Joe Ledger is a Baltimore detective who recently finished a stint with a counter-terrorism group. He has an outstanding military career, moved quickly through the ranks of the Baltimore police department, and has his eye on a job with the FBI. Then, during a relaxing beach visit, two FBI thugs come and take him to a warehouse several hours from the beach. There, he meets Mr. Church, who tells him he is being recruited into a special branch of the government called the Department of Military Science (DMS), a counter terrorism group that specifically targets terrorist groups with bioweapons. Joe is told for his audition, he needs to subdue and handcuff the man in the adjoining room. Joe doesn’t think this audition will be too difficult, until he discovers that the man in the adjoining room is the same man he killed earlier in the week, only he’s not dead anymore. Joe survives his audition without a scratch, just a shattered world view. He takes the job with DMS and gets ready for a whole new kind of battle.
My first experience with supernatural horror was World War Z, a book I stupidly read at the beach a few summers ago. Terrifying zombie book in an unusual creaky house in a new location….the book was spectacular, but I didn’t sleep much that vacation. I’ve read a bunch of other decent zombie books since then, but Patient Zero was the first to have me hiding under the covers when the lights were off. This book was brilliantly written, because you can absolutely imagine it happening in real life. The characters were so believable, especially Amirah, the actual mad scientist. Wow, she was creepy. Gault, the evil mastermind was rather scary as well, but nothing could top the scene of Amirah pressing her face against the glass to be as close as possible to her freaky zombie creations. Having good protagonists is certainly important to make a novel shine, but antagonists that are truly evil who you can’t get out of your head afterwards can be even better.
Speaking of protagonists, our main “good guy” Joe Ledger is also well written. Sometimes the way characters react to having their entire world view turned on it’s side is predictable and dull. Ledger’s reaction wasn’t, which made it even more realistic. While he did take charge of the situation and become the leader the mysterious Mr. Church needed him to be, he was also still freaked out and overwhelmed by the whole situation, as evidenced by him dragging his psychologist and best friend Rudy into a top secret government mission. And his occasionally being so horrified he had to go throw up, something I can imagine myself doing quite often when presented with the living dead. I liked the relationship between him and Grace as well, and watching Grace go from disliking him immensely to trusting him with her life. She is an interesting character, and we don’t get to learn much of her back story. I hope she’s around in the next novel.
I thought it was cool that the “zombie virus” in this story was an intentional bioweapon, not an accident or a mystery. I think that made the villains even scarier, thinking someone would intentionally destroy people like this. And that everyone working around that mad scientist thought it was a good idea! Really makes me feel like looking over my shoulder and being careful what I breathe, haha.
This was my first Jonanthan Maberry novel, and now I have discovered that he has written tons of supernatural horror. I will definitely be checking out some of his other books. During daylight hours. When there are other people around. So I feel safe.