Assassin’s Code (Joe Ledger #4) by Jonathan Maberry
Publisher: St. Martins Press/April 10, 2012
Joe Ledger series
Kind thanks to St. Martins Press and NetGalley for providing a review copy
When Joe Ledger and Echo Team rescue a group of American college kids held hostage in Iran,the Iranian government then asks them to help find six nuclear bombs planted in the Mideast oil fields. These stolen WMDs will lead Joe and Echo Team into hidden vaults of forbidden knowledge, mass-murder, betrayal, and a brotherhood of genetically-engineered killers with a thirst for blood. Accompanied by the beautiful assassin called Violin, Joe follows a series of clues to find the Book of Shadows, which contains a horrifying truth that threatens to shatter his entire worldview. They say the truth will set you free… Not this time. The secrets of the Assassin’s Code will set the world ablaze.
Joe Ledger is back in the 4th thriller from Jonathan Maberry! I’m a huge fan of this series, and have loved every one, so I was eager to dive back into Joe’s world. The day after Joe and Echo Team rescue a group of college students held hostage in Iran, Joe is sitting in a coffee shop with a laser sight trained on his groin. He gets a call and a mysterious female voice gives him very specific instructions to meet a man in the coffee shop. It’s not like he has much choice. I mean, there are laser sights trained on his, er, man parts! Just a day in the life of our man Joe, yes? Trouble tends to follow Joe around, and he’s about to discover just what kind of trouble has found him, and it’s the worst yet…
Poor Joe. The author really puts him through the ringer in this one, physically and emotionally. A particularly nasty blast from Joe’s past is on the loose, vampires are running amok, an ancient order is bent on destruction, nuclear bombs are in the hands of mad men, and Joe can’t catch a break. Seriously, Joe is constantly fighting in this one, and it seems no place is safe. His loyal dog Ghost is always at his side, and even Ghost is run ragged. I think one thing I really love about Joe is that he’s willing to do what needs to be done, even if things get a bit unpleasant, and yet, all the while, he fights with himself, with the Warrior within who craves the fight. This struggle just makes an almost superhuman man seem more human and never fails to make me like him more. Of course Joe has the support of the DMS, and his boss, Mr. Church on his side, but he also acquires some unlikely allies, my favorite being in the form of a lethal assassin that calls herself Violin. I’m sincerely hoping we’ll see more of her in future books.
Assassin’s Code is mainly told in Joe’s voice, but there are Interludes and passages where the narrative takes us back to the 9th century, and the history behind an ancient, terrifying pact. Also, we get a bit of insight into the other players in the book. I’ll admit, while I enjoyed these passages, I was always eager to get back to Joe, Ghost, and Echo Team as they race to find the nukes and get the baddies. And the baddies in this one are really, really bad, and nearly take Joe down for the count, more than once. Maberry’s fight scenes are action packed, exciting, and written so well, I never had trouble picturing what was going on; Joe’s trademark snark is on full blast here (it will make you laugh, even when the bullets-stakes, holy water, garlic, etc-are flying), and the core of humanity that is ever present in these books is always just beneath the surface, even when you think things have gotten that bad. Things do get bad in this one, very bad, but have faith in Joe. When has he ever let us (or the world) down? The series just gets better and better, and I read Assassin’s Code in big gulps, frequently losing track of time. Highly recommended!