The King of Plagues Paperback
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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
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.
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.