Nature’s bite

Book Three of the ‘Phineas Mann Series’ by Mark Anthony Powers

Nature’s Bite. Hawksbill Press, 2022.

It is our pleasure to introduce you to one of our favourite self-published authors and his latest literary endeavour. Mark drew from his own 40-years’ career in medicine to create his successful, beautifully written medical thriller The Phineas Mann series (three books in the series so far).

It’s 2024, a good few years after the terrible hurricane that hit New Orleans and the life of a young Phineas Mann. He’s now a mature man, with his wife Iris still by his side, their two kids now grown up and with families of their own. It would only be right for him to retire and spend the rest of his life the way he wants, but it’s not time yet. We soon find out that he’s working on a research project: phase three trial of a new, promising asthma drug is about to start very soon.

But life is unpredictable and full of irony, and when the FBI knocks at your door, that’s a call you need to answer. Special Agents Meyers and Richter (a caricature of the more famous MIB agents) ring Phineas and Iris’s bell and, despite the initial confusion of the couple, they let them in. After a creepy and quite nonsensical string of questions – about their jobs, their children, their citizenship, where their incomes come from – the two Special Agents leave the Manns house, not before asking Phineas if he’s ready to serve his country.

In the meanwhile, Marie Porter, the daughter of Angela Porter (a nurse who poisoned several patients in Book Two and almost got Phineas convicted for the murders), is back in Durham after 26 years. Her early years weren’t carefree and full of joy, all the contrary: Marie and her mother moved frequently from town to town, school to school, group of friends to group of friends, while her mother took private nursing positions. Sometimes they had enough to rent a small flat, other times they lived in with the patient, crammed in one room, but all her mother’s patients were frail enough to die not long after she took the job, and the whole moving shenanigans started again. Her best time was in Chinook, Montana, where they lived for three years. At that point, when Angela moved to a new city, Marie moved to college. She graduated at the medical school of the University of Washington and after her beginning as an internist and the challenging years of Covid, she landed a 9 to 5 job in the pharmaceutical industry. She is actually supervising phase three of a trial of a new, promising asthma drug (what are the chances?!).

The reason why the FBI came to visit Phineas and his wife to ask for his cooperation will become clear later in the story, when the US President will develop a severe case of “alpha gal syndrome”, a medical condition meaning that the patient is allergic to mammalian meat: if ingested, the patient will develop a bad urticaria. The reason of the disease is to be found in a particular species of tick that is moving North on the planet due to global warming, provoking life-threatening allergic reactions.

Even if the America of the book is set in the future and the President (or POTUS as he is known) is an imaginary, unnamed figure, he is still very recognisable and gives a very hard time to all those not aligned with his extreme Right agenda, making Phineas life (he’s a Democratic through and through) very difficult.

There are many references to voters’ rights, the environment and the infamous public/private healthcare system. Once again, Powers makes use of his outstanding medical skills, explained to the non-medical reader with simple and clear words. A situation that seems worrying but controllable turns into a life-or-death deadlock, keeping readers on their toes until the last pages, when Phineas is faced with a very difficult decision.

In our opinion, the book offers food for thought around today’s political and environmental problems and anxieties. We did appreciate the “twist” brought about by Marie, Angela’s daughter, even if, at times, we found that the themes portrayed were probably described in too much detail, with the narration almost shifting to non-fiction. 

All in all, however, the book was a great, enjoyable read – as it is always the case with Mark’s books. We love in fact the crafty way Powers has to imbue his characters of notions and teaching moments, still keeping them what they are, i.e. book characters. The appropriate conclusion to such an emotional and action-driven rollercoaster trilogy.

Having interviewed Mark in the past (read more here), we cannot wait to find out what he’s going to write about next: is the protagonist going to be a doctor?! Or perhaps a new subject entirely… ‘write about what you know’ is a formula that does not work for everybody after all. Well, it is highly likely his next book will keep us glued to the page regardless, just like this one.

To find out more about Mark Anthony Powers and his work, visit his website:

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