USA Today bestselling medical thriller Plague Ship about a viral outbreak on board a cruses ship. When the ship is placed under federal quarantine, the passengers and crew are left to fend for themselves. As they get sicker, tensions mount and mutiny ensures as they’re faced with the choice to head for shore to save themselves – or to stay at sea to save mankind from a worldwide pandemic.

There’s some comfort in knowing our worst fears have already been imagined and played out on the pages of suspense novels like these. Whether you’re losing sleep over Ebola or you just like to imagine what might happen, these medical thrillers are guaranteed to give you a good read – and maybe even a little reassurance.