In This Review

Anthrax: The Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak
Anthrax: The Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak
By Jeanne Guillemin
University of California Press, 1999, 321 pp.

In April 1979, at least 64 people died from anthrax in a workers' district of Boris Yeltsin's hometown of Sverdlovsk. Guillemin and her husband, the Harvard biologist Matthew Meselson, served on a team quest to determine whether the epidemic resulted from tainted meat (as Soviet authorities had insisted) or from biological toxins accidentally escaping a local military research facility. The narrative of their trips to Russia, interrogations of the medical officials on the scene, examinations of the autopsy evidence, visits to the area, and interviews of victims' families reads like a first-rate medical detective story -- albeit one that, if made into a movie, would be three hours long. One hates to give away the ending to a suspense story, but the authors finally conclude that the military did it.