Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Joe Ledger

Go To

Joe Ledger is the protagonist of a series of military/Horror/Speculative Fiction thrillers written by Jonathan Maberry.

Troubled Baltimore Police Officer Joseph Ledger is man with an Army background and a painful past. After helping foil a major crime in his home city, he is approached by a man known only as Mr. Church, who offers him the opportunity to head up his own team on a special task force branch of the Department of Homeland Security.

Joe, intrigued, joins up and gets his best friend and therapist Rudy involved as well. He hand picks from the recruits a number of men, including Bradley "Top" Sims and Harvey "Bunny" Rabbit. They are then sent out to stop terrorist cells from doing things that could literally end the world. But these terrorist cells take terror to a new level, often using Mad Science to duplicate monsters usually only ever conceived in supernatural fiction and folklore.


The series currently consists of:

  • Novels
    • Patient Zero
    • The Dragon Factory
    • The King of Plagues
    • The Assassin's Code
    • Extinction Machine
    • Code Zero
    • Predator One
    • Kill Switch
    • Dogs of War
    • Deep Silence

  • Short Stories
    • Countdown
    • Zero Tolerance
    • Material Witness
    • Deep, Dark
    • Dog Days
    • Channgeling
    • Mad Science
    • Borrowed Power
    • Artifact
    • The Handyman Gets Out
    • Three Guys Walk Into a Bar

  • Anthology
    • Joe Ledger:Unstoppable

The chronological order of the series goes: Countdown, Patient Zero, Zero Tolerance, then Material Witness, Deep, Dark, The Dragon Factory, Dog Days, Changeling, The King of Plagues, The Assassin's Code, Mad Science Borrowed Power, Extinction Machine, Artifact, Code Zero, The Handyman Gets Out, Three Guys Walk Into a Bar, Predator One, Kill Switch, Dogs of War, Deep Silence.


The Joe Ledger series contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Any female who becomes a Love Interest for Joe once he's an adult: Grace, Violin. Even the usually pacifist Junie gets in on the act.
  • Alien Tropes: Extinction Machine is loaded with them. A few examples...
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: In Extinction Machine, DMS headquarters is destroyed by bombs made of alien Phlebotinum, and about 200 people are killed.
  • Almost Kiss: Played with. Joe stops himself from kissing Violin, and she becomes offended thinking that her half-vampire nature has disgusted him, knowing now what he knows about the full vampire race. But he stopped her because of two reasons: he'd eaten garlic due to having to face the full vampires and thus had terrible bad breath, and also as a half-vampire, he was afraid he would cause her harm through the same allergic reaction to it. When she found out the real reason, she laughed.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Mothers of The Fallen and their daughters.
  • Anyone Can Die: among many others, Grace.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Joe admits that although he has fought zombies, mutants, and clones, that he has a really, really difficult time embracing the idea that vampires are real. And then the aliens showed up...
    • In The King of Plagues a character grumbles "I guess we'll find out that vampires, UFOs and Godzilla are real too." One of these does not appear in succeeding books.
  • Arc Words: Code Zero — "The only action is direct action." "Burn to shine."
    • Deep Silence — "The war is the war."
    • "I have a friend in the industry."
  • Ass Kicking Equals Authority: Joe gets his authority by kicking the ass of his team when they are arguing who should be in charge.
  • Badass Boast: Ledger starts Patient Zero with one.
    Ledger: When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there's either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills... and there's nothing wrong with my skills.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Stoker and several other authors were either working for the Red Order or had been intentionally misdirected by the vampires.
  • Berserk Button: Never threaten Mr. Church's family. Ever.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Ghost is one to Echo Team, and only to anyone else Joe has identified as a friend by command phrase.
  • Body Horror: a lot of the things encountered in The Dragon Factory and "Deep, Dark".
  • Born Lucky: Joe Ledger, though Aunt Sallie comments it does not extend to those under his command.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: The twins from The Dragon Factory.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: Bunny. Huge guy (Ledger gives him nickname Jolly Green Giant when he first sees him), former Force Recon, very capable in fight—but on the whole one of the nicest guys in Echo Team.
  • Canon Welding: The Joe Ledger books and the author's Pine Deep books take place in the same universe.
  • Catchphrase: Mr. Church's repeated refrain of "I have a friend in the industry."
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Sprinkled throughout.
  • Chessmaster: Hugo Vox in Assassins's Code, who delights in manipulating all the players into a Let's You and Him Fight situation. However, he does not live to enjoy the fruits of his labors, since Mr. Church tracks him down and kills him.
  • Cloning Blues: 82 after he discovered that he is a clone of Josef Mengele
  • Code Name: Used by the DMS teams and by Arklight's operatives.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Sebastian Gault, who owns a pharmaceutical company and secretly creates novel pathogens to then profit from selling medication.
  • Creepy Twins: The owners of The Dragon Factory. Not only are they incestuous, they've also used gene therapy on themselves to give themselves pointed teeth and other animalistic traits. It is later revealed their father genetically modified them in utero to give both twins flawless pale skin, blue eyes, increased intelligence and to be exactly six feet tall.
  • Crossover: With the Pine Deep Trilogy by the Same Author; In addition The Benny Imura Series of books by the Same Author
  • Disposable Woman: Played with.
    • Joe's first girlfriend Helen was raped when they were young teenagers, and committed suicide some years later. Joe still has nightmares, but doesn't become overbearing protective to the women he ends up attracted to once he's an adult.
    • Grace is the next woman in his life, but she's military herself, and Ledger trusts her to handle herself. When her in-series death comes it is not done meta-wise strictly to cause Ledger angst. There's a genuine in-story reason for it.
  • Downer Ending: Played straight and subverted in different books.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Dr. Pharos (Predator One) is an amoral murderer, but he will not personally kill a child. And when he has to kill child abusers, he ENJOYS it.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Joe's dog Ghost subverts the trope. He's just a military trained German Shephard trained for bomb detection, body detection, and attack. Some of the enemies act like he really is such a dog.
    • Banshee, an Irish Wolfhound supposedly born under mystical circumstances and later given to Rudy and Circe, fits the bill much closer
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Cyrus Jakoby from Dragon Factory plans to purify humanity of all "inferior" races through genetically-modified diseases — but he also creates a race of perfect slaves to toil for the remaining few. Not surprising since in reality he's Mengele himself.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Lydia. She tends to call Ledger "Gaucho", which is Spanish for his codename, "Cowboy".
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Various things in The Dragon Factory.
    • Not precisely or strictly half and half, but several people in The Extinction Machine.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Played with. The new foundation Junie heads up has a rescuee from The Dragon Factory and someone Deacon has declared as no longer an enemy but to be treated as a friendly: Alexander "Toys" Chismer, whose reformation is sincere, but who believes he doesn't deserve the chance he's getting.
  • Holograms: Mr. Church and Aunt Sallie have access to technology that produces them — within limits.
  • I Call Her "Vera": In "Material Witness," Bunny mentions naming his new gun "Missy".
    • Another character names his rifle in "Code Zero." And then he has sexual fantasies about it.
    • Ludo Monk, the assassin "Code Zero" in fact names each sniper rifle he uses. Then he attributes various personalities to them. Ludo is explicitly stated to be on anti-psychotic medication, but only takes doses he sees fit
  • I Have Many Names: Mr. Church aka The Deacon, aka St. Germain. And those are only a few of the aliases mentioned for him, and only the few Joe himself knows personally.
  • "I Know You Are in There Somewhere" Fight: In "Deep, Dark" Joe uses this on James Collins.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Aunt Sallie looks exactly like Whoopi Goldberg.
  • Inner Monologue: Any part of the book involving Ledger's narration is told from Ledger's POV and in his voice.
  • Jerkass: Doctor Hu. A brilliant scientist who lacks people skills and is more fascinated by novel pathogens than horrified by the harm they could do.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Subverted with Gault. He is already quite evil, but love kind of throws him off his game. A little.
  • Love Triangle: Violin Joe Junie
  • Mad Science: Lots and lots of it, in every book.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: One of the twins from The Dragon Factory who is a Mad Scientist herself.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Invoked. The team crashes/explodes a Cigarette boat to make it look like a drunk boating accident. In the novelette "Three Guys Walk Into a Bar" the heroes are brought together when investigating a series of suspicious accidents that they quickly realize are murders. the murders are being committed by super soldier werewolves
  • Maker of Monsters: In Dragon Factory, the Jacoby twins create fantastic hybrids through genetic engineering. Some they sell to the highest bidder, some are used in hunts for the bored elite (a literal hunt for a unicorn plays an important part in the plot), and some are aimed to be perfect soldiers.
  • Meaningful Name: Paris and Hecate Jakoby from Dragon Factory. He is interested mostly in life's pleasures and often oblivious to consequences of his actions — and perceived as weak by his father and sister. She is dangerous and creates transgenic monsters with the help of state-of-the-art technology (modern equivalent of witches brew) and kills people for pleasure.
  • Men Don't Cry: Subverted. Even though Joe and his team are all badasses, none of them flinches from shedding Manly Tears when the situation calls for it.
  • Mistaken for an Imposter: In Code Zero, the villain infiltrates the Dragoncon masquerade in plain sight by dressing as her "Mother Night" persona.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: While Dr. Hu is not actually evil, and is a genuine doctor, he views the end of the world plots as a chance to play with a new toy. He seems to lack empathy completely, which keeps most of the DMS and him in an antagonistic relationship. Dr. Artemisia Bliss directly calls Dr. Hu a "Heroic Sociopath" Averted in Kill Switch when early on he's shown personally concerned for Joe's recovery in a dreamwalking session, and later asks whether the innocents of ten cities were saved before he passes away.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Toys' reaction when he realizes just how far Hugo Vox has gone...and how far he's willing to go.
    • Valen Oruraka from "Deep Silence" feels this way at each step of his plan. He has to coerced by his handler to continue [[Spoiler: building god machines]]
  • Our Ghosts Are Different
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The Upierczi is the name given to a genetic offshoot of humanity that requires blood to survive. Stronger and faster than any human, they tear the throats from their victims instead of leaving two nice little puncture holes. Bullets will kill them, but you had best aim for the head. Gene Therapy got rid of any weakness to the sun and in fact made them far more resistant to most forms of radiation. Vampirism is not spread with a bite, but they forcibly interbreed with human women to mixed results. Only males with the right genes became Upierczi, females with the genes become "Half breed" Dhampyr and both of these are an approximately 1-2% minority. Most of the babies born to these pairings were either deformed or stillbirth. However, since Joe Ledger takes place in the same universe as Pine Deep, other kinds of more supernatural vampires exist, even if he hasn't fought them yet.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: They have a Mad Scientist variation on Mad Cow Disease.
  • Overly Long Scream: When the President is abruptly returned at the end of Extinction Machine, the Vice-President/Acting President starts screaming, and keeps it up for quite a while.
  • Papa Wolf: Ledger has a few traits of it, Top Sims is a father himself, so definitely qualifies; but Deacon really embodies the trope at one point in the series.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The vampires, with Hellish Pupils as well.
  • Red Herring Mole: Poor Ollie Brown, but as a former CIA assassin he did look the part
  • Ripped from the Headlines: In Code Zero, a series of terrorist bombings are speculated to be "another Boston," referring to the Boston Marathon bombings which occurred the year before the novel was published.
    • Many of the novels have references to current events occurring around the time each book was written. In "Assassin's Code" Bug is stated to have helped in finding Osama Bin Laden
  • Sanity Slippage: Joe tends to suffer a little bit of it in each book, but comes back because he has Rudy to turn to.
    • The Big Bad in Code Zero Artemisia Bliss experiences it in gradiations throughout all of Code Zero.
  • Shout-Out: There are a number of pop culture references, as Joe is an aficionado of same.
    • "Agent Franks", compared in appearance to "Frankenstein's uglier brother", appears in Dogs of War, implying the series is in the same continuity as Monster Hunter International.
    • James Bond
    • 24
    • The Callsigns:
      • Echo Team:
      • Team leader Ledger is "Cowboy"
      • Top Sims is "Sergeant Rock"
      • Harvey Rabbit is "Green Giant" after the frozen vegetables.
      • Sam's callisgn is Ronin.
      • Lydia's callsign "Warbride" is a reference to the William Shatner novel series "Tek".
      • Ivan's callsign "Hellboy" is the same as the title of the Mike Mignola comic.
      • Noah's callisgn is "Gandalf"
      • Duncan's is "Bad Wolf"
      • Montana gets the Ironic Nickname "Stretch", which is actually not a Fantastic Four shout out.
    • The Other DMS People and equipment:
  • Split Personality: Joe Ledger. However, he has worked it out in such a way that the three personalities tend to work together, like a committee. The Modern Man keeps him sane, The Cop works things out and when the Warrior gets let out, someone is going to get hurt.
  • Super Soldier:
    • Berserkers in Dragon Factory. Transgenic soldiers, created from individuals who were already hardened mercenaries, inhumanly big, strong, fast and tough, with some other abilities including heightened senses. The only downside is, in combat their bloodlust may get hard to control.
    • In Three Guys Walk Into a Bar Joe has to team up with Malcolm Crow and Sam Hunter to take on a cell of Werewolf supersoldiers
  • Take That!: A dig at Twilight in "Assassin's Code".
  • That Man Is Dead: Alexander Chismer/Toys as of "Assassin's Code"
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. Rudy is a psychiatrist/psychologist who helps Joe over the death of his girlfiend Helen, and later, Grace.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Mr. Church loves Vanilla Wafers, Joe likes Oreos.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Played with. Joe has had a lot of love interests, even a pacifist who knows his life is war.
  • Vampire Bites Suck: These vampires are of the "tear the throat out" variety.
  • Vampires Hate Garlic: These vampires are allergic to garlic, but not in the usual way; Echo Team of course uses the weakness creatively.
  • The Virus:
    • Patient Zero has one version.
    • King of Plagues has another.
    • Code Zero brings back Sief Al Dien from Patient Zero along with several other weaponized diseases
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Mr. Church plays with the trope. He is forever pulling amazing technological gadgets out for the DMS and Joe's team in particular. When asked, all he ever says is "I have a friend in the industry."
  • Wicked Cultured: The Jakoby Twins. Rich, perfectly beautiful, intelligent, well-educated and well-dressed, like to surround themselves with beauty. They are also utterly immoral and (especially Hecate) kill people for pleasure. Of the two, Paris seems to be more "cultured" and Hecate more "wicked".
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Planned but narrowly averted by Joe and team.
    • Not Using the Zed Word: Played with. Sometimes they come right out and say it. A Code Zero is DMS speak for "zombies", and Ledger has used the word "zombie" himself, as have members on their team. For reasons of common sense (to avoid a panic) and professionality, they adhere to the trope when dealing with anyone outside of the security loop — meaning other agencies and all civilians.
    • Shout-Out: Zombie movies specifically are used by Joe in briefing his team, to let them know what kind of scenario they're looking at if they fail.