US cover for Patient Zero - first book in the Joe Ledger series

Patient Zero is the first novel in the Joe Ledger series written by American author Jonathan Maberry. It was first published in March 2009 by St. Martins Griffin.


Monday, 1300 hours: Joe Ledger kills terrorist Javad Mustapha, A.K.A. Patient Zero, with two point blank shots from his glock .45.

Wednesday, 0800 hours: Patient Zero rises from the dead...

When you have to kill the same terrorists twice in one week, there is either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills... and there's nothing wrong with Joe Ledger's skills. Ledger, a Baltimore detective assigned to a counterterrorism task force, is recruited by the government to lead a new ultrasecret rapid-response group called the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bioweapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies.

Plot summaryEdit

The book opens with Detective Joe Ledger attempting to enjoy a day at Ocean City Beach in Maryland, when he is approached by FBI agents and escorted to an undisclosed location. He reluctantly goes with them knowing he could easily escape if he had to, wondering if this is about the warehouse raid his task force had done the week before. They bring him to see a man named Mr. Church who wants him to audition for a position in his new organization, an ultra-secret counter-terrorism group called the Department of Military Science (DMS). He does so by subduing a man he had killed the week before at the warehouse, Javad Mustapha, by breaking his jaw and snapping his neck. Zombies, Joes’ world turns upside down.  Church explains the possibility of other terrorist cells with potential zombies out there, and says he may be in touch in the future for help. Joe is returned to his car and advised not to try and look for any information on Church or the DMS, because he won’t find any.

Joe picks up his friend and psychiatrist Dr. Rudy Sanchez and explains to him everything that has happened. Rudy believes him, and they both spend days trying to find information regarding Church, the DMS, and prion diseases causing zombies to no avail. Even the police report on the warehouse raid is gone. Rudy then vanishes, taken by the DMS to the warehouse, and Joe heads out to rescue him. He is welcomed inside, taken to Mr. Church, sees Rudy with a gun to his head, and is forced to agree to join the DMS in their fight on terror. The drama is explained away by their dire situation, and Rudy joins up with the DMS as well. Joe is then put into a room with five other candidates to decide who the leader of the new team will be, big and tough looking guys from Marines, Force Recon, and the like. Joe knocks them all into submission within seconds, and takes the title of Captain of Echo Team, with the men he just pummeled as his crew.

Afterwards Joe is introduced to Major Grace Courtland a former SAS member on semi-permanent load to the DMS. She and Mr. Church explain to him what the DMS is, their tool MindReader, and the disaster at St. Michaels, where their first zombie outbreak got out of control. We learn this is generation three of the pathogen. With how terrible things went down, Echo team is called to move out immediately, before they can even start their first bit of training, to hit the newly found site of another cell with potential zombies. Echo Team witnesses horror at the meatpacking plant, scientists pushing walkers towards screaming children, and in a moment of rage, Echo team runs in guns blazing to take down the enemy and save as many kids as they can. Having to put down a turned child, Joe and Echo are even more enraged, and demand to hit the second site ASAP.

They are forced to rest for few hours first; it’s been a long and traumatizing day. Joe meets the DMS scientists and Dr. Hu, who explains the science of this disease happening. Suddenly, the zombies being held for study by the DMS get out of the lab and attack the staff. Joe, Bunny, and Top respond first on site to put down the threat with minimal losses. Church starts an investigation with team leaders about the incident. With the knowledge of at least one traitor in the facility and a bitten soldier, Echo team is sent out to hit the second site immediately.

At the crab plant, Echo team is on a look-and-see mission only, with Alpha and Bravo on back-up. Information is the most important thing they need now. But after their successful infiltration, they stumble into what turns out to be a huge ambush. Hundreds of walkers are set loose on the team, communication jammed, explosions kill many of their back-up, Ollie and Skip go missing, and they fight to their last bullet and ounce of energy to stay alive. Gus Dietrich and the cavalry save them in their last surviving moments. They manage to keep a prisoner alive for a short time and get information out of him concerning the terrorist responsible El Mujahid and the disease Seif al Din; they also realize the possibility of creating a cure for something this frightening bringing in trillions of dollars to the research and distribution industry, and wonder if someone there might have a hand in this.

Joe brings in Det. Jerry Spencer, a former Baltimore Police Crime Scene Inspector that worked with Joe in the past, to join the DMS and learn what he can from the horrible scene at the crab plant; He is the best at what ae does. Joe questions Skip Tyler and Oliver Brown about them going missing under suspicious causes as there is a mole in the DMS. They learn their ambush at the plant was all a set-up to make them think their new information was legit. And that a pharmaceutical company, or something in the industry, must be behind this terrorist group, in it for the money.

Joe has a hunch on an impending attack, a possibility from the intel they’ve found. He requests that Echo Team, along with Grace and Rudy, be put inside the Secret Service detail that is on guard at the Liberty Bell Re-Dedication ceremony on the Fourth of July. They interview Linden Brierly, regional director of the secret service, and Robert Howell Lee director of special operations for the FBI/Homeland joint command, to get info on the event and the men they sent to the DMS when Church was first building it up, searching for their traitor.

Joe was correct; this was the event El Mujahid was using to unleash his pathogen onto the western world. Disguised, Mujahid unleashes generation 10 of the pathogen into the crowd, the most virulent of the strain so far. Joe and Top Sims chase him down, but he has infected himself with generation 12 of the strain. Immortal, able to keep his consciousness and higher brain functions. Top battles with Skip, who turned out to be the traitor, while Joe takes down El Mujahid in an intense close-quarters fight that ends with Joe taking off Mujahids’ head with the blade of a table top paper cutter. Bunny, Gus, Grace, and Rudy saved as many lives as they could at the main event, many were lost and turned, but the entire outbreak was contained.

The director from Homeland, Robert Howell Lee, attempted to kill himself, being a mole for the terrorist group, but was revived and questioned by Church. Lee admitted everything the DMS didn’t know, the involvement of the famous Sebastian Gault , hero of the world for all his Red Cross funding and million dollar medical research company. He was funding El Mujahid and his wife Amirah to just threaten the USA with this horrible disease so they would make billions developing the cure, but was betrayed when they wanted to actually release the plague to kill the western world. Sebastian and his assistant Toys destroy El Mujahids’ bunker in Afghanistan where the disease was being developed and kill Amirah who has also taken generation 12 of the pathogen. They are last seen taking a Red Cross boat away, with fake identities, covered in bandages and burns.

Church returns to the DMS base called the Hanger in Floyd Bennett Field, and leaves Joe and Grace in charge of the Warehouse in Baltimore.



2009 - Patient Zero Bram Stoker Award, Superior Achievement in a Novel (Nomination)