"To this virus we have given a highly unscientific name, but one which describes it perfectly. The Satan Bug."
— Dr. Gregor Hoffman
"But if you act now, you'll win this free vial of botulinus!"
The Satan Bug is a 1962 science fiction/mystery novel by Alistair MacLean, he of The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare fame. MacLean wrote it under the pseudonym "Ian Stuart," but subsequent publications give his real name.The Satan Bug concerns the theft of a Synthetic Plague code-named the Satan Bug from the Mordon Microbiological Research Establishment, a top-secret British research laboratory. With the lab's chief of security Neil Clandon having been murdered in the process, the British government tracks down Clandon's predecessor, Private Detective and Badass Pacifist Pierre Cavell, in the hopes that he can track down the Diabolical Mastermind behind the theft.It was adapted into a 1965 film directed by John Sturges featuring an early score by Jerry Goldsmith. While the story was mostly kept the same, all the action was relocated to America and almost the entire cast of characters had their names changed.
Tropes used in the novel:
Anti-Hero: Cavell isn't above using intimidation, blackmail and torture to get what he wants. He's arguably justified, though, considering what's at stake, and he never goes too far.
Badass Pacifist: Cavell was fired from Mordon for objecting to the bio-weapon experiments, and has a distaste for war and the military. We later learn however that his firing was engineered by the General as part of a plan to discover who was smuggling viruses out of Mordon, however his antiwar sentiments are genuine.
Batman Gambit: Cavell's preferred method of operation. He has a knack for figuring out what someone, friend or foe, will or won't do in a given circumstance.
Even Evil Has Standards: Scarlatti claims this is why he returned the kidnapped kids, and why he (at that point) hasn't harmed Mary, although he's really just avoiding making any more enemies than he has to.
Evil Foreigner: The only scientist working at Mordon who is from another country turns out to be the villain.
Evil Plan: Months in advance of the robbery, Scarlatti sets in motion multiple plans to divert suspicion from his Dr. Gregori persona and implicate others in the theft he hasn't even committed yet, and/or force various people to help him, and/or send the authorities on wild goose chase thinking the culprit is a Communist or a religious nutcase. And up to a certain point, no matter what the outcome, he succeeds because nobody knows he in particular has the viruses, or is even in the country.
Faking the Dead: Cavell briefly fakes his own death to lull his enemies into a false sense of security.
Government Agency of Fiction: The Mordon Microbiological Research Establishment is fictional, although it has some similarities to the real-life Porton Down.
Red Herring Mole: No less than three - Dr. Hartnell, Dr. MacDonald and Dr. Chessingham.
Secret Test of Character: A man, knowing of Cavell's antiwar sympathies, tries to pay him to smuggle a vaccine stolen from Mordon to Poland. Cavell pretends to accept, but then pulls a gun on him, citing his loyalty to his country ahead of his own personal ideals. Enter Superintendent Hardanger to reveal it was a test to see if he could be bought.
Sherlock Scan: Cavell's ability to do this seems to be the main reason Hardanger and Cliveden wanted him on the case.
Tap on the Head: Subverted. Although most characters who get bonked on the head do recover, they take a while to do so, and many, particularly Cavell himself, experience debilitating effects such as dizziness afterward.
Torture Always Works: Whenever Cavell tortures someone he needs information from, they always give him the information and it's always the correct information.
Utopia Justifies the Means: This is supposedly Scarlatti's motive, but it's just a smokescreen to clear out London with a plague scare so he and his men can loot banks.
What Measure Is a Mook?: Averted. Cavell only wants Scarlatti. He only kills Henriques because he has to, and spares another henchman's life.
Adaptation Name Change: Almost every single character. Pierre Cavell has become Lee Barrett, Dr. Giovanni Gregori is now Dr. Gregor Hoffman, Superintendent Hardanger is now Eric Cavanaugh, etc.; even the General is given a name; it's Williams.
Adaptational Villainy: The helicopter pilot. In the novel he's forced by Scarlatti to fly the helicopter against his will and assists Cavell in defeating him; here he's cooperating with Ainsley willingly and even tries to murder Barrett.
Badass Pacifist: Unlike Cavell in the book, Barret really was fired for objecting to what was being done at Station 3. He openly dislikes the military and war.
Chekhov's Skill: The SDI man posing as Henry Martin mentions Barrett flew helicopters in Korea. This comes in handy much later when he has to throw out Ainsley's pilot during a fight and fly the copter himself.
Disney Villain Death: A twofer at the end. Ainsley's pilot gets chucked out of their helicopter while fighting Barrett, and then Ainsley himself leaps out rather than confess where the viruses are hidden.
Secret Test of Character: Barrett is approached by a man who wants him to smuggle an illegally obtained vaccine for him. It goes pretty much the same way it does in the book; Barret refuses and it is then revealed by Cavanaugh that it was a test of Barrett's loyalties.
Tap on the Head: Played straight. People knocked out either recover with no consequences, or just stay knocked out. Whichever the plot requires.