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Reviewed by Sarah Stuart for Readers' Favorite
The 20% Solution by Jeff R. Spalsbury opens with Scott Marklee, an investigative journalist, listening to messages on his cell phone. One of them, “the cabalists have betrayed me”, intrigues him. He is distracted by arriving at his favorite restaurant and finding all the occupants dead – not massacred, just… dead. The streets of Los Angeles are curiously deserted with apartment blocks blazing, unattended by the fire service. Carol Grimes and Buzz Connors, recording for television, find a baby alive in a house of dead people. The United States President declares a state of emergency, but what is happening? Why has the disaster hit some areas of cities and not others? The ball is in Scott’s court, but can he reach the Vice-President with vital evidence in time to save the world from destruction?
I read The 20% Solution late into the night, drawn in by writing that gives even minor characters a backstory in a few words, and inexorably led on by vivid portrayals of mysterious deaths. Rapid twists in the plot prove it has not only affected America but much of the rest of the world. China, the Asian countries, massive swathes of Europe – and that had me reaching for the coffeemaker, nerves on edge – but oddly, not Russia. How had they escaped a killing smog? This was much like the Covid pandemic that still haunts us, but people weren’t dying in their millions, but hundreds of millions. Jeff R. Spalsbury has created a powerful ten-star scenario to rival any Quentin Tarantino horror movie.