I was half pissed when I talked Reef into taking me to Palm Island.

Now Reef's in hospital and I'm locked in a cell in a place that even the locals believe has been forsaken by everyone, God included.

We were fifty kilometres north, on the beach at Mulligan Bay, near the southern end of Hinchinbrook Island, when I heard the news that led me to break the biggest story I'd ever covered. We'd had a couple of beers while cooking a two-kilo mangrove jack over the coals, just about the best eating fish you'll find this side of a barramundi – and we'd eaten a couple of those over the week we'd spent on the idyllic waters around Hinchinbrook. It was just Reef and me after another mate of his pulled out at the last minute, Reef showing off the area where he'd been born and the two of us catching fish and chucking most of them back because we didn't have a freezer and frozen fish taste crap anyway; and solving the world's problems over a few beers each evening, like we used to do when I was a uni student ten years ago, only now the problems were more complex and the solutions a whole lot less clear.

The batteries in our lantern were almost dead so we'd cooked early, while there was still plenty of light, and I'd moved on to our last bottle of red while we ate. To tell the truth, after a week in the sun and beers or wine every evening I was feeling used up as well. Too much relaxation can do that to a man and it was time to get back to work and to Lisa, the woman I'd been dating in a weird, sexless kind of way for the past year and who, I had realised during the endless nights on the island, was threatening to crack the carapace I had painstakingly constructed around myself over seven long years. A week of absence, mobile switched off, had made me realise I wasn't being fair to Lisa. It was decision time … if I hadn't already left it too late.

Reef and I had become totally at ease in each other's company and Reef was lying belly-up on his swag smoking some weed and looking very relaxed with his size twelves pointing at the sky and his big round head resting comfortably on his pack. I had nicked his camera and was trying to sneak a shot without him noticing. I wanted his feet huge in the foreground and his face wreathed in smoke, and was down on my knees in the sand waiting for him to take another drag when I heard the announcement on the 5:30 news.

'The Queensland Government today placed Palm Island under quarantine following an outbreak of what is believed to be bird flu. All travel to and from the island has been suspended,' said the announcer.

'Hey Reef, listen up.' I almost dropped the Nikon in the sand as I reached to turn up the volume.

'This is what the Queensland Premier Jason Callahan had to say at a press conference half an hour ago,' the announcer continued.

'There have been five confirmed cases of the H5N1 strain of bird flu diagnosed on Palm Island. On the advice of Queensland Health we have placed the island under quarantine as a precautionary measure.' Callahan's voice was as dry and emotionless as ever. He was obviously reading from a script. I closed my eyes and tried to visualise him saying the words. If only I'd brought my old portable TV and the generator so I could actually see the interview, I would have known if the bastard was hiding something. Just listening to him on the radio, it wasn't so easy.


Welcome to the world of genetic terrorism – a place where evil knows no boundaries.

A bird flu outbreak on Australia’s remote Palm Island finds journalist Ryan Helzinger in the right place at the right time – and presents him with a chance to break the biggest story of his career.

But the headlines are scarcely dry on the page before there’s a target on Ryan’s back as hard-line extremists and an international hit-man seek to stop him finding out the real reason twelve people had to die in agony.


Review by: Michael E Rose, Author. ( review).

Terrific new thriller

As well as being a thriller writer, I am also a big reader of thrillers, not too surprisingly. I read a lot of thrillers, so I know what I like, and I think I can spot a good one. I’ve just finished Ian Wynne’s “The Seventh Vial” and I am very, very impressed.

Wynne has the kind of imagination that allows him to confidently devise a very wide and very convincing story arc that stretches from South Africa to an obscure island off Australia to CIA headquarters in the United States and all the way back again. It is one of those stories that I might spoil if I give too much away in a review, but I can say that the notion of a white supremacist group trying to devise a genetically-targeted virus captures the attention of an Australian journalist, sends alarm bells through Washington, and moves things along at a terrific pace.

Throughout, Wynne is in control of his material: nothing gets overdone, nothing gets too far-fetched or over-dramatized. He writes like the journalist he once was: deftly telling his story, folding in the facts as they come to light, generating interest and excitement as the book progresses. He is also one of those fortunate writers who has an extremely good ear for dialogue. People in Wynne's book speak like real people; real people with a lot at stake. And I very much like his ending. The penultimate chapter left me feeling that something was still not quite right. The twist in the final chapter makes it clear that something was indeed not right, something with truly global consequences.

Wynne and his work deserve to be more widely-known and appreciated.