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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 June 2011
NO SPOILERS!!

For those of you simply browsing this is the third book in the series. "The king of plagues" features Joe Ledger, a brilliant and funny lead. Now, what's he doing this time around? Joe is back to lead his team against another villain out to cause havoc. I don't want to reveal too much for fear of ruining the surprise for anyone so I won't explain any further than that.

I did lend this to a friend who had read the series too and they felt this was less gripping than the previous two but I disagree. The reason for this being, I felt the second book ended on a massive hook and so this book would explain a few things. The introduction of a couple of new characters and a new plot was also great and kept me on my toes. I can understand why some might feel this was the weakest of the three because it wasn't as action packed as the previous two so if this is what you loved the most you might be disappointed in that respect.

I felt that I was still engaged though and wanting to know more so for that reason I've rated this a four star. A sign of a good book to me is when you finish and are hoping the next one has already been written. I'm interested to see where Maberry will go from here with Joe and his team - A fantastic series in my opinion and well worth a read.

Bring on Joe Ledger 4 - "ASSASSIN'S CODE". So far seems to be scheduled for release late March 2011!!
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on 5 June 2011
I bought all the books in this trilogy (so far) together, based on the reviews here.

'Patient Zero', even with the seriously flawed science, psychology, history, geography, and US-centric world view, was good fun. There was also a lot of potential. Sadly wasted.

'The Dragon Factory' introduced the authors racism, tactical ignorance, and more selective history.

With 'The King of Plagues', the whole thing turned into an updated version of Flash Gordon V Ming the Mercilesses' (that's a US plural). It's fairly obvious that the 'research' the author claims to have done consisted of trawling the craziest of Conspiracy Theory websites, Google Earth, and US Grade School geography books, in addition to the faults seen in the first two books.

To list all the mistakes would take too long, so here are a few random examples :

Scotland is NOT a part of England, and if an airborne pathogen escaped from Fair Isle, it would not make landfall in England first. Assuming that the winds are southerly, there is a country called Scotland (pop 5.2 million) in the way. It has a land mass not far short of England's.
How could the author miss it ??
I don't believe for one moment that Maberry simply writes off 5.2 million people as an irrelevance, but most Americans do think that England is another name for Britain, and this is still being taught in US schools.
Back to Fair Isle. To the east we have mainland Europe, to the west/north - Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Nova Scotia etc.
The recent Icelandic dust clouds are a perfect example of what would actually happen.

'The Prince of England' ? Enough said.

What is a typical 'British accent' ? Geordie ? Scouse ? Janner ? West Wales ? Doric ?

'British' men do NOT 'typically' wear 'bowler hats and pinstriped suits', although a handful in London's Square Mile might.

There is no such thing as a 'Scottish city burr'. Which city ? - Glasgow ? Inverness ? Edinburgh ? Aberdeen ?

No genuine, highly qualified, modern day theologian/archaeologist/historian/academic considers that the stories in the Old Testament are historical fact. Indeed, most dismiss the 'history' of the New Testament too. Unless, of course, they are fundamentalist creationist Pastors who obtained their PhD's from one of the dozens of US-based non-accredited 'Degree Mills' by post. One enterprising British student obtained one for his cat a couple of years ago. In addition, on every page we have 'Good God', 'Oh my God', 'Holy Jesus', 'Jesus on the Cross' and more similar 'Good Guy' statements. The 'Bad Guys' are all going to 'Hell', and people are praying and lighting candles all over the place. It became very tedious, added nothing to the narrative, but may have shed some light on the author's personality.
Is Maberry a Right Wing Conservative Christian ? Add the names of the Good Guys - Joseph - 'Amazing' Grace - Church/Deacon etc, then on this evidence, yes, I suspect he is. These people also believe that Europe and the rest of the world is a socialist, immoral, 'Satanic' place, with the USA a lighthouse of decency and 'Christian' morality. A watered-down 'Bring on Armageddon' Rawles-type perhaps ?

Being a 6'4" muscle-bound US serviceman (any branch) does not make you 'fitter' than others, as the author suggests. It just makes you more intimidating. I looked at some of my old photos. Photos of a bunch of young men who had completed what is now recognised as the hardest military training on the planet. Where the fitness, strength, stamina, and endurance levels achieved are equal to those of international athletes. They all looked quite normal, and it's not surprising that what we achieved in the Falklands was described by the US military leaders as 'impossible', because in the US military, it is/was. I/We also worked closely with some of our US cousins (from those 'supermen' units the author mentions often), and to be honest, they were/are very poor. Little stamina, impatient, poor endurance rating, tactically naiive, sloppy, and noisy. They weren't very bright either. We see this in these books - massive firepower and loud 'hoohah's, but not much else. It's fantasy comic book stuff, but Americans love and believe it.

The author has a problem with science and scientists. Dr Hu (who just happens to be Chinese) has no conscience or morals, and he's a good guy. No scientist I know has that kind of psychological profile. They are as loving, caring, and compassionate as anyone else. If you want genuine sociopaths, look to US/world-wide multinationals and some of their millionaire/billionaire CEO's. Power hungry, domineering, controlling, very smart, and driven by greed.
95% of the baddies are Spanish, German, British, South African, Korean, Arab (of course), Chinese, even Australian, but definitely NOT American. Think of Hollywood.

But we have to remember these books are written for the US market, where 60 million people believe that the Universe was created 6,000 years ago by .... magic, and even leading politicians think that humans walked with dinosaurs, 3,000 years ago ! Be afraid. Be very afraid. They also have the planets biggest and most advanced military machine.

The plots were also very predictable, and the identity of the 'King of Fear' became obvious early in the narrative (think of the report that 'O'Tree' had compiled and given to Grace. Who was very upset ?).

True, in this offering, we see Maberry introducing two Muslim 'good guys' to the team, but it looks like they have been added as an afterthought (Rawles again). Their part in the story could be removed entirely and nothing would change. Very much like a 'Some of my best friends are ....' statement.

Other US authors have shown what's possible in this genre. They expand on existing science and technology without tuning it into childish fantasy (think of Birmingham's World War 2.1 series and others). They also recognise that there are as many American power hungry, religious fundamentalist sociopaths (possibly more) as anywhere else. They write about them.
Maberry doesn't. He simply ignores the reality.

There will be another in the series, that's obvious. Will I buy it ? Probably. Why ? Because jingoistic US authors need to be challenged by those of us who really CAN see the 'Big Picture', and factual inaccuracies must be exposed, no matter where they come from, or how unpalatable they are to many readers.

I predict the the next offering will feature aliens. Shape-shifting reptiles who include the Royal Family, influential celebrities, and non US political and business leaders. They live some of the time underground in the Arctic Tundra, and their HQ is inside our hollow moon (discovered in the 70's, but kept quiet). Bigfoot is their Supreme Leader.
Millions of Americans already believe this, and claim that Obama, as well as being the Anti-Christ, is a Muslim, a lizard, and even worse, NOT American !.

Finally, and personally, in 'The Dragon Factory' we see Joseph Mengele introduced as a cornerstone of the plot. Yet there is no mention of the fact that he and over 20,000 other fugitive war criminals, including Stangl, Brunner, Eichmann, and Pavelic, escaped to South America (where they were feted as heroes by politicians and leading churchmen alike) via the Vatican sponsored, controlled, and organised 'Rat Lines'. This has now been established as historical fact (See 'Bishop Hudal' or simply Google 'Rat Lines' for more information).
Just because the truth often hurts doesn't mean we should avoid it, and those facts, crazy as they may sound, would have been a very interesting sub plot. The author must have known. He included factual information about US Government involvement (and the Brits weren't innocent !), and it's impossible to read about the US/UK part without learning about the (much larger) Vatican involvement.
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on 8 April 2011
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!
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on 30 December 2014
This book is a bit less succinct and a bit more convoluted compared to its predecessors, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless. I think the author benefits from having a clear focal point for the topic - such as zombies in the first book and genetic mutations in the second book. This book loses that level of clarity a bit, but is still an enjoyable and action packed read. As I post in most of my Joe Ledger reviews, don't expect anything particularly innovative, but rather, a good page-turner, with many cliches straight out of any reasonable action film. It'll be enjoyable, fun, and something you read once and never again.
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on 19 May 2011
Rather than, spend time on plot spoilers, or explanations, i will start simply by saying that if you come to the page for this book having not read the previous 2 entries in the series, then click on Patient Zero as your priority purchase- The series definately benefits from being read in order.
If you arrive here an established fan of the series, then I am delighted to report all is well in the World of the DMS - in the sense that this is another rip-roaring page turner of plausible bio-terrorism.

Mr Maberry has made some refinements to the ingredients that go into this novel - gone are the clunky psychological second guessings of the team Psychologist Dr Sanchez, and instead we find Joe Ledger more attuned to the stresses of his bizarre and dangerous life.

The emphasis on the villainy has also changed slightly - where in the previous 2 entries, the biochemistry has been fetishised and revelled in by the 'bad guys', here, it is merely a tool, and the main focus of the story shifts to the plausability of secret societies, and their potential influence on world events.

This shift of focus requires the DMS to approach their foes in a different way, which is good, because without fresh challenges, as enjoyable as the premise is, the series could run the risk of becoming formulaic.

Another interesting twist is the suggestion of an unexplainable, genuinely supernatural character in the book, who may return in the future to give another spin on the encounters of the DMS- after all, how does military science counter that which confounds the laws of science?

Maberry's prose and charecterisation are as strong as ever, but his real strength remains the wonderful ability to tell disparate elements of the story, dancing between timelines, drawing the threads together as the book reaches its finale and the timelines and characters converge. It is a very clever piece of storytelling, as every chapter finishes on a cliffhanger of its own, and the big picture of the story becomes clear to the reader in the same timeframe as Joe Ledger and the team put the pieces together for themselves.

This entry in the series strengthens its position as one of the best and most exciting in modern fiction. Recommended without reserve.
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on 29 January 2013
This is the third instalment of the adventures of Joe Ledger and the Echo Team. The plot involves a ultra terrorist network known as the Seven Kings using weaponised forms of the 10 plagues of Egypt in order to cause mayhem and misdirection across the globe, resulting in monitory gains for the Seven Kings. An old enemy of Ledger surfaces to become The King of Plagues, charged with the task of initiating the deaths of first born sons of The Inner Circle ( the antithesis, but by no means morally superior group, of the Seven Kings) and releasing the final "Rivers of blood" upon the globe. In all of this you have treachery, moles, grasses, double agents etc etc. Joe Ledger and his team have to deal with all of this in order to figure out where and when the Kings will strike and save the world. The plot is completely ridiculous and OTT but riveting and interesting at the same time! It appears that Maberry is well aware of this and thus we even have a guest appearance of U2s Bono to add to the hokum! All in all, despite the flaws, the plot does draw you in and you can't wait to know what happens next.

It's not the best of the first 3 Joe Ledger books but still deserves the 4 stars that I have given it. The characters are as brilliantly OTT as ever, especially mysterious hard guy "Church" who seems to head up the DMS whilst nibbling on vanilla wafers. Top and Bunny are as ridiculously masculine and pumped up on testosterone as they've always been. In this instalment we get their female equivalent in the form of a Circe O'Tree, a good looking 30s web analyst who happens to be able to scream, aim and fire with the big guns!

All in all, total hokum. But total hokum that you can't help but enjoy. A great way to forget the troubles of the word and immerse yourself in a crazy, fast moving, hilarious and ofttimes moving piece of fiction. Can't wait for the next instalment!
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on 7 July 2013
Another good book in the Joe ledger series.

Although I found it a little slow in the beginning it soon picked up the pace and became the book I expected it to be following the first two epic books

One thing that changed this book for me was the lack of the supernatural, the first two books hit you with incredulous possibilities and then used in depth science to bring them to life, this book seemed much more "real", and ok think that took away from the series edge.

All that said and done I will still be buying the next, a character that was introduced makes it impossible not to!!!

In summary, not the best but a good read nonetheless.
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If you want a thriller that has real world threats with a touch of the supernatural then you really have to read Jonathan Maberry's work. It's creative, it is cleverly thought out and when you add a real world feel to the events within it's a story that will haunt as long you read leaving you feeling that something may have been added to the ink or pages to keep you hooked.

It's well done as usual through the authors magical sleight of hand, the twists you don't see coming and when you add a deliciously twisted mind to the work it's a story that really is fascinating. Finally add to this, great prose, a great action hero that just keeps you glued alongside a pace that just won't let up and it's a satisfactory third addition to this cracking series.
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Having kicked off his series of Joe Ledger/DMS novels with an adrenalin charged bang in Patient Zero, Jonathan Maberry followed it up with the far weaker second installment The Dragon Factory, which although enjoyable I also found to be overly convoluted, self-indulgent in places and struggled to maintain any plausibility. Now Ledger and the rest of his surviving crew from the Department of Military Sciences are back for a third adventure; The King of Plagues.

Whilst it doesn't come close to hitting the heights of Patient Zero, this third DMS book is a definite improvement on The Dragon Factory. This is a more streamlined effort than its predecessor, and whilst its undoubtedly a work of fantastical fiction its doesn't veer so far into the realms of implausibility as The Dragon Factory did. Maberry also appears to have reigned in his most self-indulgent tendencies. Whilst his prose still sometimes strays into the realm of the overly-melodramatic it does so less frequently and he's scaled back on the cod-psychology and rambling internal monologues from Ledger (although they do still pepper the book and you still have to suffer the Modern Man/Cop/Warrior claptrap).

The previous two book's strong points, namely pacing and action, remain in place for this third outing. There are some great action set-pieces on offer here, especially an intense shootout at a Starbucks coffee shop. The only disappointment on the action front is the grand-finale, which feels somewhat rushed and rather anti-climatic, although thankfully there are no mythical creatures or scorpion dogs on display this time. This slightly weak ending does allow Maberry to leave some promising plot threads dangling for future DMS adventures to pick up, and the book's pacing as a whole is pretty good, with less flab than The Dragon Factory had. The author has retained his habit of disrupting the flow of current events with multiple flashbacks, or 'interludes' as he rather pretentiously calls them, but these are generally more relevant to the plot and less disruptive to the narrative than they were in The Dragon Factory.

What 'The King of Plagues' really lacks however, is a solid, compelling hook to the plot. Patient Zero had it (Zombies!) and even The Dragon Factory had the race against time factor of a threatened bio-weapon attack to keep you reading, but The King of Plagues doesn't have a similarly strong attention grabbing plot device. The real motives and ultimate inentions of the 'Seven Kings' are, admitedly for dramatic reasons, kept opaque and uncertain until comparatively late on. The reader is aware that the stakes are high, but not what the ultimate price of failure for Ledger and the DMS may be (although you can guess). The result is a plot that moves forward at high speed but without a real sense of direction. When the ultimate destination and the 'Kings' true plan is revealed it also feels rather anti-climatic. I greeted it with a shrug of 'is that it' rather than an excited 'wow' or 'I didn't see that coming'.

Similarly the true identities of certain parties, which are supposed to keep you guessing until they are revealed near the end to lend a twist to the tale, are blindingly obvious from early on. If these thin attempts at adding further mystery were intended to make up for the lack of a truly compelling plot then they don't come anywhere close to achieving that goal.

Despite these flaws however, I liked and enjoyed The King of Plagues. Action packed and full of great set-pieces it expands Ledger's world further, introduces us to some great new characters and is worthy, just, of its four stars. I just hope that next time Jonathan Maberry comes up with a truly compelling adventure for the DMS to tackle. I'd happily wait a bit longer for the next Joe Ledger novel if the results were up to Patient Zero-like standards.

Oh and please, no more cringe-making cameos from Bono. Ever.
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I knew going into this review that I was in for a compelling read. The last Joe Ledger novel, The Dragon Factory, ended with an event that was guaranteed to have repercussions in the series going forward and I was curious where the story would go. The members of the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) have suffered a loss and as this third novel begins Joe is on leave in the UK and facing an uncertain future. When an explosion destroys a London hospital Joe is drawn back into the murky world of counter terrorism and global conspiracies.

A new group, called The Seven Kings, are on the rise and it is up to the DMS to try and stop them. Using the ten plagues of Egypt as their template The Kings are trying to generate as much chaos throughout the world as is possible. They are wealthy and powerful group, having near limitless resources. The DMS are finally up against a foe that can match them in skill and training.

After two novels the often mentioned, but previously never seen, Aunt Sallie finally makes her first appearance. I am glad to say it was been well worth the wait. She is a terrific character. I wasn't sure what to expect as the author has been dangling that particular carrot for two books now, suffice to say she very quickly makes her presence felt and I was not disappointed. As an aside I read a rumour that a television series may be in the offing. If Aunt Sallie was a recurring character, you could be assured I'd watch. I have a good idea who should play her as well but I'll not name any names as I want to try and avoid spoilers.

We also finally get just a little light shed on Mr Church, the head of DMS, not too much though. He does still remain very much a man of mystery, which continues to make him one of the most enjoyable characters in the series. Sometimes when I'm reading a novel, I have the criticism that the characterisation is not in-depth enough for my liking. I am always keen to know as much about a character as I can, but Mr Church is the exception to this rule. The air of mystery that surrounds him feels right. He inhabits a shadowy, clandestine world so it is only right that he is an enigma himself.

Additionally, The King of Plagues sees the return of some characters from the first novel, Patient Zero. It's a welcome inclusion and helps to flesh out the every expanding Joe Ledger universe. There is a growing sense of continuity with each new novel as the series continues. Jonathan Maberry is swiftly becoming my favourite thriller writer.

There is a truly insightful sentiment expressed, regarding the nature of terrorism, in the closing paragraphs of the novel. Based on recent events it could not be more topical if it tried. It details why men and women put themselves in harm's way to stop others from performing acts of violence. The King of Plagues is like a template for how all thrillers should be. Not only does it have real pace and contains more action than I thought possible, it is also has brains. It's not often that I get to say that I wasn't just entertained, I was educated.
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