By Tim Downs
New York FBI counterterrorism agent Nathan Donovan receives a phone call from an 80-year-old Chinese man named Li who tells him the story of Sato Matsushita, a brilliant young bioweapons scientist during WWII. Matsushita worked at Unit 731, a biological warfare research facility the Japanese built in mainland China in order to test biological weapons on human beings. While there, Matsushita helped perfect a bomb that used plague-infected fleas to spread bubonic plague. The bomb was scheduled to be dropped on the city of San Diego in September of 1945. Li’s beloved wife was a victim of Unit 731, and Li has tracked Matsushita for six decades and across three continents to apparently seek revenge. Li wants the FBI to help him find Matsushita.
Matsushita’s beloved sister was a resident of Hiroshima who was killed by the atomic bomb in August of 1945. Bitter that the United States was able to use its own weapon of mass destruction before Unit 731 had the chance to use theirs, Matsushita has spent the last six decades planning to carry out his original mission: to destroy America with bubonic plague, but instead of a bomb he plans to spread fleas using the Fourth of July fireworks display in New York City.
To stop Matsushita, Donovan is forced to seek the help of his ex-wife Macy who is an expert in the psychology of terrorism. They divorced after losing a daughter to cancer, but by working together to stop Matsushita Donovan they are forced to deal with the past and confront their personal demons.
Matsushita approaches New York by ship, but his Arab backers have deceived him; they have rigged the ship to be a gigantic ANFO bomb and plan to detonate it in the center of NY harbor. The story climaxes when Li and Donovan intercept and board the ship in NY harbor, and when Li at last finds Matsushita he forgives him. To Donovan’s astonishment, Li never intended to kill Matsushita; his goal was to offer forgiveness and thereby free his own soul from hatred and bitterness. Donovan escapes from the ship before it explodes, but Li and Matsushita both perish in the blast—but Li dies at peace while Matsushita remains bitter and hateful. Donovan is transformed by Li’s remarkable example and begins to reconcile with his ex-wife.
Terrorism, the power of forgiveness, personal redemption, dealing with ghosts from the past
Rural China, Hiroshima, multiple NYC sites, a Syrian café, a cargo ship in stormy NY harbor
Nathan Donovan is a hardened FBI agent whose wife divorced him because he ran when their daughter was dying of cancer. Though physically tough, he couldn’t face the emotional pain of having to helplessly watch his daughter die, and now he lives in guilt and shame over his weakness and failure.
Macy Donovan is Nathan Donovan’s brilliant and capable ex-wife who teaches at Columbia. She secretly continues to love her ex-husband, but struggles to forgive him for forcing her to deal with their daughter’s death alone.
Li is an 80-year-old Oxford-educated Chinese man who has one goal in life: to find Sato Matsushita. Though he appears to be seeking revenge, he is a kind and wise old man who mentors Donovan on marriage and the need to forgive. Li seeks to free his own soul from the prison of hatred and bitterness through forgiveness.
Sato Matsushita is an 80-year-old Japanese scientist who seeks revenge for the death of his sister. Unlike Li, he is hardened in his hatred and bitterness and seeks to free his soul through vengeance on America. The two old men model two different responses to grief and pain, and Nathan Donovan has to choose between them.