First published back in March of 2010, Shaun Jeffrey’s third novel to see publication, entitled ‘Deadfall’ attempted to latch on to the recent resurgence in the popularity of zombie fiction.

DLS Synopsis:
After failing to protect the wealthy widow who she was hired to protect, Amber Redgrave needed to get right back on with another job to take her mind off it.  And then the phonecall came in with a position suddenly available in a last minute covert rescue mission to extract two kidnapped children of a very wealthy businessman.  The pay is exceptionally high for their safe return.  Half paid on acceptance of the mission, and the other half on its completion.  And so, behind her employers (and ex-lovers) back, the highly trained mercenary accepts the mission.

Within hours Amber is meeting her team of fellow mercenaries who will be embarking on the rescue mission with her.  The team are briefed on their dangerous task by a man named Finch who states is acting on behalf of his wealthy employer.   A heavy arsenal of weaponry is made available to the six-strong troupe of ex-military trained mercenaries before they set off to a remote abandoned mining village where their employer’s intelligence have pinpointed that they are expected to locate the kidnappers.
However, soon after helicoptering into the isolated location under the cover of darkness, the team quickly encounter a man who charges towards them from out of nowhere.  One of the team appropriately nicknamed ‘Crazy Eddie’ shoots down the crazed individual before the raged-filled man can engage with any of the stealthily advancing troupe.  But to her horror, Amber discovers that even riddled with bullets, the rotten-corpse-like maniac simply won’t stay down until a bullet to the head finally finishes off the man.

Somewhat perturbed by the ordeal, Amber pushes on with her team, hoping to locate the kidnappers and successfully secure the two young children.   But as the team begin to give up all hope of finding their target in the few abandoned buildings, from out of the dark depths of the nearby mine spews forth a mass of raging zombies, hell-bent on ripping to shreds anyone in the vicinity.

Meanwhile, eco-warriors Lofty and his dreadlocked girlfriend Jill have just discovered the existence of the Strident Industries facility where animal testing is reportedly taking place on their very doorstep.  Hoping to be able to get a glimpse of what is going on within the highly-secured building, the two manage to gain access via the sewage drains.  But what they are about to discover within the large facility is more horrific and terrifying than they would ever have dreamed possible.

Back at the abandoned mining village, the undead are loose and one by one Amber’s team are falling to the flesh-hungry hordes of the living-dead.  Their remote location means there is little chance of rescue.  For every zombie they take down, ten seem to take their place.  Survival suddenly seems like a very bleak prospect.  And with the eradication of the team, it will ensure the outright success of Project Deadfall…

DLS Review:
Jeffrey’s slice of the zombie-fiction pie is certainly an action rich offering, with plenty of gruesome blood-spill and explosive scenes of adrenaline pumping violence.  Unlike the vast majority of zombie fiction, Jeffrey has chosen not to adopt a post-apocalyptic backdrop for his tale, but instead has isolated the zombie menace to just one small remote and abandoned mining village.  This in no way takes away from the thrills and spills of the novel, but instead focuses the action on one heavily equipped and highly trained team who have to fight through the throngs of the rampaging undead.

The storyline is action filled and reasonably intense with its non-stop barrage of zombie-violence.  Jeffrey jumps between the two parallel running storylines of the mercenaries and the two snooping eco-warriors through the majority of the tale, with around two-thirds of the storyline resting with the more predominate ‘mercenaries’ thread.

Characterisation is pretty darn flimsy for most of the characters, with the only exceptions being with Amber and Eddie who are reasonably well fleshed out.  A vague attempt to establish each one of the other characters is made early on, but never really developed any further or with any real gusto behind it.

Jeffrey has devised a slightly unique play on how the zombies have come about.  Mixing in a heavy dose of some highly elaborate (and amusingly farfetched) sci-fi elements into the equation, Jeffrey has created a wonderfully pulpy backstory for our undead friends, whilst putting his own spin on the final direction of the plotline.

For a good, fast paced, adrenaline pumping and gun wielding zombie romp, you can’t really go wrong here.  The ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985) style chapters within the dark confines of the mines are superb, with a sudden burst of truly vivid gore dished out around every corner.  Furthermore, in utilising a more fast-paced (‘running’) and altogether more vicious zombie threat than the classic Romero style zombie, nicely cranks up the action-fuelled intensity of the novel, with the rampaging undead fully able to chase, fight with rabid aggression and think on a somewhat basic level. 

The finale of the tale is surprisingly subdued in comparison to the rest of the novel, still stamping its mark on the conclusion, but not with any real thumping presence or inspiring authority.  The big twist in the plot is also horrendously predictable, losing all of its impact instantly.

All in all this is a reasonably light-hearted zombie novel with plenty of action and blood-spill to keep the majority of its audience happy.  Not exactly ground-breaking in its originality, what Jeffrey does offer instead is a solid slab of high-adrenaline undead mayhem with plenty of festering meat to rip into.

The novel also includes an alternative ending that re-treads the last five chapters of the novel.  However, within these five chapters only two relatively minor parts of this quite substantial chunk of the novel are actually different, with a hell of a lot of the same text making up the vast majority of it.  Reading the alternative ending, the reader can’t help but think that recapping such a massive chunk of the novel merely to include the two changes is a bit much.  But for those that want to read the tale with a slightly different conclusion, the option is of course there.

The novel runs for a total of 274 pages.

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