The world Maberry has created is one of conspiracy, darkness, shadowy powers, and high implausibility. His brand of thriller may stretch all credibility but that is the point - they are more akin to fantasy novels with dabs of Clancy and Le Carre thrown in. I have read all three outings with declining enjoyment. This effort I found overly long and it unnecessarily employed a back-and-forth timeline that irritated more than it built suspense. Still I like the grizzled Department of Military Science agent Joe Ledger and the over-the-top James Bond-like villains he battles. Mayberry clearly has a sense of humor, made evident through the nonsensical and fawning references to pop culture. It just seems that the author is having one on with us - that he cannot believe people are eating this stuff up ... that is my conspiracy theory.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Ledger Goes to LondonMarch 31 2012
Nickolas X. P. Sharps
- Published on Amazon.com
So let me first introduce Jonathan Maberry's series of Joe Ledger novels. Think Resident Evil without the horrible dialogue. Think the hit Fox drama 24 with Bond villains. Think Monster Hunter International but less supernatural and more scientific. I really love the Joe Ledger novels (for the most part) and unless you hate America you will too. The first novel in the series, Patient Zero, is one of my all time favorite zombie stories. The sequel, The Dragon Factory, didn't quite live up to the quality of the first but it was still a solid thriller. Now here is my review for The King of Plagues. It's a little late and I'm currently reading the fourth book in the series, Assassin's Code, but you know what they say. Better late than never.
So Joe Ledger is drifting around Europe recovering from a personal tragedy when a terrorist attack takes out the oldest hospital in London. Thousands perish and just like that Joe finds himself out of retirement and back into the counter-terrorism business. This time Joe and the Department of Military Sciences face an enemy with unimaginably vast reach and lofty ambitions. The Seven Kings of the New World Trust are well funded, well prepared, and ready to bring chaos to the world in the name of profit. Can Echo Team stop the Seven Kings before a weaponized version of the Ten Plagues of Egypt are unleashed?
Where to begin? Well this is a Joe Ledger novel so perhaps best to start with the big man himself. Joe Ledger is a great character (mostly). I love reading from Joe's first person perspective which is also interspaced throughout the book with the third person perspectives of ancillary characters. Joe is a character of three parts as he will often describe them, the dwindling idealistic modern man, the calculating cop, and the cold blooded warrior. Supreme alpha male for sure and wise mouth to boot. I wouldn't say that Joe is lovable and sometimes his sarcasm can be grating but he is definitely compelling.
My big complaint about Joe? This is going to come as a real shocker but it comes in the form of a love interest that crops up almost immediately in the first book and ends "tragically" in the second. Don't get me wrong. Romantic sub-plots can be very useful when it comes to developing characters but far too often they just feel forced. Joe falls in love in Patient Zero, loses his woman in The Dragon Factory and is hollow shell of a man by The King of Plagues. This is a like a four month period. Far too forced, far too rushed. Maberry should have stretched out the relationship over a few books if he actually wanted readers to care for Joe's loss. As is you just sorta want to tell Joe to get over himself and get back in the game.
As far as the supporting cast goes the characters are hit and miss. Doctor Rudy Sanchez annoys me to no end spouting the same line of dialogue countless times, "Dios Mio!" The addition of Doctor Circe O'Tree on the other hand proved a wise move. At first I feared that Circe was a romantic replacement for the fallen Grace Courtland but thankfully she manages to keep her pants on and her wits about her. I was never a fan of Grace to begin with and Circe seems to be a much more accessible character.
The King of Plagues also sees the return of Sebastian Gault and his ever faithful aide, Toys. Gault is loathsome as ever but ironically Toys takes on a sympathetic air. Seeing the human side to Toys is good because the villains of The King of Plagues are almost as comical as those of The Dragon Factory. At some level I really like the villains of the Joe Ledger novels. I like secret societies and all that. But on another level the villains tread far too close to melodrama. These baddies just don't strike me as realistic. They're mostly bad for the sake of being bad, twirling their mustaches as trains race to run over damsels bound to the tracks. As dark and believable as the rest of the novel is at times I would like to see that same atmosphere infused into the puppet masters.
The plot of The King of Plagues is much tighter than that of The Dragon Factory and this is a blessing. In The Dragon Factory there was far too much going on at one time, far too many ideas cobbled together. Maberry uses this tighter focus and relentless pacing to deliver an unstoppable action thriller fit for the big screen. The action is top notch and brutal, the stakes are high and the good guys don't always come out on top. Unfortunately for all the build up the finale feels hasty and anti-climactic.
The King of Plagues is a good continuation of the Joe Ledger series and a step far above its predecessor, The Dragon Factory. Flaws aside, The King of Plagues is a nail biting thriller and comes recommended.
*The magical Goatfairy grants The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry, 7 out of 10 cheesewands* Nick Sharps, Goatfairy Review Blog
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Maberry keeps you on the edge of your seatMarch 31 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
IMHO, I think that "The King of Plagues" is the best of Maberry's Joe Ledger series.
As usual the Dept of Military Science finds themselves in the middle of a deadly terrorist threat having to play catch up with an enemy that is months ahead of them. Their enemies primary weapons are: fear, coercion and misdirection.
Joe Ledger seems to be a more complete human being in this book. The toll that combat and loss have taken make him seem a little more mature and introspective. Sure- the smart ass mouth is still there but he's thinking more and popping off less. The character is growing and becoming more interesting. The addition of Ghost- a trained German Shepherd- gives Joe a constant and loyal partner.
In "the King of Plagues" you will meet new friends and adversaries and sometimes wonder which is which. Some are actually both at the same time. I won't offer up any spoilers but we will see some familiar faces in the enemy camp and discover that one of those to be much more interesting than previously thought. The legendary Aunt Sallie finally appears, after being discussed in both previous books, and turns out to be hell on wheels.
I also enjoyed the idea of "the Seven Kings" as a secret society that manipulates events from the shadows. The way that they hijacked myth and legend to inspire fear and awe was brilliant. Every hero needs a worthy adversary to test their metal and in the Seven Kings, Ledger meets his match.
From beginning to end it is a non-stop full throttle thrill ride that doesn't slow down until the last period.
Begin this book on a Friday because you will be useless until you have finished it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Hard as a whip kick, soft as CharminJuly 13 2011
Author Bill Peschel
- Published on Amazon.com
Give Jonathan Maberry credit: In a thriller world where you can't think too big, he comes up with the biggest conspiracies, the evilest villains and the hardest, pulse-pounding action readers who think they've seen it all.
The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry book cover In "The King of Plagues," the third book in the series that began with "Patient Zero" and "The Dragon Factory," former Baltimore detective Joe Ledger is called back into the Department of Military Sciences -- imagine the SEALs with bleeding-edge technology -- when someone blows up the Royal London Hospital, an attack on the scale of 9/11.
Grieving from the death of his lover in "Factory," Ledger is also beset with doubts about his ability to continue fighting a war against various terror groups that seemingly will never end. But there's not much time for reflection, even in a book that's a supersized 400+ pages by thriller standards.
Maberry keeps multiple narratives and time streams jumping like a kid with ADD. Ledger investigates the bombing, then we're back seven months before the attack, watching various nefarious plots getting into gear. We're brought up to speed on the fate of Sebastian Gault, the villain who barely escaped with his life from the end of "Factory," then we're at a state prison in Pennsylvania, introduced to Nicodemus, the prisoner who could be Hannibal Lector's younger cousin in his ability to spook everyone with his oracle-like pronouncements.
It's hard to talk about the book without delivering spoilers, so I'll just say this: Maberry seems to have given a lot of thought to how conspiracy groups operate. While their plots and villain are blown up to serve the tropes of the genre, they seem grounded in their very human desires for wealth and power. They're less ideologically driven, disguising their motives with a propaganda superstructure to give themselves the air of mystery and secret knowledge and cynically manipulating the belief systems of their followers to get them to do their bidding. Given recent news reports about Bin Laden's love for pornography, French socialists' need for champagne and $3,000-a-night hotel rooms and Al Gore's mansion-sized carbon footprint, that sounds about right.
At the same time, Tom Clancy-like, he'll stop the narrative to drop a bit of technical information. In the middle of hand-to-hand combat with a terrorist cell, he'll whip out his Rapid Response Folding knife and add that it "has a wicked little 3.375-inch blade that locks into place with a snap of the wrist. What it lacks in weight it makes up for in speed because at only four ounces it moved as fast as my hand."
On reflection, it seems a little silly -- all right, a lot silly -- but in the middle of the action, it seems as natural as twisting the knife a quarter-turn in the guy's throat before yanking it out.
But there's also a lot to like in "King of Plagues" for readers who like the smaller picture, the subtleties and nuances of character, place and scene. Maberry's driving narrative focuses laser-like on the action, and leavened by touches of humanity, humor and observation that more literary writers can spend whole books trying to achieve. Some of the good guys are pains in the asses, and some of the bad guys can be motivated by a love as pure as Dante for Beatrice. While he's no Benjamin Black (John Banville's nom de thriller), he's damn better than most writers.
But, then, I'm an easy reader. Tell me a story, use acceptable grammar, make your characters vivid and I'm a happy camper. And if, like Maberry, you quote the Marquis De Sade, Howard Zinn and Benjamin Disraeli, so much the better.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Joe Ledger or Jack Bauer?April 8 2011
Sandra D. Tooley
- Published on Amazon.com
Joe Ledger fights more than just your common, everyday criminal. He fought zombies in Patient Zero. A former cop, he is now a member of the elite DMS (Department of Military Science). Villains you thought died in Patient Zero are back to reek havoc. There is a shadow organization called the Seven Kings that has infiltrated just about every part of society all the way to the top. And they are duplicating biblical events, metaphorically, to fulfill their goals. By threatening family and loved ones, they can get innocent people to do their bidding. Santoro is the knife-wielding assassin who truly loves his work and loves the "Goddess" who is at the head of the Seven Kings. From London to Canada to a cruise liner off the coast of South America, Joe and his team, with the mysterious Church at the helm, are at a loss to figure the Seven Kings' next move. Toss in the Inner Circle of the Skull and Bones and you aren't sure if the world can survive. The author has given Joe his version of Dexter's "dark passenger" which he calls the "warrior." Joe can switch from cop to warrior in the blink of an eye. This is a fast-paced thriller with a twist at the end which might give us another villain for the next Joe Ledger novel. If you haven't discovered Joe Ledger yet, it isn't too late to start. Joe is Jack Reacher and Repairman Jack rolled into one. Doesn't get any better than that!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
hard-boiled action, secret cabals, a shootout at Starbucks, and BonoApril 15 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Hard to fathom, really, that around six months ago Joe Ledger was just a Baltimore cop, before he was recruited into the Department of Military Sciences (the D.M.S.), the preeminent front line agency dedicated to averting the most dire of global threats. In six months Joe Ledger had waged war against zombies and lab-created mythological monsters and a gallery of nasty eeeevil masterminds. He and his Echo Team have saved the world a grip of times, but at staggering costs. Joe's last time out in the trenches proved to be too much to bear. And he left the D.M.S.
THE KING OF PLAGUES is the third outing in the Joe Ledger series (after PATIENT ZERO and THE DRAGON FACTORY). It opens with the D.M.S.'s enigmatic leader, Mr. Church, abruptly terminating Joe Ledger's walkabout or bereavement leave or pity party or whatever you want to call it. Ledger is tapped to investigate the shocking obliteration of a venerable London hospital, and the death toll mounting in the thousands. And this is only the opening salvo. Joe and the D.M.S. suspect that this is only the first leg in a series of nightmarish assaults. Having mostly existed in rumor and urban legend, having fomented fear and paranoia thru insidious management of the social media (not to mention the application of vile threats and abductions), the Seven Kings have finally stepped out of the shadows and are about to launch their most ambitious act of aggression: the bringing about of the biblical Ten Plagues of Egypt. Things are about to get all Old Testament-y. And as Joe and his colleagues find, the reach of the Seven Kings is all-encompassing. Their influence extends even into the heart of the D.M.S. itself. Mr. Church, learning this, is really grinding down on his vanilla wafers now. And because author Jonathan Maberry likes to top himself, he throws in a second secret society (although the Bonesmen's impact is pretty negligible).
This is another stay-up-late-lie-to-your-boss-call-in-sick-the-next-morning sort of read; and I liked it almost as much as PATIENT ZERO. THE KING OF PLAGUES is edgy and feverishly paced and finds our heroes really up against it. The Seven Kings are devilish villains, and they seem to be always a few steps ahead of our guys. Since the death of a core character in THE DRAGON FACTORY (which, by the way, has made Ledger a more melancholy cat), I've gotten pretty concerned about the survival of my favorite characters. THE KING OF PLAGUES also features the return of two twisty old foes, Sebastian Gault and Toys, and they are predictably up to no good. Factor in two strikingly disturbing cats in the shapes of a sadistic Spaniard and this freaky inmate named Nicodemus, and the Sinister-o-Meter just darted to the red.
Lots of Joe Ledger frantically scrambling from one emergency to the next, and maybe my favorite sequence is Echo Team's savage firefight at a Starbucks. And, as per norm with this series, Maberry writes chapters presenting the big bads' perspectives, giving us a well-rounded, fleshed out narrative. The Echo Team is back in action, and it's nice to see familiar faces like Top and Bunny, and the new team members seem really promising, even though the laconic sniper guy smacks of the cliché.
Things get a wee bit surreal in the final act as Joe and the D.M.S. converge on a cruise ship hosting a world benefit concert and therefore deemed a prime target for an all-out terrorist attack from the Seven Kings. Maberry works in famous performers such as Pink, Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne, and a host of others. One of the closing passages features Bono chatting Joe Ledger up. Weird, but really cool. And, of course, the cruise ship is attacked, becomes the stage for the climactic big fighty fight. At the end of the day, chalk up another apocalypse averted, Echo Team taking names and kicking beaucoup booty, one disclosure regarding Mr. Church, and that freaky inmate Nicodemus raising the hair on the back of your neck and possibly paving the way for the fourth Joe Ledger thriller (ASSASSIN'S CODE, due out in 2012 and supposed to feature genetically-engineered vampire assassins).
How awesome is Joe's faithful dog, Ghost? (Answer: pretty damn awesome).