D.G. MARTIN COLUMN: Plots, hoaxes and pandemics

Published 3:37 pm Friday, April 17, 2020

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Is the COVID-19 virus the result of a plot by the Chinese to bring down the United States?

Or is it a plot by the United States to punish China?

D.G. Martin

Knowing that some of us are prone to believe such alarmist reports, there are those who spend their time making up and spreading far-fetched conspiracy theories.

They are people like Nick Body, a fictional Rush Limbaugh-type who lives in Charlotte.

He stirs up his podcast listeners with tales of child abduction and other offbeat alarms and somehow makes a good living from these malicious efforts to influence and mislead.

Body is a major character in “A Conspiracy of Bones,” the 19th and latest novel by Charlotte-based and New York Times best-selling author Kathy Reichs. Her series of Temperance Brennan novels were the basis of the long running “Bones” series.

Brennan, a brilliant forensic anthropologist, uses her dead-body-examining skills to solve complicated and deadly crimes.

The new book’s evil character, Body, would claim that the epidemic we are experiencing in real life is the result of some carefully contrived plot by the Chinese, the Russians or our government.

Here is how Reichs sums up her character’s alarmist con games.

“Over the past decade, Body has been particularly vehement on two themes. Plots involving kids. Plots involving medical wrongdoing,” Reichs said.

“Occasionally, his insane theories managed to combine both elements. Many of Body’s harangues focused on disease. Over and over, he returned to the theme of government conspiracy. A sampling: he claims that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was a biological weapons test performed by America. That SARS was a germ attack against the Chinese. That AIDS was created and distributed by those in power in the U.S. That the anthrax attacks following 9/11 were orchestrated by the government. That banning DDT was a scheme to depopulate the earth by spreading malaria. That Huntington’s disease is caused by a microbe and the government is conspiring to suppress a known cure. And, my personal favorite, that chemtrails are responsible for mad cow outbreaks.

“There were numerous variations on the evils of vaccination,” Reichs continued. “In the old tried-and-true, Body alleged that vaccination causes autism. In a somewhat more creative twist, he argued that Bill Gates was behind the plot to use immunization for population control. In another series of tirades, he insisted that the government was sneaking RFID chips into children via inoculation.”

Reichs has Brennan figure out Body’s deadly schemes and bring him down.

But the beginning of the story seemingly has nothing to do with Body. What gets Brennan’s attention is a mutilated, unidentified body found in rural Cleveland County and sent to the medical examiner in Charlotte for identification.

The fictional Charlotte-Mecklenburg medical examiner, Dr. Margot Heavner, and Brennan have a long-standing and bitter rivalry.

So Heavner does not ask Brennan to assist in the official identification process. Brennan is miffed and decides to conduct her own investigation.

With the help of old friends in law enforcement, she tracks down multiple leads in Cleveland County, Winston-Salem, Mooresville, Tega Cay near Charlotte and all over Charlotte from Myers Park to Central Avenue and modest developments in west Charlotte.

At every stop Brennan and Reichs teach readers lessons in science and technology. They show how good law enforcement can use such learning to track down leads and bring the bad guys to justice.

In the end, Brennan connects Body to crimes that go far beyond his conspiracy theory exploitations.

Even more satisfying for Brennan, her superior work results in putting a negative spotlight on Dr. Heavner, who has to leave her job in disgrace. All this gives us hope that the next fictional Charlotte-Mecklenburg medical examiner will value Brennan and put her great skills to work.

We will hope, too, that Reichs will soon bring us another story of Brennan’s adventures in science and law enforcement.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” Sunday 3:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. The program also airs on the North Carolina Channel Tuesday at 8 p.m. and other times.