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....
About 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.
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.
“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?”
“Are you aware that I’m scheduled to start at Quantico in three weeks?”
“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.”
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 upa Yemen national named El Mujahid, who was a pretty big fish in the terrorist pond and was on Homeland’s must have listand 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 buddiesand 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 cookieOreo for meand 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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
“I’m no longer in the military, Mr. Church.”
“And I’m not a scientist.”
“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.”
“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 peopleincluding 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.”
Table of Contents
Part One Walkers,
Part Two Heroes,
Part Three Beasts,
Part Four Killers,
Excerpt: Joe Ledger: Unstoppable,
Also by Jonathan Maberry,
Praise for Patient Zero,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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..
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).
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.
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
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.
It has a similar tone to the early Joe Pitt books by Charlie Huston (the later ones in that series became preachy, but the early ones were hard-azz and justice-giving). I really like Joe Ledger. He knows how to "teach 'em a lesson" and that's really the only reason why I read books like this - not for "world-building" or "political commentary"... just to see someone kicking azz. And he does it all for the right reasons too. Imagine Jack Reacher in a black ops organization.And there is a lot of that butt-kicking going on here - terrorist plot within terrorist plot and violence and guns and guts and zombies trying to get their teeth into some fresh victims. It is set in the "real world" and the science behind it all doesn't go as far into the improbable as I wish it did.I'm starting the next in the series now. (Though it's worth noting that this story is completely resolved within this book and there are no loose ends dangling around.)
This book moves at a crazy pace from the first chapter: balls-to-the-wall action, take-no-prisoners zombie gore with an amusing and sympathetic narrator. It was truly scary, unlike some of the more standard zombie fare, because it was believable. Maberry knows his military and police stuff, and there were some scenes that straight out gave me nightmares. Good stuff.
Read for FUN!Overall Rating: 5.00+Story Rating: 5.00+Character Rating: 5.00+Audio Rating (not part of the overall): 3.00 (Wasn't my favorite in audio--switched to paper half way through)First thought when finished: This book did for me the same thing The President's Vampire did--gave me my action/thriller love coupled with my paranormal love! *sigh* I am in love with Joe Ledger!What I Loved: There wasn't much I didn't love about this book! Patient Zero had heart-stopping action that any thriller junkie would love. It had a fantastic lead character, Joe Ledger, that any fan of conflicted heroes would love. He reminded me of a cross between Jason Bourne and Jack Baeur---lethal, cunning, and yet still had a heart. It also had fantastic side characters that you can't help but adore, suspect of being of moles, and care for in every aspect. I wont' go into any individual detail because a huge part of the fun of this book is the back-seat detective game you have going in your head. Seriously, I was sure I figured it out a couple of times. Of course, that means that I was also wrong a couple of times :) I can't say enough about this book. It is just FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!Audio Review: I love audiobooks but this one just did not work for me. I listened to about half of the story in audio then switched over to paper. I just don't think there was enough urgency in the narrators voice. I have listened other books Ray Porter has done and they were excellent. So I think it might have been my urgency keyed up feeling and not necessarily the narrators. So bottom line, Ray Porter is an excellent narrator but this book didn't work for ME in audio form! Hope that makes sense because if you skip a book that has Ray as a narrator you are missing out on some true narration genius.Final Thought: Not everyone will like this book but if you are a fan of Paranormal Thrillers---you will LOVE IT!
"Patient Zero" was great. I don't generally read "zombie" stories...OK, I've never read a zombie story, but "Patient Zero" was different. The "zombies"--or "walkers" as they're more often called by the protagonists--are the way they are because of a terrorist-fueled, bio-engineered virus.The story focuses on Joe Ledger, who gets recruited into a shadowy government organization called the DMS, or Department of Military Sciences. And here's why...this is Chapter One:"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."That hooked me. I really don't want to get into too much detail because it'll spoil all the surprises, but this is as good a thriller as you'll find. And don't let the zombie slant push you away. Again, we're not really talking supernatural brain-eating zombies. The way author Jonathan Maberry sets up the pathogen that causes the zombie-like state is pretty cool--hopefully very unrealistic, but cool nonetheless!I thought the characters were well fleshed out, the pacing was good, and the action sequences were well done--if sometimes a little too long. But all in all, this was a fantastic, fun, scary read!
I love the Joe Ledger Series! I actually read Dragon Factory before this book. As soon as I finished Dragon Factory, I had to read this book to find out more about Ledger. Joe Ledger is a very identifiable character because he isn¿t some perfect super human guy. He is a regular guy, which just happens to have some very extensive military and combat training that helps him in every way. He is mentally fractured with multiple personalities, but with the help of his friend and counselor, he has learned how to control his mind and use his other personalities to his benefit.What I love most about this book is that it is written in such a way that it could be realistic. It isn¿t like most zombie novels that don¿t explain how people became zombies or do a poor job of doing so. This isn¿t some virus that came out of nowhere, a terrorist group MADE the virus to cause panic and terror in the world.Joe just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time and was brought into the DMS, a top secret military group that answers to the president of the USA directly. The DMS are the ones that stop the world from ending day after day. There have been lots of books about top secret organizations, but those books don¿t explain how everything came into play. Johnathan Mayberry does an excellent job of making his books sound like they could actually happen, and with the technology of 2012, some of the things really could happen. This is why I love the Joe Ledger series!
The first book in the Joe Ledger series will have you scrambling to not only read all of them as soon as you can, but to seriously consider his young adult series, which begins with Rot & Ruin. I did. You won't be disappointed!
Excellent thriller, incredibly fast paced and with a great cast of characters led by Joe Ledger. Zombies are not my thing, but I really enjoyed the writing and would love to find out about the next adventures of this team.
Have you ever read a book that starts out great then slows down. Then takes a U turn in Albuquerque, climaxes and then fizzles out. Yeah, that's not this kinda book. The pace keeps tearing along like "the most dangerous police chases"! My utmost favorite sci-fi books are ones containing zombies or aliens since these are the ones that seem most likely to occur. This one combines zombies with effing terrorists! I thought I hated Al Queda and Hamas before I read this book, now my feelings on terrorist annihilation is firmly rooted! Any one who has a penchant to read zombie thrillers should add this to their bucket list. flag
Joe Ledger has some really rough patches in his past. You could say he has some scars on his psyche. He's kind of dealt with those psychic scars by becoming a bit of a badass. Okay, he's become the biggest and best badass there is. Good thing he's on the side of the angels, huh?As Patient Zero opens, Joe is being forcibly recruited by a super-secret government agency called the DMS--the Department of Military Sciences. Run by a mysterious and apparently uber-powerful man called, usually, Mr. Church (a bigger badass, even, than Joe Ledger), the DMS is on the trail of the most horrifying terrorist plot never imagined: biological warfare in the form of a prion disease that creates perfect killing machines out of its victims. Yes, zombies.Patient Zero is more military/action thriller than horror novel, although the horror is pretty awesome (and gruesome). The action, though...the action is top-notch and unrelenting. The fast-paced narrative alternates between Joe Ledger's first person narrative, replete with many no-holds-barred battles, and third person narratives from the terrorists' perspective. More than once, after particularly disturbing terrorist chapters, I found myself muttering warnings to Ledger and the DMS through gritted teeth. That's effective storytelling.
The action is great and the pacing is fluid but the first of a planned trilogy suffers from corny dialogue and flat characters.
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 EmersonI'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.
How is it that it took me this long to pick up a Maberry book?! Here writes a superb mixture of miltary-style adventure mixed with horror. It is a very unusual combination. I would expect it to be corny and campy as heck but it hits like a bestselling thriller.Joe Ledger makes a fine leading man. He is flawed but in most of the right ways.Mr. Church is a great enigma. His DMS concept flies pretty well in our post-9/11 America.Having the bad guys moving at cross-purposes was a nice touch.Maberry writes action sequences very clearly, one of the more difficult aspects of stories that include combat. His pacing is spot-on as well. Maybe he has a great editor but it doesn't matter. He hooked me as a reader!In some ways, Maberry is clumsy with his research. He is very specific in some areas, like the very model of knife Joe carries, and vague in others. I found it jarring. Not that I don't like real identification but it was random enough, mixed with much shallower descriptions, that it stuck out too much to me. I would ask the author to be just a bit more consistent if he's going to geek-out and start brand-naming things.
I received Patient Zero years ago from the Early Reviewer program, and proceeded to sit on it. My guilt for ignoring my responsibilities itched at the back of my brain that entire time, but I kept putting it off for more important, 'better' books. Obviously, I didn't have high expectations for Mr. Maberry.I'm a bit of an idiot sometimes. Patient Zero was fun and engrossing from page one. Which is funny, since it is one of the most by-the-books action-thrillers I've ever read. We have the noble hero-cop battling inner turmoil, the super-secret government agency with it's cold-as-ice director, the pop-culture obsessed scientist, the sharply dressed corporate villain, and the climactic battle in in a major American landmark. The elite special-forces team all have one-liners and funny nicknames, and the brusque female officer inevitably falls for our protagonist in the end. Once a scene opens up, you can see how the pieces fit together, and even if you don't know who the traitor is, you know it's not the one everyone suspects. With a plot so strikingly conventional, how could one get so much pleasure out of it?First, I'm convinced Maberry knew exactly what he was doing: Patient Zero is a loving send-up to the military thrillers we know so well. He sticks so close to the book, he celebrates it. Added to that, he fills the blanks with likable, if not fully interesting characters. Everyone is smart and funny in their own way, though the book goes by so fast they don't have much time to grow.Second are the ways this book deviates from the formula. Patient Zero has some horrific violence. Some of the scenes border and perhaps cross the line into becoming too much, but I suppose they can be written off as Maberry trying to put together a realistic, if we can use the term, zombie story. The thing is, his characters know how terrible the events they experience are. Our hero, Joe Ledger, ends some scenes shaking in tears as do his allies; the affects of traumatic stress are very apparent and well expressed by Maberry. It does help that he adds Ledger's friend, a psycologist and therapist, into the roster. The 'good guys' are very aware that the things they are forced to do to protect their families and their country change them in irredeemable ways. This sensitivity may not make Patient Zero 'high' literature, but it gives it an edge not present in a lot of such popular entertainment. Despite the break-neck story, there are some grating points. Occasionally, some of the characters love to hear themselves talk, which isn't a complete sin, but towards the end of the book one or two of the monologues get didactic. There is a layer of jingoism which, while not inappropriate for the characters to express, becomes distracting. In addition, it provides no counter-point to the violent extremist Islam proclaimed by the antagonists. I am aware that people of these views exist, and I do not suggest that Maberry is touting intolerance or racism, but it is disconcertingly apparent that the only Muslim characters who aren't terrorists in this book are inadvertently abetting them. It would have been great to have one or two Muslims on the protagonists side, or at least an admission by them of how insane and iconoclastic the villains were from mainstream Islam. Still, this didn't steal my enjoyment of Patient Zero from me, and it won't stop me from looking for future books staring Joe Ledger. It simply added the need for another layer of thoughtfulness which I'm not sure all readers would know to muster.
Blazingly fast-paced military action/ zombie novel mash-up. Instead of the usual plaque outbreak, running for life plot line, this book uses a military anti-terrorism plot as the focus. Our hero is a flawed wonder, three dimensional and completely formed. The action is fast paced with just the right amount of gore - what truly makes this book chilling is the look into the mindset of the terrorists who honestly believe all the torture, murder, death and disease they are spreading is in the name of God. One hell of a ride.
The tagline in Jonathan Maberry¿s novel Patient Zero read, ¿ 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. Okay, my interest is piqued. In this novel, the first book in the Joe Ledger series, Joe is a Baltimore detective who has been assigned to an inter-jurisdictional counter terrorism taskforce. Joe is recruited by a super secret organization, the DMS (Department of Military Science) to stop a group of whacked out terrorists from releasing a plague that, and I swear I¿m not making this up¿.turns people into zombies. (Yeah¿.how cool is that! Terrorist zombies¿..)I read Patient Zero because I had received Maberry¿s second Joe Ledger book for review and liked it enough that I wanted to read his first. (Just a suggestion¿read Patient Zero first¿.The Dragon Factory was great and can stand on its own just fine, but I sort of knew who would survive the whole ¿world coming to an end¿ in Patient Zero because I knew who was going to be in The Dragon Factory.) Whatever order you can read them in, if you¿re a fan of the genre..and I¿m not sure what genre I¿m talking about here, sci-fi, thriller, suspense, mystery? I don¿t know, but the book has crazy fundamentalist terrorists, crazy mad scientists, evil pharmaceutical corporate entrepreneurs, obscure prion diseases, parasites, and zombies on one side. And on the other, we have enigmatic directors, a team of soldiers saving the world in no nonsense and ballsy ways, techno-geeks aplenty, kickass weaponry and badass techniques. Gruesome in places, hey¿.it¿s got zombies, whaddya expect? It¿s not all butt-kicking action though. The author manages to squeeze in a little introspection and a bit of philosophy, which is good, because it¿s nice to have a moment to catch our breath. Might be a novel, but sometimes we can find a lot of truth in fiction¿So, summing up, zombies, bio-warfare, uber evil rich dude, crazy terrorists, double-crossing evil plots, mad scientists, the coolest bunch of good guys ever, and did I mention¿ZOMBIES¿..I loved this book so much that I downloaded a couple of great short stories into my Sony Reader to help fill the ¿Gotta have my Maberry¿ urge. I read them¿they were great, but did I mention they were SHORT stories. Hmmm¿.c¿mon Mr.Maberry, crank it up, I needs me my Joe Ledger fix. I believe that there is another Joe Ledger coming out next year. But that¿s so long to wait. I mean, what if zombies attack before then? Sigh¿okay¿drumming fingers on the table...I¿ll wait¿*sigh...this is me¿being patient...*sighReview copy provided by ME!!