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Code Zero (Joe Ledger) by Jonathan Maberry
Cover Artist: Rob Grom and Steve Gardner
Review by Drew Bittner
St. Martin's Griffin Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250033437
Date: 25 March 2014 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Joe Ledger has never faced a moment of crisis like this. Echo Team has fought bioterrorists and mad scientists everywhere in the world. Now, however, they are up against their most terrifying enemy: a maniac who knows them much too well.

Outbreaks of madness, including "suicide bombings" by kids equipped with horrifying biotoxins, are only the beginning. The end game may be the destruction of all life on Earth.

In Code Zero, Jonathan Maberry pits his iconic hero against the ultimate mastermind. "Mother Night" is a terrifying, seemingly omniscient figure who coordinates terror attacks across the U.S. Her persona is becoming a rallying point for disaffected and borderline youth, even as the Department of Military Sciences finds her nearly impossible to predict.

Told in two tracks, one contemporary and one in progressive flashbacks, the reader becomes familiar with Artemisia Bliss and her singular view of the world. She's brilliant but has some peculiar quirks to her personality, including a fascination with powerful men. Early on, it is clear that one such connection is a fateful pivot point as well as a diabolical conspiracy.

Also shown is the development of MindReader, the DMS's custom supercomputer and its amazing intrusion capabilities. In the hands of Bug, the top cyber-tech in the DMS, the machine is able to produce miracles of intelligence gathering. But even the best technology can be a double edged sword and a liability...

As Ledger and his team grapple with the true scope of the threat, Mother Night unleashes a veritable plague of terror. Explosions and bioterrorism put the nation on high alert, until a New York City subway car becomes Ground Zero for the most dangerous attack of all: a release of the nightmarish seif al-din virus that turns those infected into murderous, cannibalistic zombies.

And it won't end there. But even worse, Ledger has realized that the only person who could have masterminded all of this is dead.

Maberry provides a dynamic, dramatic coda to his previous Patient Zero, ramping up the action and the danger to new heights. Joe Ledger is a man whose dangerous qualities are harnessed for the greater good, his incipient psychopathy reined in by an iron devotion to duty and to his cancer-stricken girlfriend Junie. He's devoted to his teammates and even has a huge dog, Ghost, who's very much part of his pack.

Having been a cop and a soldier, Ledger has a wide array of tools for handling what life (and the DMS) throws at him. He's amazingly resourceful and able to shut away his fears when the need is there; he might be the most valuable resource the DMS has. This is why Mother Night targets him specially, putting readers on the edge of their seats as they see dangers Ledger doesn't even realize are there.

The story wouldn't function as well without a top notch villain, and Mother Night is brilliantly executed. Readers will see early on who and what this person is all about, and the climax of the story is dazzling in its simplicity, striking at the heart of what this person values most, even as Mother Night's magnum opus rips apart an American city.

There are too many great characters to include to do them justice. Mr. Church remains an inscrutable, nearly-inhuman force of nature, chewing on a Nilla wafer while contemplating an epidemic of zombies, and his deputy Aunt Sallie is horrible, even if she is on the side of the angels.

Packed with action, thrills and the kind of cutting edge biotech that will make readers scramble to research it online, Code Zero is a fantastic adventure and roller-coaster ride start to finish.

Recommended.

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