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One of Cook's most successful—and timely—bestsellers. Contagion is a terrifying cautionary tale for the millennium as a deadly epidemic is spread not merely by microbes—but by sabotage....

496 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1992

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About the author

Robin Cook

291 books4,172 followers
Librarian Note: Not to be confused with British novelist Robin Cook a pseudonym of Robert William Arthur Cook.

Dr. Robin Cook (born May 4, 1940 in New York City, New York) is an American doctor / novelist who writes about medicine, biotechnology, and topics affecting public health.

He is best known for being the author who created the medical-thriller genre by combining medical writing with the thriller genre of writing. His books have been bestsellers on the "New York Times" Bestseller List with several at #1. A number of his books have also been featured in Reader's Digest. Many were also featured in the Literary Guild. Many have been made into motion pictures.

Cook is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Columbia University School of Medicine. He finished his postgraduate medical training at Harvard that included general surgery and ophthalmology. He divides his time between homes in Florida, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts where he lives with his wife Jean. He is currently on leave from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He has successfully combined medical fact with fiction to produce a succession of bestselling books. Cook's medical thrillers are designed, in part, to make the public aware of both the technological possibilities of modern medicine and the ensuing ethical conundrums.

Cook got a taste of the larger world when the Cousteau Society recruited him to run its blood - gas lab in the South of France while he was in medical school. Intrigued by diving, he later called on a connection he made through Jacques Cousteau to become an aquanaut with the US Navy Sealab when he was drafted in the 60's. During his navy career he served on a nuclear submarine for a seventy-five day stay underwater where he wrote his first book! [1]

Cook was a private member of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Board of Trustees, appointed to a six-year term by the President George W. Bush.[2]

[edit] Doctor / Novelist
Dr. Cook's profession as a doctor has provided him with ideas and background for many of his novels. In each of his novels, he strives to write about the issues at the forefront of current medical practice.
To date, he has explored issues such as organ donation, genetic engineering,fertility treatment, medical research funding, managed care, medical malpractice, drug research, drug pricing, specialty hospitals, stem cells, and organ transplantation.[3]

Dr. Cook has been remarked to have an uncanny ability to anticipate national controversy. In an interview with Dr.Cook, Stephen McDonald talked to him about his novel Shock; Cook admits the timing of Shock was fortuitous. "I suppose that you could say that it's the most like Coma in that it deals with an issue that everybody seems to be concerned about," he says, "I wrote this book to address the stem cell issue, which the public really doesn't know much about. Besides entertaining readers, my main goal is to get people interested in some of these issues, because it's the public that ultimately really should decide which way we ought to go in something as that has enormous potential for treating disease and disability but touches up against the ethically problematic abortion issue."[4]

Keeping his lab coat handy helps him turn our fear of doctors into bestsellers. "I joke that if my books stop selling, I can always fall back on brain surgery," he says. "But I am still very interested in being a doctor. If I had to do it over again, I would still study medicine. I think of myself more as a doctor who writes, rather than a writer who happens to be a doctor." After 35 books,he has come up with a diagnosis to explain why his medical thrillers remain so popular. "The main reason is, we all realize we are at risk. We're all going to be patients sometime," he says. "You can write about great white sharks or haunted houses, and you can say I'm not going into the ocean or I'm not going in haunted houses, but you can't say you're n

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 408 reviews
Profile Image for Scott Rhee.
1,847 reviews68 followers
February 27, 2013
It boggles my mind how some writers earn their "best-selling author" status. It's not always because they are good writers. Clearly this is the case with Robin Cook, a mediocre writer at best. Cook is also an M.D., and his books generally deal with the medical field. I picked up "Contagion" because I had never actually read a Robin Cook novel before. Perhaps "Contagion" wasn't the best one to start with, or perhaps I wasn't in a "medical thriller" mood when I read this, but it wasn't that good. It's pretty slow-moving for a thriller, and Cook (being a doctor) has to throw in as much medical jargon and explanatory paragraphs as possible, I guess to sound authoritative and to prove to his reading audience that, yes, indeed, he did go to medical school and earned those little letters after his name. The book is kind of garbage, having to do with a flu epidemic in New York City. Some of the dialogue sounds stilted, the pacing is very uneven, and there is an uncomfortable amount of racist stereotypes scattered throughout. Again, it boggles my mind how Robin Cook earned his status as a best-selling author. I will attempt to read another Cook novel to see if "Contagion" was a fluke, although my hunch is that it isn't...
Profile Image for Jim.
562 reviews85 followers
February 3, 2021
2.5 Stars

Entertaining so I am feeling generous and am rounding up to three stars. This is not great literature and not very believable but in the middle of winter and if you are stuck indoors because of the weather (and COVID-19) it can be a way to pass the time.

The prologue introduces three characters whose lives will intersect in the future. The protagonist, Jack Stapleton, is a medical examiner in New York city. Formerly he had a small opthamology practice but retrained when a managed care firm bought out his practice. Needless to say he has a certain bias when it comes to managed care. When a body is brought to the mortuary and that person had been a hospital patient who died of plague Jack sees a chance to stick it to managed care.

Soon there are other unexplained deaths at the same hospital …. plague, tularaemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, influenza. All highly contagious diseases. But there are only a handful of deaths and then they stop. Jack is on a mission. He suspects something is wrong but can't get a handle on it. He is persona non grata at the hospital where the deaths occurred and angers his bosses. He doesn't get fired but finds that a gang in New York has targeted him. First there is a beating to warn him off. Then there are attempts to kill him.

Undeterred by the beating, attempts on his life, and warnings from his employer and co-workers his job is in jeopardy Jack continues his investigation. He believes that the diseases and patient deaths are deliberate. But how are the people being infected? What is the connection? Some of the people who died worked in the hospital supply department and had no contact with patients.

There was a surprise twist towards the end but overall it is a rather poor ending. It seemed as though the author ran out if ideas and just had to finish the story up. As I mentioned at the beginning this is not great literature. If you are looking for a quick read and have time on your hand it is entertaining but I don't think it won any awards or is likely to.
Profile Image for James Batchelor.
Author 2 books2 followers
April 16, 2012
Wow! This might be the single worst ending to a book that I have ever come across. I won't spoil it for those that may choose to read it, but suffice it to say, Cook set up a very interesting story, and torpedoed it with an absolutely implausible, ridiculous ending.
Profile Image for Angie.
1,214 reviews131 followers
July 14, 2014
Have you read any of Robin Cook’s books yet? No? NO??!! Dude!! You have no idea what you’re missing out on! We’re talking epidemic, deadly viruses, panic, conspiracies, drama, confusion, medical negligence, and gangsters! And of course, as with any good medical drama worth its salt, at the center of it all are two competing corporate healthcare giants out to make a quick profit AND an ad company with a near-impossible deadline. If this sounds to you like a heady mix of suspense, intrigue, and holy-crap-hope-this-never-happens-to-us chills, then right you are. Seriously, you have to read this. Contagion is also my first Robin Cook experience, so I won’t judge you for not having read any of his novels yet.

Right, so I mentioned the panic and conspiracy theories, a plague, and other killer diseases. But there are a ton more elements that made this both an exciting and disturbing read. The scariest thing for me was that this could really happen. It might seem unlikely that a break-out with such devastating consequences as described in this story could occur in a real-life large, bustling, modern hospital, but I personally believe it’s possible. Even if you don’t believe such a likelihood exists, Contagion will definitely convince you otherwise.

Here we have a spectacular cast of characters to keep track of. Most characters have minor roles, and some more important, but each character is crucial in moving the plot along. It is clear that a good amount of time was spent on developing every character no matter how big or small their part in this story. From start to end, there is absolutely no indication of who the guilty party might be. Yet, when the big reveal is done, you’ll probably ask yourself why you hadn’t suspected that person(s) from the start. I love when an author is detail-oriented, but doesn’t weigh the reader down with too much unnecessary information about the setting and characters’ histories. Robin Cook balances all this perfectly and sticks to the storyline without too much explanation (though a lot of the medical- and biological terminology went right over my head).

You know what I liked most about Jack’s character? His go-getter attitude. He asks questions, gather as much information as he can, and then immediately goes out looking for the answers. He doesn’t even care how many toes he steps on along the way. Plus, he does all this while adding his own patented brand of tongue-in-cheek humor, intentionally provoking the tempers of his superiors, the staff at Manhattan General Hospital where the first plague outbreak occurred, and the corporate heads at healthcare giant, AmeriCare. Jack is fearless, yet vulnerable, and I soon realized I’m rapidly developing a soft spot for this character.

One of Jack’s best lines in my opinion (with which I share the same sentiment):

“The problem is that I’ve developed an aversion to mediocrity.”

The only issues I had was that the ending felt a little blunt, and the motivation behind the spread of the deadly diseases wasn’t as impressive as the continued build-up throughout the story led me to believe it would be. Although, I did like how it ended for the antagonist(s), so I’m giving Contagion an easy five stars. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this book. Want to know what lengths some people will go to to get what they want? Yes? Then this book was written for you. If not, read it anyway because it’s kick-ass!
Profile Image for Kirsten .
1,595 reviews255 followers
February 26, 2022
I have a weakness for a good medical suspense novel -- especially if it comes with a dash of conspiracy. Add the infectious diseases slant and I'm all in. Robin Cook writes good and crisp medical fiction that doesn't involve the hyperbole you may get with other authors.

Still working my way through this series and they are quite enjoyable.
Profile Image for Marten Hoyle.
Author 47 books2 followers
June 8, 2014
Boring, poorly written, overly ridiculous and pathetically predictable. This is definitely the only Robin Cook book I am ever going to read. It was not a good introduction to the author and I wouldn't even recommend it to someone with poor taste in literature.
Profile Image for milaisnotok ☁.
187 reviews46 followers
May 5, 2020
Tres veces intenté leer este libro. Lo más lejos que llegué fue a la mitad. Me rindo, simplemente no es para mí 😬😖
Profile Image for John.
151 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2021
A pretty good read. Some dated terms, but an interesting perspective on a possible virus epidemic.
Profile Image for Hannah.
159 reviews
March 6, 2020
Good suspense, suprising how relevant the medical references are today in Contagion. The book was published in the early 90s, I think...
Profile Image for Elysa.
370 reviews35 followers
May 5, 2021
So, this isn't my usual read. This is a medical thriller written by a doctor, so there is a lot of medical jargon I don't understand, but it didn't prevent me from liking the actual story.

Speaking of, the story was not what I was expecting. The description made this book sound like it would be more about an epidemic, although perhaps that's because of the state of the world right now. However, this story is more about the beginnings of a potential epidemic and the efforts of one man to prevent it from getting worse. Because of this, it took me a couple of weeks to get through the first 60% of the book, however I went through the last 40% in half a day.

As for the writing, I had a hard time getting used to it. A medical thriller is described as "combining medical writing with the thriller genre of writing" which is cool. The relationship between science and art is a fascinating one, but they don't always weave harmoniously. I think that's the case here. At least for me. I think it's a combination of me not understanding all the medical jargon and Dr. Robin Cook's way of describing things with a lot of detail. Often too much detail. Sometimes it felt more like a movie with blink-and-you'll-miss-it foreshadowing, but other times it was just a wall of text my eyes automatically skimmed over. I didn't want to read the exact path that Jack took through the hospital or through New York, and didn't need to read the exact movements of various people as they worked. Even though my eyes just glossed over these bits, I was still able to guess who the villain was in the end.

Anyway, I don't think I'll read another medical thriller, but I am glad I've read this one.
Profile Image for J Jahir.
1,025 reviews86 followers
November 18, 2020
Espectacular segundo libro de la serie. llenísimo de acción, y con la entrada del nuevo protagonista, Jack Stapleton, por lo que lógicamente se enfocó mucho en él, que ya desde que conocemos su pasado notamos que viene cargando con un gran dolor ante la pérdida de su familia. (no es spoiler porque ya lo dice la sinopsis, no me linchen jaja).
Al llegar al hospital donde trabaja Laurie, se vendrá metido en un caso donde enfermedades contagiosas que en su momento causaron epidemias (peste, fiebre de las montañas rocosas y un virus de gripe que azotó en 1918), lo que los tendrá desconcertados.
Claramente vemos con menor participación a Laurie y Lou, pero siendo igualmente importante.
Recomiendo muchísimo. demás está decir que la documentación médica es muy completa, estos libros me encantan porque también uno aprende bastante mientras se entretiene con una buena historia.
Profile Image for Roberta.
1,736 reviews282 followers
February 14, 2022
Second book of the Jack Stapleton and Laurie Montgomery series. This one is focused on Jack, since he's the new character in town. He's the all American boy for the all American plot, in which he is the hero against the world. Of course, he will withdraw any information he collected until it's too late, but the deus ex machina will save the day!

I don't read Robin Cook for the plot, to be honest, but because I like the science(fiction) that is he's starting point. Every time he takes a plausible medical topic, makes it dark and twisted and molds it with the same cookie cutter plot. I'm entertained, and that's more than enough.
Profile Image for Bren.
814 reviews134 followers
November 7, 2018
Ya había comentado antes, que tengo, entre otros, un gran pendiente con Robin Cook, son de esos escritores que siempre quise leer y por alguna causa no lo había hecho.

Realmente me había perdido de mucho, esta que les comento es la segunda entrega de la serie de Thriller médico de Robin Cook y realmente es buenisimo.

En esta ocasión, por fin conocemos al Jack Stapleton, el médico forense, protagonista de la serie.

como su nombre lo dice, el libro trata de la investigación de una epidemia sobre varias enfermedades epidemiológicas que se da en uno de los hospitales mas grandes de Nueva York, a cargo, de una de las empresas de seguridad social médica mas importantes de Estados Unidos.

Jack es un solitario, cínico y extraordinario médico forense que se pone a investigar este caso.

Realmente me gusta mucho como escribe Cook, no solo porque es obvio que esta muy bien documentado en el tema médico, si no porque lo hace fácil de entender y porque no deja de ponerte los pelos de punta con todo lo que cuenta con respecto a la medicina.

Siendo Cook uno de los escritores mas reconocidos en el genero del Thriller médico y en mi caso, el primero que leo, tengo que reconocer que realmente su narrativa es ágil, facil de comprender y contiene un suspenso entretenido durante toda la trama.

No es tampoco de esos libros de suspenso donde la cuerda la estiran y la estiran durante todo el tiempo, si no mas bien es muy tenue, un suspenso ligero, pero que hace que sientas que no puedes dejar de leer, no se trata de esos libros donde toda la trama gira solo en relación a una investigación, en este caso médica, si no que es como si se tratara mas bien de las personas, que hacen un trabajo y en este caso se topan con un caso extraño.

Por supuesto que me gusto el personaje principal, me gusta la forma en que nos presentan a este Stapleton, que me imagino como un hombre maduro, guapo e interesante, claro que no lo pintan así en ningún momento, pero así me lo imagino yo, con su propia historia trágica y enigmatica que lo hace ser como es.

Me gusta la manera en que Cook nos pinta todos esos problemas burocraticos y politicos a los que estan sometidos ese tipo de dependencias, no creo que se exclusivo de un país ese tipo de cosas, por lo que lo hace muy real y entretenido.

En fin, que honestamente, me tarde mucho en leer estos libros, ya les seguiré comentando los demás, pero hasta el momento, bastante recomendable
Profile Image for Mavel.
154 reviews4 followers
June 28, 2021
DNF @ 6%: No thanks, I'll just watch the movie instead.

A friend back in uni liked Robin Cook's books, so I read a couple of them (Fatal Cure and Vital Signs). I remember finding the quality of his writing poor—wooden dialog, one-dimensional characters, unsuspenseful suspense—and wondering why the duck my friend liked his books so much. (She was a Microbiology undergrad, but still.)

Fast forward to today, the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and of course the library featured this book as a pandemic-related novel, so of course I dove in (because that's my way of coping, woot woot!). But I'm only 23 pages in, and I'm calling it quits. It's still the same: wooden dialog, one-dimensional characters, and oh, now I notice a sprinkling of racism! Also, look at this wonderful gem from Jack Stapleton, the "irreverent" medical examiner:

"This is gangrene on his fingers," Jack said. He lifted one of the hands and examined the almost-black fingertips closely. Then he pointed to the man's shriveled genitals. "That's gangrene on the end of his penis. Ouch! That must have hurt. Can you imagine?"

Jesus ducking Christ, no ducking thank you.

So yeah, spare yourself and read better books like Emily Mandel's Station Eleven. I myself am moving on to Stephen King's The Stand and Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain. Here's to hoping these will indeed be better than Robin Cook's subpar ones.
Profile Image for Jessica.
89 reviews9 followers
January 17, 2013
I bought this book because I had seen the recent movie titled 'Contagion' and thought that the two were one and the same. I was not particularly impressed with the movie but I always tend to enjoy the books more and the movie felt as if it were missing something so I decided to give this a chance. I'm glad I did because the book was nothing like the movie other than being about an epidemic. I enjoyed this story very much, although there were some minor instances where what I had just read didn't seem right. (Mostly near the end concerning the character 'Warren'.) As the end of the book approached, I had already guessed one of the two characters responsible but was completely surprised when the second one turned out to be someone I had not even given much thought to. I enjoy a good puzzle and this was a fun one!
Profile Image for Michael Woods.
202 reviews1 follower
April 9, 2020
I bought a hardback copy of this book from a used bookseller a few months before finally picking it up to read. Why I decided to read it at that time was because we were starting to go through the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. In my line of work, I visit a lot of people in nursing homes, and these facilities were starting to severely restrict visitations in order to contain the virus. So, I had a lot of time on my hands to spend at home reading, and I wondered what it would be like to read a book about a pandemic while in the midst of an actual one.

Robin Cook is an excellent writer, who clearly knows his subject matter. I like that his protagonists tend to be the kind of people who push against the for-profit medical establishment - a sentiment I share. I am yet to be disappointed by a single work of his.
Profile Image for Isa.
51 reviews1 follower
November 11, 2020
Lectura rápida y ágil, pero no me ha gustado tanto como otros libros del autor.

Como microbióloga, me gustan los detalles sobre los microorganismos o las técnicas de laboratorio que el autor introduce, aunque algunas cosas me chirrían un poco, todo hay que decirlo. Pero puedo apreciar ese esfuerzo de detallar el aspecto científico, cuando quizá a personas que desconocen estos temas les puede resultar demasiada información técnica.

En cuanto a la historia, la idea me parece buena, pero llega un punto en el que me parece que se sale de madre. Entiendo que Jack es el protagonista, pero las situaciones que llega a vivir llegan a ser poco creíbles incluso para una novela de ficción, y el final me ha dejado un poco fría.
Profile Image for La Tonya.
168 reviews13 followers
January 3, 2009
This had to be one of the very best books I have ever read! So entertaining and definitely a huge page turner!! A MUST read!!!!
Profile Image for Libri In Fiamme.
37 reviews2 followers
March 31, 2020
Primer libro de la cuarentena. Un libro interesante para estos días de quedarse en casa. Si lo que quieres es desconectar y dejar de preocuparte por la situación actual, no lo leas por el momento <3


El libro está protagonizado por un sarcástico médico forense dedicado al 100% a su trabajo llamado Jack Stapleton. A lo largo del libro vamos viendo varias perspectivas de ciertas partes de la historia, pero la narración de Jack es la prioritaria.

He de decir que he tenido varios problemas tanto con la historia como con los personajes, pues me han resultado algo insulsos. No he podido conectar con ninguno de ellos ni me han terminado de gustar, pero sí he rozado el desagrado y la irritación con algunos.

Puede que solo sea yo, pero me ha parecido una historia un tanto predecible, lo cual ha anulado casi toda sensación de intriga para mí. A partir del primer tercio de la historia ya tenía una idea más o menos clara de cómo iba a acabar la cosa, por lo que el supuesto gran giro o revelación del final (como suele haber en todos los thrillers) no me ha sorprendido en lo más mínimo.

Aún con todo es una buena historia, a la cual no se le puede quitar su debido mérito. Si se mira desde el contexto histórico en el que fue publicado, no me parece para nada un mal libro. Es una buena historia que engancha al lector, pero personalmente no la consideraría como la genialidad que algunos parecen decir que es. Sin embargo, la recomendaría bastante, sobre todo a quien quiera leer un thriller con aspectos médicos, pues la forma de escribir de Robin Cook me ha parecido fluida y fácil de seguir a pesar de los términos más técnicos empleados a lo largo de la novela.
163 reviews
May 31, 2017
Awesome Robin Cook!!!!

There is nothing to dislike about Dr. Cook's writing!!! On point, accurate to the nth degree, just don't understand how he manages a practice and his outstanding writing. Jack and Laurie always pull you in. Wonderful book most especially entertaining for those in the medical field who understand the frustrations of hospital practices and policies, and those who rule over them.
April 7, 2022
"-Lo que no logro entender es por qué te ponen tan nervioso estas infecciones. He leído que en general las enfermedades infecciosas estan en aumento.
-Eso es cierto... pero no de debe a una provocación deliberada, sino al uso imprudente de los antibióticos, a la urbanización y a la invasión de los hábitats originales. "
Profile Image for Jenn.
105 reviews
August 18, 2021
Towards the middle of the book, it started dragging along. Ending was a surprise.
Profile Image for Juan De Barruel.
3 reviews1 follower
August 27, 2022
Me esperaba más. No está mal, es fluido, se lee rápido y fácil pero me esperaba más suspenso, más intriga. Meh…
Profile Image for Paula Gazette.
23 reviews1 follower
January 28, 2022
In the era of Pandemic I found this book very interesting. Had some good relatable characters in Jack and Laurie. I like that Jack, a doctor, chose to live in the tenements of New York city where he made a difference in his community. Also it’s interesting that this book was written before 9/11 so there was a reference to the World Trade Center. A bit eerie due to what we know now.
Profile Image for Alissa.
221 reviews4 followers
January 23, 2021
I’m sorry but what is with the ending? So many unanswered questions. 3 stars was a stretch, I really did feel the reader deserves a comprehensive ending
March 7, 2012
Imagine weaving in and out of New York traffic on a 15 pound bike going about 30mph 3 inches between cars on a brisk morning in novemeber.Jack Stapleton a forensic pathologist did just that everymorning heating the ever so frequent honk of the horn or someone yelling explitives at him, but i guess u could say he was used to it. One morning he was called into work a little ealier then he would like and it wasn't a good thing. Three patients came in with unkown deaths and no one could figure out what happened not even the ten year veteran DR.Jack stapleton. who would have ever guessed it was a rare plague that was one of the most deadly."Dr. Jack Stapelton, New York's Medical Examiner, faces the biggest potential plague scare in decades. A deadly but rare flu begins to slowly kill healthy people. This is the last thing he needed right now to because he already lost his opthalmology practice to a giant cooperation, now Jack immediately suspects that this cooperation was just killing patients who cost them a lot of money. John begins to investigate anything that may give him the viruses point of origin. Because of this someone tries to kill Jack. Jack doesnt let it phase him though and he finally finds out that some gang ordered a virus to infect people with and what Jack doesnt realize is this gang is hot on his trail. Their plan is to kill john and infect everyone. They finally kidnapped jack and the only thing he could do to survive was escape. Do they kill him and infect everone or does he escape and put the villians away forever, i guess u will have to read it to find out.
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