Water Supply Gone Bad: Review of Mark Donovan’s Waterkill



If you have been through surgery or a colonoscopy where general anesthesia is given, you will understand what it is like to see a commercial for water, cola or other hydration, or open the refrigerator, and want something to drink. Your mouth goes dry and it is all you can do to avoid pouring yourself a drink.

Now imagine the water you drink, that you use to fix your meals or your coffee has been tainted by a bioengineered contagion that normally is only found in locations without the benefit of modern water purification systems. You might exist on bottled water for a time but what happens when those sources are depleted. What then? What if other nearby water supplies are contaminated by the same contagion? What do you do?

These and other similar questions are at the heart of the thriller Waterkill by Mark Donovan. A water supply in a tiny village in Yemen is contaminated when Islamic terrorists add a bioengineered version of cholera to a well. It is a particularly virulent string of the bacteria that kills at a faster rate and in a worse manner than that typically associated with cholera. It is also virtually undetectable after a short while. Yemen and Eberswalde, a small Bavarian village in Germany, are sites for beta-testing of this contagion. Predictably, the world in these areas is thrown into chaos. Meanwhile, the terrorists seek to establish a cell in the United States for the purpose of disrupting the water supply in large metropolitan areas. Between trying to figure out how to treat the victims as well as the affected water supplies and locating and stopping the terrorists before they are able to carry out any further acts of sabotage, the U.S. government has their hands full.

Officials turn to a private defense contractor, NSurv that specializes in water filtration and purification technologies, biomedical engineering and surveillance systems (e.g., drones). Enter the protagonist, Dave Henson, the CEO of NSurv. The company through Henson and a colleague Ron Blackwell become primary targets as NSurv takes the battle to the terrorists. Along the way, by happenstance, Dana Cogswell, Henson’s wife becomes a target after she and a camera crew travels from Berlin to Eberswalde to cover for ABC the unfolding epidemic. As it turns out the Hensons and Blackwell know one of the terrorists, having gone to college with him. Then, it turns into a high stakes chase across the planet.

Mark Donovan is clearly a gifted writer. Waterkill was an engaging read, a fast paced novel that had a good beginning, middle and end. It kept me reading. The science behind nanotechnologies was fascinating. As with most thrillers, character development was not that extensive but yet reasonable. A niggling question in the back of mind arose when Spencer is introduced in Chapter 4. On one hand, it seemed like Dana knew Spencer more than was related in the narrative but then the author seemed to say just the opposite in the same chapter. This niggling question was never resolved to my satisfaction. As to the length, I did not find any parts of the narrative that were redundant or otherwise could or should have been eliminated. That said, the novel could have used some more editing.

I will be reading Mark Donovan’s other thriller Nano Surveillance as well as hoping that he publishes more thrillers in the future.


***Copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review.