The King of Plagues, the third book, in Jonathan Maberry’s increasingly popular Joe Ledger series picks up where the previous entry left off, and it picks up fast. I had read the prologue online a couple of weeks before the novel was released, so I dove right into chapter one. It is a brief paragraph that sets up the story that is to follow even better than the prologue does. In fact, its brevity is utilized in making it one of the tightest first chapters I have ever read.
Crazy thing, folks; it doesn’t slow down after that. At a hefty 430 pages Plagues manages to move at a breakneck pace, giving us enough information along the way so that we know who our characters are without ever treading into an overabundance of description. Maberry follows the well-known thriller writing method of “action on every page,” even having the first meeting between Joe Ledger and one of the female protagonists be filled with tension.
The story is about a secret society who is using weaponized versions of the 10 Plagues of Egypt to royally screw up world economies. Two of the members are recognizable from previous entries in the series and their story reaches new and thrilling heights here. It is cool to see them return to cause Joe Ledger and the DMS more headaches. Also, the plot is filled with enough conspiracy theories to make Fox Mulder jump up and down like a giddy little school girl. 9/11, Osama bin Laden, and the 2008 recession all materialize in their own way in Maberry’s mythos, bringing the story a penetrating realism. The best thrillers, I feel, are the ones that can hit home, the way Plagues does, while still delivering the larger than life action.
Another positive aspect, Joe Ledger is not just a wisecracking action hero. His multifaceted personality is portrayed interestingly here, as in the other books in the series, as his chapters are told in first person while the others are told in close third. The more I learned about Ledger, the more I felt the world would be a better place if the folks in Washington held his politics. He’s an idealist despite the horrors that he witnesses and he is not afraid to act when the calling is right. He is neither flag-waver nor anarchistic radical, simply a sort of everyman caught in a crazy world. That’s something I think we can all relate to.
The thrills are also in abundance. Buildings are blown up, innocent peole are threatened, and there is plenty of combat, both hand-to-hand and with gunplay. And the book is scary. While marketed as a mainstream thriller, it still manages to get under the reader’s skin and make him/her incredibly uneasy. What’s particularly disturbing is how possible these scenarios seem, especially in this day and age.
Assassin’s Code is the fourth book in the series and is up next. I urge you who are not familiar with Joe Ledger, the DMS, and their adventures to pick up any of the three that are out (as they don’t really have to be read in order). These action thrillers should not be missed.