The Plague of Silence by John Creasey (1948)
This was mt first draft of this review:
I realized that the above review was lacking in detail, so I tried again with this second draft:
Speak up, dammit! I can't hear you.
I felt that review lacked a certain je ne sais quoi, so once again I leaped into the breech for the last time:
John Creasey (1908-1973) was a prolific and influential British crime and thriller novelist who wrote over 600 novels under 28 pseudonyms. Not the most accomplished writer, Creasey was, at least, an entertaining writer in the mode of Edgar Wallace and E. Phillips Oppenheim. Creasey was basically a pulp writer like Stephen Francis or John Russell Fearn. His plots were often outlandish and peopled with cardboard characters. (Slightly off-topic: In one of his thirty westerns, Creasey supposedly knew so little of his topic that he had a coyote flying above the western skies. Creasey himself helped perpetuate the story, although that scene never appeared in any of his westerns. It perhaps was in an early draft, or perhaps it was made of whole cloth and Creassey just liked telling the story.)
As I said, Creasey was entertaining. His books should not be avoided. He could rise above mediocrity, as he did in the very good series he wrote about Inspector George Gideon (published as by "J. J. Marric") and in many of the books in his Inspector Roger "Handsome" West series. For outlandishness and inventiveness, one need only to turn his long-running series (thirty-two books published between 1942 and 1979) about Dr. Palfrey and his Z5 organization.
Z5 in a not-so-secret international organization that deals with individual threats against the world. Its 502 members (soon to be reduced in The Plague of Silence) have absolute loyalty to the organization and its leader, Dr. Stanislaus Alexander Pafrey. The threats they face tend to be super-science ones that could obliterate most of the planet -- most of evident in the book titles: The Flood, The Drought, The Famine, The Inferno, The Sleep, The Smog, The Whirlwind, and so many more.
The plague in this novel starts with a tightness in the throat, advances to an inability to speak, followed by complete paralysis and death. It started in the small English village of Conne where a young wife and mother was stricken and died a few days later The two doctors called to her home are soon murdered, as are a neighboring family who happened to be on the scene. The woman's husband was also killed. That's enough to come to the interest of Palfrey and Z5. One of the murdered doctors was a Z5 agent. Soon Z5 agents around the world are being stricken with this silent plague.
Palfrey sends his agent Matt Stone, a young American from Phoenix, to investigate what is happening in Conne. Accompanying Matt is an aloof female agent who is stricken with the plague within hours of arriving in the village.
Turns out the plague is transmitted by mosquitoes which have been altered into killing machines by some sort of living dust particles. With the mosquitoes deliberately breed by the millions and transported by unknown means to cities and towns marked for destruction. Palfrey and Stone have their work cut out for them -- especially when both are stricken with the deadly plague.
To complicate things, are an international cabal led by a madman under the guise of attempting to rid the world of weapons. Most members of the cabal are gulled by the madman whose real aim is world domination.
It's B-movie Saturday morning cinema and Palfrey is a character without depth. The plots are fantastic and the large organizations of heroes and villains are totally unrealistic. But who cares? Sometimes B-movie Saturday morning cinema can be fun.
If you have not encountered Palfry and Z5 before, you have a lot of books to choose from. You make like them. Just don't read too many in a row or your brain may atrophy.