This is a review of Public Enemy Zero by Andrew Mayne.
5* – frightening in more ways than one!
It has to be said that Mr Mayne is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. This is definitely in the top 5 books I’ve read in the last 12 months, making it the second entry of his on that short list!
The story follows Mitch, a radio presenter. After two weeks off sick, he takes himself back to work and unleashes a chain of events that are as terrifying as they are bewildering. Everyone he meets is trying to kill him. At first he thinks he’s just encountering crazy people, but then he makes the mistake of going to a shopping mall and all hell breaks loose. As he goes on the run as public enemy number one, he battles a Police force that won’t listen and a government that’s trying to kill him.
In short, it’s a rip-roaring blend of horror and thriller, beautifully executed and very compelling. It reminded me a lot of Michael Crichton at his best.
You can’t help but like Mitch. He’s a genuinely nice but resourceful character and, when he realises that he may end up spending the rest of his life alone and in quarantine, your heart goes out to him. Like most people he believes the government are there to protect the public and that handing himself in would be the best thing to do.
Here steps in a fellow DJ and conspiracy theory talk-show host, who feeds him helpful advice on what’s going on and how to escape the authorities, cleverly disguised as radio interviews.
It’s a really powerful story. Parts of it are gruesome. It’s very violent and most certainly creepy. It has a very real sense of wrongness because bad things like that shouldn’t happen to such nice and unsuspecting people. I caught myself wondering at least twice how I’d cope if it happened to me and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t last a day. You find yourself cheering for Mitch, even when he’s forced into inhumane actions as a result of the dire circumstances. There’s also the frightening possibility that it could happen. The technology to alter pheromones is out there. It’s no secret that the government carries out research on biological weapons. Conceivably, at a stretch of the imagination, something like this could actually happen. That knowledge makes this book appeal to a base fear that resides in all of us.
It’s written in such a fast-paced style that you find yourself utterly absorbed in what’s going on. I think what makes it so compelling, though, is the way that Mitch uses the media to aid his cause. It was hard not to see the symbolism of it. Nowadays the truth is in the hands of the people. We’re less easily manipulated by the media because, thanks to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, we can get first hand accounts of what’s actually happening on the ground, right where the events are happening. After uploading a video to Youtube pleading his case, Mitch turns to Twitter (where, incidentally, you can actually follow him @MadMitchFM) and discovers the #runmitchrun topic. From then on, his direct voice to the common people is his lifeline to safety. I LOVED how he handled the end of the book.
I did figure out fairly early on who the naked man in the forest was, but it didn’t detract from the story because I wasn’t a hundred percent sure and it’s set itself up for what could be an epic sequel.
All in all, another sterling book from Mr Mayne and at less than a pound it’s a bargain! Read it. You won’t be disappointed. 5*.