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Patient Zero (Joe Ledger Series #1)

Patient Zero (Joe Ledger Series #1)

4.5 245
by Jonathan Maberry

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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


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....

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I had a fine old time reading PATIENT ZERO. Jonathan Maberry has found a delightful voice for this adventure of Joe Ledger and his crew: while the action is heated, violent, and furious, the writing remains cool, steady, and low-key, framing all the wildness and exuberance in a calm rationality (given an almost comic edge) that renders it as palatable as your favorite flavor of ice cream. This is a lovely feat, and Maberry has written a memorable book."  - Peter Straub

"Patient Zero is high-octane excitement from beginning to end, and the start of a fabulous new series.  Joe Ledger and the DMS have my vote as the team to beat when combatting terrorist threats on a grand scale." - David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of FIRST BLOOD and CREEPERS

"Scary, creepy, and gripping—PATIENT ZERO is 'Night of the Living Dead' meets Michael Crichton."—Joseph Finder, New York Times bestselling author of Power Play

"A fast-paced, creepy thriller that as prickly as a hospital needle and sounds a little too convincing. This guy is good." —Joe R. Lansdale

"Brutal action, insanely intelligent, and so real that the hair on the back of your neck stands up!" — L.A. Banks, The Vampire Huntress Legends Series, New York Times Best-selling Author

New York Times bestselling author of FIRST BLOOD a David Morrell

Patient Zero is high-octane excitement from beginning to end, and the start of a fabulous new series. Joe Ledger and the DMS have my vote as the team to beat when combatting terrorist threats on a grand scale.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Joe Ledger Series , #1
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Read an Excerpt


When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there’s either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world.

And there’s nothing wrong with my skills.


Ocean City, Maryland / Saturday, June 27; 10:22 am

They came for me at the beach. Nice and slick, two in front, one big cover-man behind in a three-point close while I was reaching for my car door. Nothing flashy, just three big guys in off-the-rack gray, all of them sweating in the Ocean City heat.

The pointman held up his hands in a no-problem gesture. It was a hot Saturday morning and I was in swim-trunks and a Hawaiian shirt with mermaids on it over a Tom Petty t-shirt. Flip-flops and Wayfarers. My piece was in a locked toolbox in the trunk, with a trigger guard clamped on it. I was at the beach to look at this year’s crop of sun-bunnies and I’d been off the clock since the shooting pending a Monday morning officer-involved discussion with the OIS team. It had been a bad scene at the warehouse and they’d put me on administrative leave to give me time to get my head straight about the shootings. I wasn’t expecting trouble, there shouldn’t have been trouble, and the smooth way these guys boxed me was designed to keep everyone’s emotions in neutral. I couldn’t have done it better myself.

“Mr. Ledger...?”

“Detective Ledger,” I said to be pissy.

No trace of a smile on the point-guy’s face, only a millimeter of a nod. He had a head like a bucket.

“We’d like you to come with us,” he said.

“Badge me or buzz off.”

Bucket-head gave me the look, but he pulled out an FBI identification case and held it up. I stopped reading after the initials.

“What’s this about?”

“Would you come with us, please?”

“I’m off the clock, guys, what’s this about?”

No answer.

“Are you aware that I’m scheduled to start at Quantico in three weeks?”

No answer.

“You want me to follow you in my car?” Not that I wanted to try and give these fellows the slip, but my cell was in the glove box of the SUV and it would be nice to check in with the lieutenant on this one. It had a weird feel to it. Not exactly threatening, just weird.

“No, sir, we’ll bring you back here after.”

“After what?”

No answer.

I looked at him and then the guy next to him. I could feel the cover-man behind me. They were big, they were nicely set –even with peripheral vision I could see that Bucket-head had his weight on the balls of his feet and evenly balanced. The other front-man was shifted to his right. He had big knuckles but his hands weren’t scarred. Probably boxing rather than martial arts; boxers wear gloves.

They were doing almost everything right except that they were a little too close to me. You should never get that close.

But they looked like the real deal. It’s hard to fake the FBI look.

“Okay,” I said.


Ocean City, Maryland / Saturday, June 27; 10:31 am

Bucket-head sat beside me in the back and the other two sat up front, the cover-man driving the big government Crown Vic. For all the conversation going on the others might have been mimes. The air conditioner was turned up and the radio was turned off. Exciting.

“I hope we’re not going all the way the hell back to Baltimore.” That was more than a three-hour ride and I had sand in my shorts.

“No.” That was the only word Bucket-head said on the ride. I settled back to wait.

I could tell that he was a leftie from the bulge his shoulder rig made. He kept me on his right side, which meant that his coat flap would impede me grabbing his piece and he could use his right hand as a block to fend me off while he drew. It was professional and well thought out. I’d have done almost the same thing. What I wouldn’t have done, though, was hold onto the leather handstrap by the door like he was doing. It was the second small mistake he made and I had to wonder if he was testing me or whether there was a little gap between his training and his instincts.

I settled back and tried to understand this pick-up. If this had something to do with the action last week on the docks, if I was somehow in trouble for something related to that, then I sure as hell planned to lawyer up when we got wherever we were going. And I wanted a union rep there, too. No way this was SOP. Unless it was some Homeland thing, in which case I’d lawyer up and call my congressman. That warehouse thing was righteous and I wasn’t going to let anyone say different.

For the last eighteen months I’d been attached to one of those interjurisdictional taskforces that have popped up everywhere post 9/11. A few of us from Baltimore PD, some Philly and DC guys, and a mixed bag of Feds: FBI, NSA, ATF, and a few letter combinations I hadn’t seen before. Nobody really doing much but everyone wanting a finger in the pie in case something juicy happened, and by juicy I mean career beneficial.

I kind of got drafted into it. Ever since I’d gotten my gold shield a few years ago I’d been lucky enough to close a higher-than-average number of cases, including two that had loose ties to suspected terrorist organizations. I also had four years in the Army and I know a little bit of Arabic and some Farsi. I know a little bit of a lot of languages. Languages were easy for me, and that made me a first round draft pick for the surveillance van. Most of the people we wiretapped jumped back and forth between English and a variety of Middle Eastern languages.

The Taskforce seemed like it would be pretty cool but the reality of it was that they put me on wiretap in a van and for most of the last year and a half I drank too much Dunkin Donuts coffee and felt my ass grow flat.

Supposedly a group of suspected low-level terrorists with tenuous links to fundamentalist Shias were planning on smuggling something in that we were told was a potential bio-weapon. No details provided, of course, which makes surveillance a bitch and largely a waste of time. When we (meaning us cops) tried to ask them (meaning the big shots from Homeland) what we were looking for, we were stonewalled. Need to know basis. That sort of thing tells you everything about why we’re not all that safe. Truth is that if they tell us then we might play too significant a role in the arrest, which means they get less credit. It’s what got us into trouble with 9/11, and as far as I can tell it really hasn’t gotten much better since.

Then this past Monday I caught a little back and forth from a cell phone we were spooking. One name popped up--a Yemen national named El Mujahid, who was a pretty big fish in the terrorist pond and was on Homeland’s must have list--and the guy talking about him spoke as if El Mujahid was somehow involved in whatever the crew in the warehouse were cooking. El Mujahid’s name was on all of the DHS lists and in that van I had nothing to do but read, so I’d read those lists over and over.

Because I rang the bell I got to play when the takedown was scheduled for Tuesday morning. Thirty of us in black BDUs with Kevlar body and limb pads, helmet-cams and full SWAT kit. The whole unit was split into four-man teams: two guys with MP5s, a pointman with a ballistic shield and a Glock .40, and one guy with a Remington 870 pump. I was the shotgun guy on my team and we hit this portside warehouse hard and fast, coming in every door and window in the place. Flashbangs, snipers on the surrounding buildings, multiple entry-points, and a whole lot of yelling. Domestic shock and awe, and the idea is to startle and over-power so that everyone inside would be too dazed and confused to offer violent resistance. Last thing anyone wanted was an O. K. Corral.

My team had the back door, the one that led out to a small boat dock. There was a tidy little Cigarette boat there. Not new, but sweet. While we waited for the go/no-go, the guy next to me –my buddy Jerry Spencer from DCPD- kept looking at the boat. I bent close and hummed the Miami Vice theme and he grinned. He was about to retire and that boat probably looked like a ticket to paradise.

The ‘go’ came down and everything suddenly got loud and fast. We blew the steel deadbolt on the back door and went in, yelling for everyone to freeze, to lay down their weapons. I’ve been on maybe fifteen, eighteen of these things in my time with Baltimore PD and only twice was anyone stupid enough to draw a gun on us. Cops don’t hotdog it and generally neither do the bad guys. It’s not about who has the biggest balls, it’s about overwhelming force so that no shots are ever fired. I remember when I went through the tac-team training the commander had a quote from the movie Silverado made into a plaque and hung up in the training hall: “I don’t want to kill you and you don’t want to be dead.” I think Danny Glover said that. That’s pretty much the motto.

So, usually the bad guys stand around looking freaked out and everyone bleats about how innocent they are, yada yada.

This wasn’t one of those times.

Jerry, who was the oldest man on the Taskforce, was pointman and I was right behind him with two guys at my back when we kicked the door, hustled down a short corridor lined with framed inspection certificates, and then broke left into a big conference room. Big oak table with at least a dozen laptops on it. Just inside the door was a big blue phone booth-sized container standing against the wall. Eight guys in business suits seated around the table.

“Freeze!” I yelled. “Put your hands above your heads and---“

That was as far as I got because all eight guys suddenly threw themselves out of their chairs and pulled guns. O.K. Corral, no doubt about it.

When IAD asked me to recollect how many shots I fired and who exactly I fired them at, I laughed. Twelve guys in a room and everyone’s shooting. If they’re not dressed like your buddies--and you can, to a reasonable degree of certainty determine that they’re not civilian bystanders—you shoot and duck for cover. I fired the Remington dry then dropped it so I could pull my Glock. I know the .40 is standard but I’ve always found the .45 to be more persuasive.

They say I dropped four hostiles. I don’t notch my gun, so I’ll take their word for it. I bring it up, though, because one of them was the thirteenth man in the room.

Yeah, I know I said that there were eight of them and four of us, but during the firefight I caught movement to my right and saw the door to the big blue case hanging loose, its lock ripped up by gunfire. The door swung open and a man staggered out. He wasn’t armed so I didn’t fire on him; instead I concentrated on the guy behind him who was tearing up the room with a QBZ-95 Chinese Assault Rifle, something I’d only ever seen in magazines. Why he had it and where the hell he found ammunition for it I never did find out, but those rounds punched a line of holes right through Jerry’s shield and he went down.

“Son of a bitch!” I yelled and put two in the shooter’s chest.

Then this other guy, the thirteenth guy, comes crashing right into me. Even with all that was going on I thought ‘Drug addict.’ He was pale and sweaty, stank like raw sewage and had a glazed bug-eyed stare. Sick bastard even tried to bite me, but the Kevlar pads on my sleeve saved my gun arm.

“Get off!” I screamed and gave him an overhand left that should have dropped him, but all it did was shake him loose; he blundered past me toward one of the other guys on my team who was blocking the door. I figured he was making for that sweet Cigarette outside, so I pivoted and parked two in his back, quick and easy. Blood sprayed the walls and he hit the deck and skidded five feet before coming to rest in a motionless sprawl against the back door. I spun back into the room and laid down cover fire so I could pull Jerry behind the table. He was still breathing. The rest of my team kept chopping the whole room up with automatic fire.

I heard gunfire coming from a different part of the warehouse and peeled off from the pack to see what was happening, found a trio of hostiles in a nice shooting-blind laying down a lot of fire at one of the other teams. I popped a few of them with the last couple of rounds in my mag and dealt with the third hand-to-hand and suddenly the whole thing was over.

In the end, eleven alleged terrorists were shot, six fatally including the cowboy with the Chinese assault rifle guy and the biter I nailed in the back –who, according to his ID was named Javad Mustapha. We’d just started going through ID’s when a bunch of Federal types in unmarked black fatigues came in and stole the show, kicking everyone else out onto the street. That was okay with me. I wanted to check on Jerry. Turned out that none of our team was killed, though eight of them needed treatment, mostly for broken ribs. Kevlar stops bullets but it can’t stop foot-pounds of impact. Jerry had a cracked sternum and was one hurting pup. The EMTs had him on a gurney, but he was awake enough to wave me over before they took him away.

“How you feeling, dude?” I asked, squatting next to him.

“Old and sore. But tell you what…steal me that Cigarette boat and I’ll be feeling young and spry.”

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll get right on that, pops.”

He ticked his chin toward my arm. “Hey, how’s your arm? The EMT said that fruitcake bit you.”

“Nah, didn’t even break the skin.” I showed him. Just a bad bruise.

They took Jerry away and I started answering questions, some of them for the Feds in the unmarked BDUs. Javad hadn’t been armed and I’d drilled him in the back so there would be a routine investigation, but my lieutenant told me it was a no-brainer. That was Tuesday morning and this was Saturday morning. So why was I in a car with three Feds?

They weren’t talking.

So, I sat back and waited.


Easton, Maryland / Saturday, June 27; 11:58 am

They put me in a room that had a table, two chairs and a big picture window with a drawn curtain. An interrogation room, though the sign outside had read Baylor Records Storage. We were somewhere in Easton off Route 50, more than seventy miles from where they’d picked me up. Bucket-head told me to sit.

“Can I have a drink of water?”

He ignored me and left, locking the door.

It was nearly two hours before anyone came in. I didn’t kick up a fuss. I knew this routine. Park someone in an empty room and leave them to stew. Doubt and a guilty conscience can do a lot when you’re alone. I didn’t have a guilty conscience and no doubts at all. I simply lacked information, so after I did a visual on the room I went into my own head and waited, reviewing the number of thong bikinis I’d seen. I was pretty sure the count was twenty-two, and of those at least eighteen had a legal and moral right to wear a thong. It was a good day at the beach.

The guy who finally came in was big, very well dressed, maybe sixty but there was no trace of middle age soft about him. Not that he looked especially hard, not like a muscle freak or a career D.I. No, he just looked capable. You pay attention to guys like him.

He took a seat opposite me. He wore a dark blue suit, red tie, white shirt and tinted glasses that made it hard to read his eyes. Probably on purpose. He had short hair, big hands and no expression at all.

Bucket-head came in with a cork restaurant tray on which was a pitcher of water, two glasses, two napkins, and a dish of cookies. It was the cookies that weirded me out. You generally don’t get cookies in situations like this and it had to be some kind of mind trick.

When Bucket-head left, the guy in the suit said, “My name is Mr. Church.”

“Okay,” I said.

“You are Detective Joseph Edwin Ledger, Baltimore Police, age 32, unmarried.”

“You trying to fix me up with your daughter?”

“You served forty-five months with the army, honorably discharged. During your time in service you were involved in no significant military actions or operations.”

“Nothing was happening while I was in the service, at least not in my part of the world.”

“And yet your commanding officers and particularly your sergeant in basic wrote glowingly of you. Why is that?” He wasn’t reading out of a folder. He had no papers with him at all. His shaded eyes were fixed on me as he poured a glass of water for each of us.

“Maybe I suck-up nicely.”

“No,” he said, “you don’t. Have a cookie.” He nudged the plate my way. “There are also several notes in your file suggesting that you are a world class smartass.”

“Really? You mean I made it through the Nationals?”

“And you apparently think you’re hilarious.”

“You’re saying I’m not?”

“Jury’s still out on that.” He took a cookie –a vanilla wafer—and bit off an edge. “Your father is stepping down as police commissioner to make a run for mayor.”

“I sure hope we can count on your vote.”

“You brother is also Baltimore PD and is a detective two with homicide. He’s a year younger and he outranks you. He stayed home while you played soldier.”

“Why I am here, Mr. Church?”

“You’re here because I wanted to meet you face to face.”

“We could have done that at the precinct on Monday.”

“No, we couldn’t.”

“You could have called me and asked me to meet you somewhere neutral. They have cookies at Starbucks, you know.”

“Too big and too soft.” He took another bite of the wafer. “Besides, here is more convenient.”


Instead of answering he said, “After your discharge you enrolled in the police academy, graduated third in your class. Not first?”

“It was a big class.”

“It’s my understanding that you could have been first had you wanted to.”
I took a cookie--Oreo for me--and screwed off the top.

He said, “You spent several nights of the last few weeks before your finals helping three other officers prepare for the test. As a result two of them did better and you didn’t do as well as you should have.”

I ate the top. I like it in layers. Cookie, cream, cookie.

“So what?”

“Just noting it. You received early promotion to plainclothes and even earlier promotion to detective. Outstanding letters and commendations.”

“Yes, I’m wonderful. Crowds cheer as I go by.”

“And there are more notes about your smart mouth.”

I grinned with Oreo gunk on my teeth.

“You’ve been recruited by the FBI and are scheduled to start your training in twenty days.”

“Do you know my shoe size?”

He finished his cookie and took another vanilla wafer. I’m not sure I could trust a man who would bypass an Oreo in favor of vanilla wafers. It’s a fundamental character flaw, possibly a sign of true evil.

“Your superiors at Baltimore PD say they’re sorry to see you go, and the FBI has high hopes.”

“Again, whyn’t you call me instead of sending the goon squad?”

“To make a point..”


Mr. Church considered me for a moment. “On what not to become. What’s your opinion of the agents you met today?”

I shrugged. “A bit stiff, no sense of humor. But they braced me pretty well. Good approach, kept the heat down, good manners.”

“Could you have escaped?”

“Not easily. They had guns, I didn’t.”

“Could you have escaped?” He asked it slower this time.


“Mr. Ledger...”

“Okay, yes. I could have escaped had I wanted to.”


“I don’t know, it didn’t come to that.”

He seemed satisfied with that answer. “The pick-up at the beach was intended as something of a window to the future. Agents Simchek, Andrews and McNeill are top of the line, make no mistake. They are the very best the Bureau has to offer.”

“So...I’m supposed to be impressed. If I didn’t think the FBI was a good next step I wouldn’t have taken your offer.”

“Not my offer, Mr. Ledger. I’m not with the Bureau.”

“Let me guess... the ‘Company’?”

He showed his teeth. It might have been a smile. “Try again.”


“Right league, wrong team.”

“No point in me guessing then. Is this one of those ‘we’re so secret we don’t have a name’ things?”

Church sighed. “We do have a name, but it’s functional and boring.”

“Can you tell me?”

“What would you say if I said ‘but then I’d have to kill you’?”

“I’d say drive me back to my car.” When he didn’t move, I added, “Look, I was army for four and Baltimore PD for eight, the last eighteen months of which I’ve been a gopher for the CT Taskforce. I know that there are levels upon levels of need-to-know. Well, guess what, Sparky: I don’t need to know. If you have a point then get to it, otherwise kiss my ass.”

“DMS,” he said.

I waited.

“Department of Military Sciences.”

I swallowed the last of my cookie. “Never heard of it.”

“Of course not.” Matter of fact, no mockery.

“So...is this going to turn out to be some kind of cornball Men in Black thing? Thin ties, black suits, and a little flashy thing that’ll make me forget all this shit?”

He almost smiled. “No MIB, nothing retroengineered from crashed UFOs, no rayguns. The name, as I said, is functional. Department of Military Sciences.”

“A bunch of science geeks playing in the same league as Homeland?”

“More or less.”

“No aliens?”

“No aliens.”

“I’m no longer in the military, Mr. Church.”


“And I’m not a scientist.”

“I know.”

“So why am I here?”

Church looked at me for almost a minute. “For someone who is supposed to have rage issues you don’t anger very easily, Mr. Ledger. Most people would be yelling by this point in an interview of this kind.”

“Would yelling get me back to the beach any sooner?”

“It might. You also haven’t asked for us to call your father. You haven’t threatened me with his juice as commissioner.”

I ate another cookie. He watched me dismantle it and go through the entire time-honored Oreo ritual. When I was done he slid my glass of water closer to me.

“Mr. Ledger, the reason I wanted you to meet the other agents today was because I need to know if that’s what you want to be?”


“When you look inside your own head, when you look at your own future, do you see yourself in a humorless grind of following bank accounts and sorting through computer records in hopes of bagging one bad guy every four months?”

“Pays better than the cops.”

“You could open up a karate school and make three times more money.”


He smiled as if somehow he’d scored a point and I realized that he’d tricked me into correcting him out of pride. Sneaky bastard.

“So, tell me honestly, is that the kind of agent you want to be?”

“If this is leading up to some kind of alternative suggestion, stop jerking me off and get to it.”

“Fair enough, Mr. Ledger.” He sipped his water. “The DMS is considering offering you a job.”

“Um...hello? Not military? Not a scientist?”

“Doesn’t matter. We have plenty of scientists. The military connection is merely for convenience. No, this would be something along the lines of what you do well. Investigation, apprehension and some field work like at the warehouse.”

“You’re a fed, so are we talking counterterrorism?”

He sat back and folded his big hands in his lap. “Terrorism is an interesting word. Terror...” He tasted the word. “Mr. Ledger we are very much in the business of stopping terror. There are threats against this country greater than anything that has so far made the papers.”

“’So far’.”

“We –and when I say we I embrace my colleagues in the more clandestine agencies—have stopped fifty times as many threats than you would believe, ranging from suitcase nukes to radical bioweapon technologies.”

“Yay for the home team.”

“We’ve also worked to refine our definition of terrorism. Religious fundamentalism and political idealism actually play a far less important role, in a big picture sense, than most people--including heads of state, friendly and not—would have the general public believe.” He looked at me for a moment. “What would you say is the most significant underlying motive for all world strife –terrorism, war, intolerance...the works?”

I shrugged. “Ask any cop and he’ll tell you that,” I said. “In the end it’s always about the money.”

He said nothing but I could sense a shift in his attitude toward me. There was the faintest whisper of a smile on his mouth.

I said, “All of this seems to be a long way from Baltimore. Why’d you bring me here? What’s so special about me?”

“Oh, don’t flatter yourself, Mr. Ledger, there have been other interviews like this.”

“So, where are those guys? You let them go back to the beach?”

“No, Mr. Ledger, not as such. They didn’t pass the audition.”

“I’m not sure I like how you phrased that.”

“It wasn’t meant to be a comforting comment.”

“And I suppose you want me to ‘audition’ next?”


“How does that play out? Bunch of mind games and psych tests?”

“No, we know enough about you from your current medical records and fifteen years of psych evaluations. We know that in the last couple of years you’ve suffered severe losses. First your mother died of cancer and then your ex-girlfriend committed suicide. We know that when you and she were teenagers you were attacked, and that some older teens beat you nearly to death and then held you down and made you watch as they raped her. We know about that. We know you went through a brief dissociative phase as a result, and that you’ve had some intermittent rage issues, which is one of the reasons you regularly see a therapist. It’s fair to say you understand and can recognize the face of horror when you see it.”

It would have felt pretty good to demonstrate the whole rage concept to him right then, but I guessed that’s what he would be looking for. Instead I made my face look bored. “This is where I should get offended that you’ve invaded my privacy, et cetera?”

“It’s a new world, Mr. Ledger. We do what we must. And, yes, I know how that sounds.” Nothing in his tone of voice sounded like an apology.

“So, what do I have to do?”'

“It’s quite simple, really.” He got up and walked around the table to the curtain that hung in front of the big picture window. With no attempt at drama he pulled back the curtain to reveal a similar room. One table, one chair, one occupant. A man sitting hunched forward, his back to the window, possibly asleep. “All you need to do is go in there, then cuff and restrain that prisoner.”

“You kidding me?”

“Not in the least. Go in there, subdue the suspect, put him in cuffs, and attach the cuffs to the D-ring mounted on the table.”

“What’s the catch? That’s one guy. Your goon squad could have--.”

“I am aware what overwhelming force could do, Mr. Ledger. That’s not the point of this exercise.” He reached into his jacket pocket and produced a pair of handcuffs. “I want you to do it.”

Meet the Author

Jonathan Maberry is the multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The King of Plagues, The Dragon Factory, Ghost Road Blues and Rot&Ruin, among others. He also wrote the novelization of the movie The Wolfman. His work for Marvel Comics includes Captain America, Punisher, Wolverine, DoomWar, Marvel Zombie Return and Black Panther. His Joe Ledger series has been optioned for TV by Sony Pictures. He has been inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestselling author and 5-time Bram Stoker Award-winner. He writes in multiple genres including suspense, thriller, horror, science fiction, fantasy, action, and steampunk, for adults, teens and middle grade. His works include the Joe Ledger thrillers, Rot&Ruin, Mars One, and Captain America, which is in development for a feature film. He writes comics for Marvel, Dark Horse and IDW and is the editor of such high-profile anthologies as The X-Files, V-Wars, Out of Tune, Baker Street Irregular, Nights of the Living Dead, and Scary Out There. He lives in Del Mar, California.

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Patient Zero (Joe Ledger Series #1) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 245 reviews.
JasonDWarden More than 1 year ago
Joe Ledger is good, really good, usually when he puts someone down, they stay down, but like the story starts "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." In that first paragraph I was "all in". Patient Zero grabbed hold and never let go. Maberry is relentless, he latches on to your greatest fears, shows you people you might know, people you may even love, then shows you the worst things you can imagine, and some you couldn't. From a literary perspective this book was fascinating, as the story is told both in first person (From the perspective of Joe Ledger) and also in third person when it is necessary to see things from another perspective. I'll be honest, I haven't seen this done much and never this well. There was a moment in the very beginning of the when my mind wanted to shout POV violation, but once i saw what had happened I realized just how well it worked. This is, bar none, one of the best books I've read in a couple of years, and THE best zombie book I've read. Don't let the whole Zombie thing keep you from reading this. It's not really about the zombies, it's about the people. Jonathan Maberry doesn't create characters, the PEOPLE in this book feel as real as you and me.
Genghis_Sean More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the start of this novel, though it quickly became very cliché. Think Predator, starring the Governator and Ventura and all the macho-posing it contained, replete with one-liners and snappy dialogue. The more I read, the more the protagonist, Joe Ledger, became a caricature of every action-movie star ever invented. Additionally, though it may seem absurd to question plausibility in a novel about the living dead, I was bothered by some of the more absurd plot elements, such as major pharmaceutical companies being fronts for terrorist groups, terrorists individually outsmarting every U.S. intelligence agency in existence, plus their complete ability to encrypt cell phones so they could communicate at will without fear of eavesdroppers, and their ability to produce scientific technology in their remote bases decades ahead of U.S. capabilities. If you aren't bothered by movies with plot holes, but principally want lots of violence, an invincible main character, arterial spray, and zombies, you'll likely enjoy the book as it provides all this and then some. I was asked to suspend my disbelief too many times in this novel and couldn't stop myself from picking it apart as I read. I don't plan to read more by the author.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
I hadn't realized that there were many zombie novels out there. Except for graphic novels and comic books, I was a zombie virgin. I loved the original "Dawn of the Dead" movie from the 80s, but now have found that reading "Patient Zero" has brought out the inner zombie in me. Jonathan Maberry has written a suburb novel that had me captivated by each chapter. The story is set in a post 9/11 world where terrorists create zombies to terrorize America. This gripping and creepy thriller is a must read. Whether it is greed or religious beliefs that motivate the villains, nobody would want zombies roaming the streets of our world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was right up my alley in ever way. Having fell in love with characters like Sam Fisher and Jack Bauer, Joe Ledger was easy understand. And being a huge zombie fan (pre The Walking Dead) I always loved the idea of it being a genetically manipulated virus as oppose to the supernatural. If anything it mixed techno-thriller/espionage with horror; two of my favorite genres. I recommend this especially for any readers who are equal part gamers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book out there right now! It's better than World war Z, The Remaining, Zombie Fallout, and Z-Day: First Blood! In fact all these put together couldn't add up to the thrill that I got from reading this book!
Mindy_Lou More than 1 year ago
Man after seeing the reviews I feel kind of bad putting mine.. I must say after reading Rot & Ruin and Dusty & Decay by this author I was EXCITIED to read some of his other work.. I started this book with HIGH hopes and was sadly let down.. After about 30 some odd chapters I had to put the book down.. I try very hard to get into it before putting a book down but I just couldnt go on.. It did not hold my attention and I did not have the NEED to read it when I was away from the book and I didnt think about the book when I wasnt reading it .. I am just over all BLAH about it..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it. Being from the area in the book (oc md) it really touched home. I admire JM going out on limb with the new twist on zombies (new to me anyways).
epicrat More than 1 year ago
I think Jonathon Maberry had the right idea when he opens with a quote of Part One: A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer. Ralph Waldo Emerson I'm not sure if Emerson is die-hard Team Zombie, but in this instance, he certainly captures the essence of Joe Ledger. Furthermore, I don't know if Emerson elaborates, but I am fairly certain that five minutes can definitely change a person. I mean, wouldn't it be safe to say that after these five precious minutes, a hero is no longer an ordinary man? He has seen something different, and that will affect the rest of his life. Ledger has killed a terrorist twice in one week - a terrorist who tried to literally rip his throat off - and that has prepared him to be the nation's #1 zombie slayer. What really motivated me to read the book was not the plot (though it was very well done if you like the political suspense/thriller genre), but the character of Joe Ledger. He was very badass and sarcastic and didn't care if you had issues with him. He knew how to survive and how to keep you alive as long as possible (unless you deliberately don't want to stay alive). I just found Joe really endearing, even though he definitely would punch me in the gut for saying so. But I understand if no one else shares my opinion. It took a few pages or so before Joe really grew on me and I just had to keep reading to see what nonsense he had to mess with. So, there were funny bits throughout, but not much. Which makes sense since I don't think Patient Zero was going for funniest zombie book of the year. Like I mentioned earlier, it came across more of a political thriller. The actual plot was okay. If I was more into the genre, I think I would have been blown away. I think what deterred me was how the story sometimes detoured into the other characters' perspectives. It would have worked, I think, if there was no first-person narration of Joe Ledger. However, going from first-person to third-person of another character just did not work well for me. I did not care what the brains behind the terrorist operation were doing at the moment or their suspicions of being betrayed by each other. Patient Zero did not quite capture my interest beyond Joe's character, sad to say, though I really wished it swept me off my feet like World War Z.
R-O-U-S More than 1 year ago
REVIEWS OF UNUSUAL SIZE - Re: A zombie book by the new modern master of the undead. Jonathan Maberry has written a few books on zombies now, including a "nonfiction" examination of them, this military style thriller and a young adult novel. He must like the staggering suckers, and he does a great job writing about them. Outstanding: Last time I reviewed Patient Zero, about a year ago, I praised it for its lighting pace and the twist on zombies. Re reading it, I also found myself really liking the characters themselves, especially Joe's buddy, Rudy. Unacceptable: Not much to dislike here. I'm not big on drawn out descriptions of weapons and military specs, but Maberry adds just enough to keep it legit without feeling bogged down. The first time around, I found myself mildly annoyed with two of the villains, Gault and Toys, and assumed it would be the same this time, but even they were more enjoyable this read through. Summary: An entertaining, well-written novel. I do have to say though, it's more of a thriller than a horror novel. Great for the zombie lover that also digs a good shootout, but if you're looking for a creepy book to read in the shadows, try his Pine Deep trilogy instead. 5/5 r-o-u-s.blogspot
zombiefreak82 More than 1 year ago
well for me the book was ok I mean it just wasnt as advertised..For instence there isnt that much action or really zombies..its ok all in all but just lacked in the zombie department like maybe 300 hundred zoms in the whole book and 200 in one chapter and that is midway in the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fast, enjoyable, and keeps you on the edge of you seat. This book is a most read and even a reread.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are into anti terrorism and all things government, then this is the book for you. If you are a libertarian like myself though, the constant glorification (and justification) of every government organization under the sun can get very old very quickly. The author has an obvious real world agenda with this book. 'Zombies' are just included to use a very popular theme to attract readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Joe Ledger rocks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am looking forward to #2!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Every single person in this book is a monster.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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jlgc More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this story very much. Joe Ledger is a warrior with special, almost super human skills. He is a strong leader and gets the job done. He isn’t perfect though, which makes the character more believable. The story starts quietly with Joe enjoying the beach and the scenery (girls in skimpy bathing suits, lol). Then very quickly escalates in fight after fight of putting down a terrorist attack scheduled for the 4th of July. The bad guys have created a new biological weapon. It is almost fool proof. In the midst of all of this, it comes to light that there is a mole, a traitor, in the new super-secret organization that Joe is now a part of. Will Joe and his team save the day? Read the book to find out. I’ve been following Maberry for a while, but this is the first book of his that I’ve read. It won’t be the last. Science, adventure, monsters, with a little humor. Just the right mix for a fabulous read. Pick it up and check for yourself. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worst book EVER i hate this book but i loved rot and ruin
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read. Will be reading more of his books.