Friday, June 11, 2021

Blue Moon

Blue Moon
by James Ponti
Recommended Ages: 13+

Molly Bigelow and her friends Natalie, Alex and Grayson are all members of a secret group called Omegas that patrol the undead world of New York City. Zombies can only exist at or below ground level (not very much higher) in Manhattan and maybe Roosevelt Island, thanks to a particular composition of bedrock there that was somehow involved in their undeath. And the original undead, known as the Unlucky 13, rule Dead City from below in a system that involves annually revealing themselves in public view to "verify" that they're still in power. Coming back from suspension, Molly's team is specially tasked with monitoring the Unlucky 13 – and their mission may be extra-important now, as the Mayor of Dead City, Marek Blackwell, took it on the chin at the end of their previous adventure and his Verify – at midnight New Year's Eve in Times Square – will reveal a power vacuum that could trigger a war with the undead.

Molly and Co.'s quest to learn more about the Unlucky 13 is interwoven, somewhat, with a firsthand account by one of them, the elusive Milton Blackwell, who became alienated from his brother Marek and the others in part because his mistake made them all undead. In an zombie hierarchy where a Level 3 is brain-eating goon, a Level 2 is a soulless psychopath and a Level 1 is practically human, Milton is a nice Level 1 while his potential rival for power, Ulysses Blackwell, is a dangerous Level 2. You can guess which one the Omegas would like to see step up into Marek's place.

But adding complexity to their run-up to New Year's Eve is the discovery of an electronically sealed vault deep beneath Grand Central Station. Now the Omegas may have bigger things to worry about than Marek's Verify. Now they may be facing a program called Blue Moon, based on a pro-Soviet scheme from the Cold War era, to convert millions of New Yorkers – not to communism, but to undeadism. With a chance that wheels are already moving to turn hearts across Manhattan as cold as the Manhattan schist, Molly's little group and even the larger, secret organization behind the Omegas may not be able to move fast enough to save New York.

So, that's the basic gist. But between the covers of the book there is so much more – a glimpse of New York history featuring then-Police Chief Theodore Roosevelt; a family secret involving Molly's mom, who isn't quite as dead as most people thought; a sizzle of high-tech gadgetry, including a biometric scanner calibrated for room-temperature flesh and a talking computer that can scan top-secret documents; views from all levels of New York, from the tram line running 250 feet above the East River to the deepest abandoned subway tunnels – not leaving out 30 Rock and St. Patrick's Cathedral, thank you; fast-paced combats, surprise revelations, grisly horrors and a final shock that will set the hook for the next book in the series.

This is the second book of the "Dead City" trilogy, between Dead City and Dark Days. Ponti is also the author of three "TOAST Mysteries" and so far two "City Spies" books, all for young readers.

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