Patient Zero (Joe Ledger #1) by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero (Joe Ledger #1) by Jonathan Maberry
St. Martins Press/May, 2010
Joe Ledger series
Kind thanks to St. Martins Press for providing a review copy

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there’s either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills… and there’s nothing wrong with Joe Ledger’s skills. And that’s both a good, and a bad thing. It’s good because he’s a Baltimore detective that has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new taskforce created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. This rapid response group is called the Department of Military Sciences or the DMS for short. It’s bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance….

“Patient Zero”,by Jonathan Maberry, follows smart-mouthed Baltimore cop Joe Ledger who, after joining a secret government agency, the Department of Military Science, or DMS, races to stop a plague from destroying the country, except this plague makes Ebola look like child’s play. This plague kills you, then re-animates you, zombie-style. Except the “zombies” in this book are not your traditional zombies. The “plague”, is, in fact, a bio-warfare virus unleashed by some of the most terrifying villains in recent thrillers.

Our hero, Ledger, is recruited into the DMS in strong-arm fashion, and is almost quite literally thrown into the fight with a team made up of men with various backgrounds. Unlike a lot of your heroes featured in modern thrillers, Ledger does not have a super secret military background, or even a long military career. In fact, his military career was quite short, however, what talents he does have, he has in spades. I’ll let you read the book to find out just how good he is at what he does.

If you’ve ever read any of Nelson DeMille’s books featuring John Corey (Plum Island, Lion’s Game, etc,), Joe Ledger will remind you of him very strongly. He’s kind of a guy’s guy and is very sarcastic (so you’ll laugh a bit), and he gets the job done, very effectively. He kicks some pretty serious ass too, while remaining firmly in the White Hat category. Maberry has done extremely well in fleshing out his characters while simultaneously keeping the action going, which, to me, is not an easy thing to do. Ledger really struggles with the horror of what he’s been thrust into, and I would hope anyone (even a kick-ass, tough guy) would.

What makes this book rise above the usual espionage/thriller novel, aside from the zombie aspect, so wildly popular right now, is its superb writing and nearly flawless pacing. Add to that villains that include a greedy billionaire; a modern day, psychotic, Mata Hari, and her equally psychotic, religious zealot husband; a mole, sent to infiltrate the good guys; plus a dash of romance, and you’ve got a book that knocks the genre on its ear and keeps you guessing (and up late) until the last pages.