Infected is a science fiction/mystery/horror/thriller novel by Scott Sigler. It's the start of a trilogy of books that presents ... well at the beginning it looks like a very scary disease that has people going mad in fairly specific and homicidal ways and by the end of the first book that's actually the least concerning part of the infection. On the more immediate level it tells the story of Perry Dawsey, an ex-college linebacker with a fierce temper working in a IT job in Boston. Perry is haunted by the memory of his alcoholic, abusive father and the desire to avoid becoming like his old man is keeping his temper in check. At the start of the tale he's also dealing with a collection of spots that are itching like crazy and flu symptoms. Manly man that he is, Dawsey chooses not to seek medical help as he thinks it's just some bug bites and a cold. At the same time the center for disease control and prevention have teamed up with the CIA to try and prevent a major pandemic and mass hysteria. Agent Dew Phillips and his partner try to capture one of the infected but recover only a corpse at the cost of said partner's life. His new marching orders: capture one alive. Easier said than done considering that guy Dew's partner died retrieving was in the middle of self-immolating. Perry tries to address his ever worsening condition which progresses into triangular growths and spiraling paranoia. One pissed off, grieving CIA agent heads a man hunt for anybody raving about triangles while trying to keep a string of grizzly murders under wraps. When they meet it won't be pretty and neither of them understand the full gravity of their situation.
Infected is a sort of slog. Firstly, it takes a while to ramp up. There's enough foreshadowing to counter this but it still needs to be said. Second, it's clear from the start that our protagonist, Perry Dawsey, is in for a really tough time but ... wow. I had an inkling going in that he would survive because it's the first part of a trilogy but two-thirds of the way through I started almost hoping I was wrong. The damage he sustains (mental and physical) and the things the paranoia drive him to combine for a harrowing read. This book is not for the squeamish. This is not meant as a condemnation of the story but by the time it was wrapping up I was burnt out enough that I wasn't sure if I wanted to pursue the next two books. All that said this story was very engaging. The slow build of tension, the character's flaws driving conflict without ever turning into contrivance, and the progressive reveal of infection symptoms kept me listening avidly the whole way through.
As with many of Sigler's works this story is available as a free audio book, read by Sigler himself.
IRON NODER: WE'LL RUST WHEN WE'RE DEAD