Saturday 20 October 2012

Review: CRYPT: Mask of Death by Andrew Hammond

A figure wearing a white mask swoops down a deserted hospital corridor towards a quarantined patient. Covered in black sores and writhing in agony the patient can't be saved by modern medicine. But then, the masked figure is not a modern doctor...

Bodies are being discovered all over London, all marked with the same black sores - it seems a contagious disease is spreading across the city. But when witnesses all report seeing the same mysterious masked figure it seems there's something more sinister going on.

This is a case for CRYPT: a team of elite teenage agents who use their extra sensory perception and arsenal of high-tech gadgets to investigate crimes that the police can't solve.

Andrew Hammond is back with the third book in his CRYPT series, and yet again it does not disappoint. Main characters, Jud Lester and Bex De Verre, have been fully established in the previous two books and so Andrew Hammond is able to spend a little more of this story developing the supporting cast. And he doesn't just concentrate on other teen members of the CRYPT team - in fact most of these remain in the background as somewhat two dimensional bit players. Instead, the author has chosen to flesh out some of the adults in the cast, and we begin to find out more about what drives Bonati and Vorzek. Khan also makes a welcome return, almost as if he is now a fully fledged member of the team rather than a DCI in the Met.

Andrew Hammond has shown in the previous two books that he is not afraid of including more than a little gore in his writing. Mask of Death is no exception, and with a plot that revolves around the Great Plague of 1665 he relishes in the opportunity this gives him to make your stomach turn. It also allows him to take his young heroes further out of their comfort zone by jetting them off to Venice in search of clues as to why plague doctors are rising from the dead and attacking modern day Londoners. Venice is always a great setting for a horror story and the author makes good use of the super spooky setting.

My one criticism of the previous book in this series, Traitor's Revenge, was that it lacked the explosive climax of its predecessor. I am happy to report that the action and suspense in Mask of Death builds gradually to a cracking ending, with Jud and Bex risking their lives in the line of duty yet again.

My thanks go to the lovely people at Headline for sending me a copy to review. I am also happy to see that another instalment is scheduled for February 2013 - just the title, Blood Eagle Tortures, is enough to put a demonic smile on my face (google Blood Eagle and you will see why).

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