The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry
It was the last thing he wanted, but Joe Ledger is back…
Saturday 09:11 Hours: a blast rocks a London Hospital. Thousands are dead or injured…
10:09 Hours: Joe Ledger arrives on the scene to investigate.
I knew going into this review that I was in for a compelling read. The last Joe Ledger novel, The Dragon Factory, ended with an event that was guaranteed to have repercussions in the series going forward and I was curious where the story would go. The members of the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) have suffered a loss and as this third novel begins Joe is on leave in the UK and facing an uncertain future. When an explosion destroys a London hospital Joe is drawn back into the murky world of counter terrorism and global conspiracies.
A new group, called The Seven Kings, are on the rise and it is up to the DMS to try and stop them. Using the ten plagues of Egypt as their template The Kings are trying to generate as much chaos throughout the world as is possible. They are wealthy and powerful group, having near limitless resources. The DMS are finally up against a foe that can match them in skill and training.
After two novels the often mentioned, but previously never seen, Aunt Sallie finally makes her first appearance. I am glad to say it was been well worth the wait. She is a terrific character. I wasn’t sure what to expect as the author has been dangling that particular carrot for two books now, suffice to say she very quickly makes her presence felt and I was not disappointed. As an aside I read a rumour that a television series may be in the offing. If Aunt Sallie was a recurring character, you could be assured I’d watch. I have a good idea who should play her as well but I’ll not name any names as I want to try and avoid spoilers.
We also finally get just a little light shed on Mr Church, the head of DMS, not too much though. He does still remain very much a man of mystery, which continues to make him one of the most enjoyable characters in the series. Sometimes when I’m reading a novel, I have the criticism that the characterisation is not in-depth enough for my liking. I am always keen to know as much about a character as I can, but Mr Church is the exception to this rule. The air of mystery that surrounds him feels right. He inhabits a shadowy, clandestine world so it is only right that he is an enigma himself.
Additionally, The King of Plagues sees the return of some characters from the first novel, Patient Zero. It’s a welcome inclusion and helps to flesh out the ever expanding Joe Ledger universe. There is a growing sense of continuity with each new novel as the series continues. Jonathan Maberry is swiftly becoming my favourite thriller writer.
There is a truly insightful sentiment expressed, regarding the nature of terrorism, in the closing paragraphs of the novel. Based on recent events it could not be more topical if it tried. It details why men and women put themselves in harm’s way to stop others from performing acts of violence. The King of Plagues is like a template for how all thrillers should be. Not only does it have real pace and contains more action than I thought possible, it is also has brains. It’s not often that I get to say that I wasn’t just entertained, I was educated.