Gollancz, out now
The battle of wits between Joe Ledger and Sebastian Gault reaches its climax…
By far the most enjoyable of the Joe Ledger books so far, this steers clear of the zombie or Primeval-type horrors of the first two books to give us something much closer to people’s everyday lives: terrorist attacks that can hit anyone anywhere. That’s not to say there isn’t a horror quotient to it: the plagues created by the eponymous monarch are described in detail, but it’s the way that Maberry captures the terror felt by ordinary people caught up in the midst of something they don’t understand that is in many ways the most effective.
It’s a tale of self-examination and the development of consciences: Ledger questions what he is doing and why, particularly in light of the loss he suffered at the end of the previous book, while one of the bad guys allows himself to be sucked in completely to the lifestyle he has chosen, as his own Conscience starts to react. The stories are told in different time frames to allow the changes in attitude displayed by all three men to be credible.
There are various reveals scattered through the book and Maberry allows the reader to be just one step ahead of the characters as necessary. It’s a tale told on a wide canvas, and as with the previous books, the action is hard-hitting, but featuring characters with whom we have far more involvement than I’ve felt the earlier books created.
Verdict: The best has been saved for the last of this trilogy; it will be interesting to see where Maberry takes Ledger next. 8/10