The Dead Sea Deception was one of my favourite thrillers of 2011 – intelligent and always intriguing but especially satisfying for its two unusual leads. Heather Kennedy is, or was, an uncoventional Metropolitan police officer who does not follow the force’s unwritten code, while Leo Tillman is a mercenary, a gun for hire, distorted and unhinged by the loss of his wife and small children years before. The Demon Code begins shortly after The Deception Code begins and so, not only would I advise you that there will be spoilers for that in the review below, I would also suggest that you read The Deception Code first. A knowledge of the former novel might not be vital for an understanding of the plot here but it would certainly shift the characters from black and white into full and vivid colour.
The followers of Judas are back. This time the weepers of bloody tears are determined to destroy all extant copies of a 17th-century religious text, written by a man who experienced a vision of angels after falling into a shaft. They don’t just want to destroy the copies. No reader of its words will survive. Until Heather, Leo and their British Library assistant Rush make it their mission to investigate the cause for an apparently harmless break in at the Library followed by the subsequent discovery of the Library’s infiltration by one of the followers of Judas. With their poisoned blades, pale skin and bloody eyes, these men and women hate the sons of Adam, although sometimes the worldly perspective of the Adamites is necessary. Heather, Leo and Rush find themselves attached to Diema, a 19-year-old with a secret that extends well beyond the hidden tunnels and burrows of the sect.
The clock ticks as The Demon Code proceeds. The secret 17th-century text by Johann Tolle reveals a number of prophecies which, it seems, did not belong to the 1600s after all but instead appear to be coming true now. The text foretells that they will conclude with the death of a million or more souls.
The Demon Code is a thrilling novel but its real strength is in the time given to its intriguing protagonists. The private lives of Kennedy and Tillman are not separated from their mission. The integrity of both, the value each places on family and dependence, is bolstered by their increasing knowledge of the isolated Diema as well as the ‘boy’ Rush. Despite the extreme circumstances facing the characters and the extraordinary or even preposterous aims and motives of the Judas group, these are characters who keep a grip on realism however much the novel wants to challenge it. Heather Kennedy is a fantastic character, though. She tries to build up her life while everything around her falls apart. This mix of realism and thriller fantasy works and is a big appeal of Adam Blake’s books.
The Demon Code is an enjoyable and thoughtful successor to The Dead Sea Deception but it is let down a little by its length. At well over 550 pages, it is at least 100 pages too long. The first half sets the scene and mystery very well indeed, especially within the old British Library and in Heather’s life, but as the novel reaches its conclusion the pace lags noticeably. Nevertheless, the conclusion itself is a satisfying one and there is much room left for a third, much anticipated (but hopefully tighter) novel.