There’s a lot of interesting information in this book. (Not least the news that the Spanish Flu didn’t start in Spain; US, UK and French wartime propaganda designed to maintain the morale of troops on the Western Front pointed the finger at a non-combatant.) But somehow it never really comes to life.
The author is a science journalist, and what Pale Rider reads like is less a book with a single narrative, and more a thorough collection of articles based on a common subject. So we get descriptions of the hunt for Patient Zero; how the virus affected locations as far apart as Alaska and India; various treatments tried; the recovery; the long-term consequences.
Yet what I missed was anecdotes to bring everything to life. I couldn’t help thinking what Bill Bryson might have done with this. He’s always had a knack for finding the right amusing/horrifying detail to illuminate a subject and make it stick in the reader’s mind. When I finished Pale Rider, I found I could recall very little of what I’d just read.