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Jamie Carpenter lived a normal, happy, suburban life until the night strange creatures arrived at his house and men in black combats with strange, ultra-violent weapons burst in and executed his father. Since then, Jamie and his mother have lived in a succession of miserable, dour little houses and Jamie has become less and less interested in a succession of miserable, dour little schools. He resents his mother, like all good disaffected teenagers do.

Department 19 by Will Hill

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: New entrant into the busy supernatural-horror-action-thriller market, and a fine example of it. Great action sequences, lots of gore, a suitably unwilling-but-committed central character and good worldbuilding. Exposition detracts from tension somewhat, so it best suits readers willing to invest in a series.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 353 Date: March 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0007354452

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But then he has a strange encounter with a red-eyed girl and his mother goes missing. And Jamie very quickly discovers that you don't know how much you need someone until they're gone...

... and you find out that everything Bram Stoker wrote was true. Vampires exist. And the descendants of the characters in Stoker's book form the core of the government's most secret agency: Department 19. Jamie's father had been a department operative and he was killed because he betrayed it. With his mother kidnapped, Jamie finds himself recruited by the department years earlier than is the norm. And he must quickly find his feet - because of his father's treachery, he's not trusted by everyone - if he's to have any hope of rescuing his mother.

This brand of high-octane, supernatural action novel is an overheated genre, so new entrants need to know their audience and hit the ground running. Department 19 certainly does this. It has a suitably reluctant central character who finds courage and determination he'd never dreamed he possessed. It has powerful, ruthless, badder-than-baddies, plenty of technology and really good action sequences. There's a great cast of characters and it's all very visual. This book would translate well both to film and to video game. There's even a bit of edgy love interest for Jamie. It most definitely ticks all the boxes and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite being about as far from the target audience as it's possible to get.

Unavoidably, in a series set up, the main narrative arcs - the kidnapping of Jamie's mother and a plan to reanimate Count Dracula himself - lose a little focus at times because there's quite a bit of exposition to get out of the way. Hill deals with this by a series of flashback sequences, which reveal the history of Department 19 and Jamie's family's role within it. This means the book is best suited to fans of the genre and readers who are happy to spend the best part of five hundred pages of reading time investing into a series. For them, Department 19 is going to be a huge hit. Of that I am sure.

My thanks to the good people at Harper Collins for sending the book.

They might also like Changeling by Steve Feasey, about Trey, the last living werewolf. It's pacy and direct and the central character is wolfishly attractive. No supernatural, but Brainjack by Brian Falkner is a pacy action thriller about a teen computer hacker and a rather scary, self-aware AI. If they liked the gadgetry in Department 19, they'll like it.

Will Hill's Department 19 Books in Chronological Order

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