“Are you ready to come back to work?” asked Mr. Church.
He didn’t say hello, didn’t ask how I’d been. He got right to it.
“Haven’t decided yet,” I said.
“Decide now,” said Mr. Church.
“Worse. Turn on the TV.”
I picked up the remote, hit the button. I didn’t need to ask which channel. It was on every channel.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m in.”
Just like that, Joe Ledger’s sabbatical from the Department of Military Sciences is over, and he and his new four-legged companion, a white German shepherd named Ghost, are back in the fight against terror. And this is terror on an epic scale. It starts when the Seven Kings, a secret society that DMS has long been chasing, bombs the London Hospital. And that is only the beginning.
It doesn’t seem possible that every Joe Ledger novel Maberry writes could get any more intense and terrifying that the last, but this one scared the crap out of me. The Seven Kings is a frightening secret society of powerful, often famous evil men from around the world whose main goal is to sow chaos and reap the benefits. They are nasty villains in their own right. To make matters worse, Sebastian Gault, lunatic from the first Joe Ledger book (Patient Zero reviewed here!) who tried to start a zombie apocalypse with his actual mad scientist girlfriend Amirah, is initiated into the Seven Kings group and becomes the King of Plagues. He adds his knowledge of weaponized lethal diseases to the Kings’ plan for chaos. Gault plans to weaponize ebola and make it airborne, killing as many people as possible. This was an especially creepy plot point for me, since I just finished reading The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, about an ebola outbreak near Washington DC not so very long ago. I didn’t review that one, since it was non-fiction, but it was rather paranoia-inducing, and reading another book about ebola right after it was enough to have me running out to buy gas masks. Jonathan Maberry sure knows how to write convincing horror.
Along with Sebastian Gault’s reappearance, which I have been waiting for since he sailed away at the end of Patient Zero, came the reappearance of his assistant Toys. When Gault becomes one of the Seven Kings, Toys becomes his Conscience, the fancy name for an advisor of a King. Though Toys is no saint, and plenty corrupt in his own right, he is nowhere near as insane as Gault. As Gault concocts wild plans that will cause higher and higher death tolls, Toys begins to feel this is not where he belongs. It could be said he grows a conscience of his own (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). Anyway, the point is, I actually liked Toys in this novel. I sympathized with him, and I was rooting for him to at least stay alive.
There were several other things I liked about this book. Joe Ledger, his psychologist and best friend Rudy Sanchez, and of course the mysterious Mr. Church were all present and as entertaining as always. We met some new characters too, the first being Henry Vox, world-renowned expert on security who trains government agents in counter-terrorism. Vox gets the world’s best thriller, spy, suspense, and horror – genre authors together to come up with worst case scenarios for his agents to train against. I thought that was extremely clever of Maberry. After all, any spy-novel reader would tell you those authors can come up with situations that are much scarier than anything that could happen in real life–at least, I hope. Another new character we meet is Circe O’Tree. She is a researcher for Vox, and has been collecting information on “the Goddess,” who she believes is the leader of the Seven Kings. She ends up working with Ledger and the rest of the DMS team to figure out the Seven Kings’ next move and stop them. She is brilliant, tough, and drop dead gorgeous. Both of these new characters come with their own twists at the end of the novel. I’ll admit, I predicted them (well, I guess I predicted one and a half of the twists, I didn’t predict everything), but I didn’t mind because I was busy worrying about whether DMS would stop mass murder, and was not distracted by figuring out who Circe was before Ledger did.
I love that Joe Ledger got a dog. Even better was the fact that it was a gorgeous white German shepherd, which before reading this book I did not know existed. In case you haven’t ever seen one either, here’s a picture for you.
Additionally, Maberry made two wonderfully fun Doctor Who references in this book. I finally caved to quite a bit of peer pressure from friends and started watching Doctor Who a few weeks ago, so I was extra amused when Dr. Hu, scientist who works for DMS, said his call sign was “Dalek” and Ledger remarks “He was a nerd on several continents.” Later, Ledger mentions they label their boxes full of “ultra-high-tech doodads” with TARDIS stickers. I was amused.
These Joe Ledger novels are great. Each one is better than the last, and I can’t wait for the next one. Happy reading!