Two of the most popular subjects for books are mysteries and medicine. Put them together and you have the medical-mystery book, a combination that is hard to beat. Gerald Astor's book is a welcome addition to this ever-growing list because it focuses on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Information is long overdue about this federal agency, which is our front line of defense against the worldwide spread of communicable disease. Most persons outside the health field become aware of it only through dramatic news coverage of such diseases as legionnaires', toxic shock syndrome, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Astor records the stories of these diseases, but there are also chapters on many other CDC investigations.
This is particularly the story of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) branch of the CDC. Astor follows the day-to-day activities of its officers as they search for causes of outbreaks of cholera, bubonic plague,