(news-press.com, Nov. 30, Jay MacDonald)
Alex Kava learned from Alfred Hitchcock that the scariest details of any story are the ones locked inside the reader’s mind.
“I still love his approach to thrillers,” she says of the master of the macabre. “I tell my readers, ‘I’ll take you to the edge with me, I’ll set the stage,’ and then I like to leave them there, because I am convinced that their imaginations are so much more frightening than anything I could put into words. I can’t possibly tap into every individual’s worst fear, but I can certainly trigger it.”
Kava, who divides her time between her Pensacola condo and a home in Omaha, Neb., once again unlocks our anxiety closets in “Exposed” (Mira), the sixth thriller to feature FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell.
This time, Maggie and Assistant Director Cunningham respond to a bomb threat and instead become exposed to a lethal virus. Quarantined in “the Slammer,” an isolation ward within the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md., the pair help Maggie’s partner R.J. Tully on the outside track a killer who infects his victims with the deadly Ebola virus.
“I don’t think people honestly understand how easily it could spread,” Kava says of Ebola. “All it would take is one person bleeding out in an emergency room and immediately five or six people could be exposed. It doesn’t matter if they’re wearing latex gloves and masks if the blood sprays in their eyes; it simply has to find some entry into the body and it takes over.”
Kava likes to ratchet up the suspense by bringing her characters’ internal demons into play.
“You have a lot of ground that hasn’t been covered when you go into the psyche,” she says. “The conflict doesn’t necessarily come from outside the protagonist; it comes from within the protagonist.”
Kava admits she had never read a thriller before writing her 2000 debut, “A Perfect Evil.” “But I love thrillers now,” she says. “I’m like a kid making up for lost time. I can’t get enough.”
Her obvious fascination with forensic science won over fans of Patricia Cornwall in short order. Kava carries a notebook crammed with research, though only a fraction of the information ever hits the finished page.
Though she was not allowed into the “Slammer” – once the workplace of suspected anthrax killer Bruce Ivins, who died of apparent suicide earlier this year – she compiled a complete dossier on the top-secret facility.
“In the early 1970s, this same facility had the charge to create these kinds of viruses for use in biological warfare before Congress and NATO said no, we’re not doing this,” she says. “Which is kind of frightening when you think about the impact of those particular viruses. Now they’re creating vaccines and doing the flipside of what they were originally doing.”
Kava survived her own real-life thriller in July 2005 when her condo took a direct hit from Hurricane Dennis.
“I’ve experienced tornadoes in the Midwest, but a hurricane is 10 times scarier because you have this for 12 hours,” she says. “And for days after, you don’t hear any birds, no mosquitoes, no bugs. It was like all the rest of nature was smart enough to just leave.”