Written by Kathy and Brendan Reichs — She’s best known for her novels featuring forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan, but Kathy Reichs is also carving a niche for herself in the young adult fiction market. Code is the third in the Virals series, and is co-written with her son, Brendan. Which is a neat move, as having a younger writer on board certainly helps to give the novel an authentic voice.
Virals features Tory Brennan, great-niece of Temperance. Although she’s just 14, Tory is certainly a chip off the old block. She is the only female in her band of four but definitely runs the show – she is intuitive, bright and feisty, and I loved her from the off. Tory’s fellow Virals are Ben, Hi and Shelton, and they are accompanied most of the time by Wolfdog Cooper.
So what is a ‘Viral’? Well, Code is my first foray into their world, so I will share what I’ve learned. In their earlier adventures, Tory and the boys rescued Cooper from the hands of an unscrupulous scientist who had been using him as a guinea pig to test a new virus. The foursome became infected during the rescue and now have extraordinary powers, which they are at pains to hide from outsiders. When the power is summoned, the gang become a pack, and combine to develop heightened senses and strength. Tory is the alpha, with added powers that can prove both a blessing and a curse.
In Code, the Virals try their hand at locating a geocache and are intrigued when they uncover a mysterious box buried in the ground. But what seemed like a simple treasure hunt soon turns into a labyrinthine game of puzzles, as it becomes clear that one false move will lead to terrible, explosive consequences. The clock is ticking, so can Tory and the Virals best the mysterious Games Master and crack the code in time?
The plot is fast moving and engaging and would have worked just as well without the sci-fi side-dish, but Code’s co-authors are to be congratulated for managing to make the storyline so believeable. It is very much set in the here and now, with the gang using computers, smart phones, iPads, deduction and good old plain common sense in their pursuit of the dastardly Games Master. These are geeks at their peak, with a splash of Scooby Doo style humour to keep the whole thing light. And, of course, these being teenagers, there are hormones aplenty to muddy the waters further.
Not content with foiling the deadly plans of a madman, the Virals’ secret is getting closer and closer to being uncovered – and they are desperately looking for an antidote that will cure them of their scary skills. Something to be developed in the next book, if the cliffhanger ending of Code is anything to go by.
I admit I’m well past the target audience for Code, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed reading it. It’s released 3 January.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars