When teens at a high school in Ontario’s tobacco country start dying of unexplained liver failure, public health investigator Dr. Zol Szabo and his team are hastily summoned to the scene.
But when some of the dedicated first responders take ill, the health unit realizes they have a dangerous and deadly epidemic on their hands.
Zol suspects the cause is pollutants in cigarettes manufactured on the nearby Indian Reserve. As the death toll continues to climb, the undaunted investigator is determined to uncover the cause, even it means putting himself in the cross-hairs of peril.
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This is the page-turning premise of Up in Smoke, author Ross Pennie’s fourth Dr. Zol Szabo medical mystery which will soon be available on bookstore shelves.
Pennie, an Ancaster resident, said Up in Smoke is a gritty and exciting tale about a complex and emotionally charged real-life issue occurring right on the doorstep of Hamilton residents.
“I’m proud to have been bold enough to confront this inflammatory topic head-on, while maintaining a sympathetic view of Canada’s First Peoples,” said Pennie of the novel.
Up in Smoke follows on the heels of two previous successful medical mystery novels — Tampered and Tainted. Both books were awarded the Arts Hamilton Literary Award for adult fiction.
Pennie, who retired in June as a specialist in infectious diseases, has the unique ability to take his readers from terror to hilarity, all on the same page. Up in Smoke, he promises, is no exception.
“My editor says it’s my best book yet. And I believe everything she says when it comes to writing,” said Pennie.
Up in Smoke will be launched by Toronto publisher ECW Press later this month.
And fans of epidemic investigator Szabo have no need to worry. Although Pennie has retired from Brantford General and McMaster University, there are still plenty of medical-related thrillers to come.
Pennie already has plans for his fourth Dr. Zol Szabo novel, which will focus on the dangerous hobby of collecting poisonous and human-eating reptiles.
When he’s not banging away at the computer keys on his next novel, Pennie is teaching memoir writing. His first book, The Unforgiving Tides, is a memoir based on Pennie’s adventures as a medical volunteer on a remote South Pacific island.
For more information on Up in Smoke, see www.rosspennie.ca.