Code Zero, Jonathan Maberry (St. Martin’s/Griffin)

code zero

Faithful readers of the Joe Ledger series, of which this is the sixth volume, might be confused by the cover blurb calling this “the sequel to Patient Zero,” since that was the first book in the series. But the blurb is correct: although the novel takes place in its proper sequence—there are references to events that took place in earlier books—the story involves elements introduced in the series debut, which means Joe and his team from the ultra-elite Department of Military Sciences (DMS) are going to be battling more zombies, but tougher and more dangerous than anything they’ve seen before. The person responsible for these new-breed walking dead, and for various other technological and biological attacks on the U.S., appears to be a woman who calls herself Mother Night. And when the DMS figures out who Mother Night really is, they realize they’re in for their deadliest fight yet. Sure, the series follows a pretty strict formula—Joe and his DMS team encounter a seemingly supernatural threat that has a twisted scientific explanation; they go up against a fiendishly clever supervillain; they save the world; and they do it all in about 450 pages—but when a formula is this entertaining, is anyone going to complain about it? Like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Ledger is a hard-edged military man with a deep moral core and a razor-sharp mind; in a series of books about zombies and vampires and biblical plagues, he’s the human center, a comforting, familiar face in a world of unfamiliar things. Top-grade horror fiction.

This review originally appeared in Booklist, February 2014.

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