Jenna Podjasek, MD, is an allergist/immunologist who trained at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
She lives with her husband, two children, and numerous pets in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.
Particles in the Air is her first novel.
Both COVID-19 (a deadly virus) and 9/11 (a shocking terrorist attack) had a separate, devastating impact on America. Imagine the wild panic, the overwhelming fear, and the crushing consequences to our nation if a rapidly spreading virus and a masterful act of bioterrorism were combined.
In her debut medical thriller, Jenna Podjasek, MD, explores that terrifying scenario in an utterly riveting and highly plausible way. While keeping the tension mounting, Dr. Podjasek leverages her medical expertise, especially in-depth understanding of the immune system. Her novel introduces us to a complex heroine: Dr. Mallory Hayes, a dedicated physician and researcher with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, who secretly struggles with debilitating claustrophobia and increasingly unsettling doubts about the fidelity and stability of her boyfriend.
After a terrifying prologue, Particles in the Air continues with Day -50 of an unthinkable crisis. In Atlanta, we meet Mallory, intently focused on finding a cure for the deadly Marburg virus and battling her daily anxiety about entering the enclosed decontamination chambers. That day, we also meet Dr. Erik Lindgren at Paragon Genomics in Sweden, who is on the cusp of a pharmaceutical breakthrough with the potential to end all autoimmune diseases.
Yet, as we soon learn, this genius has a dark side and a violent, psychopathic streak. After an unexpected turn, Erik is fired and discredited. Fueled by rage and desperate for money, he uses his breakthrough knowledge and forges a dangerous alliance with a fervent Muslim extremist intent on inflicting a modern plague upon America.
Day -1 returns us to the scene of the prologue: Mission Beach, San Diego, where a formidable tsunami has struck, claiming the lives of 21,909, setting a record as the deadliest natural disaster in American history. To house the tens of thousands displaced by the disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sets up a camp, enlisting the Army to provide medical services.
Despite her fear of being confined to an airplane, Mallory agrees to serve as the CDC liaison, helping to prevent the spread of disease from contaminated water. What she finds at the camp is alarming: People are dying from an accelerated HIV-like virus, and its symptoms mirror the common cold. Backed by lab results, Mallory soon suspects that this immunity-ravaging virus is no freak of nature but an agent of bioterrorism.
What are the virus’s origins? Will the virus continue to spread throughout the country, without either a cure or a treatment? And will Mallory be able to convince the powers in charge to take this deadly threat seriously?
Particles in the Air is a shockingly realistic, high-concept tale only an immunologist could write.