When the Wind Blows is a science fiction thriller for adults by James Patterson, and part of a duology. Parts of When the Wind Blows inspired the Maximum Ride series, but they are not connected. The adult novel has different characters and deals with more mature subjects.
Frannie O'Neill is a young and talented veterinarian living in Colorado. Plagued by the mysterious murder of her husband, David, a local doctor, Frannie throws herself into her work. It is not long before another bizarre murder occurs and Kit Harrison, a troubled and unconventional FBI agent, arrives on her doorstep.
Late one night, near the woods of her animal hospital, Frannie stumbles upon a strange, astonishing phenomenon that will change the course of her life forever...
Her name is Max.
With breathtaking energy, eleven-year-old Max leads Frannie and Kit to uncover one of the most diabolical and inhuman plots of modern science. When the Wind Blows is as unique a story as has ever been told, filled with suspense and passion. This is by far James Patterson's best book to date.
The book begins with eleven-year-old Max fleeing her pursuers through the woods until she comes to an electrified fence blocking the way. She unfurls her wings and flies over. As she flies, one of her pursuers—Harding Thomas—fires a gun at her.
Frannie O’Neill is a vet working at a private practice called the Inn-Patient, in the small town of Bear Bluff, Colorado. She is still grieving after the murder of her husband David. As she leaves her practice one night, she encounters a man named Kit Harrison, who introduces himself as the new tenant renting her cabin property. However, when she realizes he has a hunting rifle, she becomes furious and tries to cancel the deal. Kit is actually Tom Brennan, an FBI agent who, against direct orders, is investigating a case of missing doctors including Frannie’s husband. He suspects Frannie.
Meanwhile, Dr. John Brownwell of Boulder Community Hospital runs an in vitro fertilization clinic with a dark secret. He treats expectant mothers all while experimenting on their fetuses, then performing emergency C-sections and convincing the mothers that they have suffered stillbirths, while their babies are taken away for more experiments.
Frannie is shocked by the mysterious death of a former colleague, not knowing that he is part of the conspiracy. As she drives home from visiting his widow late that night, she spots a girl in the woods and realizes that the girl has wings. She becomes obsessed with the strange encounter.
Meanwhile, Kit continues his investigation, adding McDonough to his list of suspicious deaths, and pursuing any information on a mysterious Dr. Anthony Peyser, involved in illegal human experimentation. Kit spies on Frannie, eventually dismissing his theory that she is involved in the mystery, and finally invites her to dinner.
Max - starving, wounded, and missing her brother Matthew – manages to survive in the woods and find food and shelter, and enjoys the freedom of flying for the first time, although she is haunted by memories of the School. During her wanderings, she encounters two children.
The School’s operative Harding Thomas has recaptured Max’s brother Matthew. While buying coffee in a store, he overhears the children talking about Max. He charms their mother, and then threatens the children into telling him everything they know. He almost captures Max, driving her from the house where she has been hiding out, and frightening her with his boast that he has captured her brother.
On a date, Kit and Frannie begin to bond. He tells her about the death of his wife and sons in a plane crash. She describes the winged girl she’s seen, and he agrees to help her search. They go hiking together, spot Max, and manage to net her while she is sleeping and then sedate her. When Max wakes, Frannie tries to calm her down, finally coaxing her with the offer of spaghetti. Both adults are startled to hear the wild fighter talking coherently and intelligently. Frannie does a physical examination and is amazed by the experiments that have been done on Max.
Meanwhile, scientists from across the world begin to gather in Colorado, in disguise.
Max enjoys her time with Kit and Frannie as they show her the sights of the city, but in the night, Max realizes their cabin is surrounded by men from the School. She wakes the adults and they flee in their car to a motel, where they question Max on what’s going on. Finally opening up, Max guides them to the School - the Central Colorado Induced Mutant Lab, the School of Genetic Research. She reveals that she has a homing sense.
Entering with Max's help, they find the School silent and deserted, with experiments abandoned and euthanized. Max hurries to a room called the Nursery, where they find four other bird children: Peter, Wendy, Ic and Oz. The children hurry to Max, but are distrustful of the adults. Ic, or Icarus, is blind. Kit and Frannie go through files and experiments showing what the School has been working on – redesigning the human race.
They find a pediatric ward full of dead and dying mutated babies – the School’s failed experiments. Kit and Frannie then escape with the five bird children as guards fire at them. Behind them, the School explodes as the owners work to erase evidence.
Hiding in the woods, Max teaches the younger children to fly. Kit reveals more details of the case to Frannie, including that he is not supposed to be working on the case, that he is using a false name, and that her husband may have been involved in the School.
The group is chased from their campsite from a forest fire. As they escape, Frannie spots a group of men, all of whom she recognizes as old colleagues of her husband. She and Kit and the children try to go home, only to see that Frannie’s vet practice has been set on fire.
They go instead to Frannie’s sister Carole’s house to find a safe place. From there, Kit and Frannie try to visit old friends of Frannie’s, but find them both dead. Realizing that all witnesses are being murdered and they have to flee again, Kit calls his superior for help. When Kit and Frannie return to investigate the burned remains of the vet practice, they and the kids are captured by Harding Thomas and his men. Max flies away and escapes, but everyone else is loaded into a van. To Frannie’s astonishment, they are taken to her friend Gillian’s home. In a further surprise, the bird children recognize Gillian’s son Michael as one of their fellow experiments, Adam. With them are another experiment—Eve—and Gillian’s supposedly dead husband, who is Dr. Anthony Peyser, the mastermind whom Kit has been trying to track down.
The group is separated and imprisoned. Gillian questions Frannie, trying to find out what other witnesses are out there, and explains some of their process for creating the hybrids. Max was the first step in creating viable hybrids, and Adam and Eve are intended as the first of a new super-race with extended lifespans. Thomas beats Kit in an attempt to get information from him.
Gillian and Dr. Peyser hold an auction for biotech companies and governments to bid on their creations, starting with the bird children.
Michael opens the door to Kit and Frannie’s cell, but he is accompanied by Kit’s boss from the FBI, who is also part of the conspiracy. Kit knocks his boss out. Kit and Frannie gather with the bird children, including Max’s brother Matthew, who is alive. As they escape outside and shout for the children to fly away, Frannie fights off Gillian and then sees Max returning – leading multiple news crews eager to get footage of the bird girl. She reaches the house and fights off guards. In the chaos, all six children chase down the car in which Peyser and Gillian are trying to escape with Michael. Max collides with the car and is thrown into a tree, while the car swerves and crashes, killing all inside.
Later, in the hospital, while Kit is treated for his injuries, Frannie oversees the procedure of giving Max blood transfusions and patching up her injuries.
With the conspiracy revealed to the world, Frannie and Kit take the six bird children to live in hiding. Michael’s fellow experiment Eve is in government custody with other surviving experiments. The government tracks down the bird children's parents to reunite them with their biological families. As everyone watches, the overjoyed children begin a flight together.