By Will Hill
Published by HarperCollins
ISBN 978 000 78354450
You have probably never heard of Department 19. But you owe it a lot. In 1897, an Irish author wrote a novel called Dracula about an evil vampire nobleman who lived in Transylvania. The redoubtable vampire hunter, Professor Abraham Van Helsing, and his colleagues tracked Count Dracula down to his castle and destroyed him forever. Or did they?
Dracula was sold as a piece of fiction because the truth was too horrible for the general public in Victorian England to learn. Dracula was indeed destroyed - but not before his disciples had begun to spread their evil to other parts of the world. Van Helsing and his colleagues returned to London and set up Department 19 to hunt down Dracula's followers and protect the world from vampirism. Fast forward to the 21st century - and Department 19 is still there in the background, protecting us from an unspeakable evil.
The basic idea behind Will Hill's debut novel Department 19 is chilling, intriguing and full of exciting possibilities. The contemporary plot of this action-horror novel is high-octane and entirely plausible, but what makes the book stand out from the rest is the brilliant back story Hill has dreamt up. This is a long novel, coming in at just under 500 pages, but it grips from the start and never lets go.
Teenage Jamie Carpenter is thrown into the middle of the action within the first few pages. He witnesses the murder of his father by a gang of unidentifiable attackers as his mother is carried off into the night. It's something of an understatement to say that life is never going to be the same for this brave young man.
Before he has time to fully appreciate what has happened, Jamie is taken to a top-secret government establishment where he slowly learns about the work of Department 19. He also learns that he is a direct descendant of one of the original founders. His father was working for the Department before things went tragically wrong. Jamie needs Department 19, and they need him.
The plot is far-reaching and totally involving. Hill proves himself an expert at making his readers believe the unbelievable. The entire novel is an action- and chills-packed race pitting good against evil and packing a lot more in besides. As Jamie battles the forces of darkness, Hill is very careful to makes sure his readers really accept the world he has created. The set-pieces, cliffhangers and dialogue he brings into the action are skilful and very well written.
Department 19 is a brilliantly realised novel at every turn, and even though more are likely to follow as part of a series, Hill does not short-change readers of this first book by leaving the plot hanging on the final page. Make sure you have plenty of time when you sit down to read Department 19 because you'll be glued to the pages until the last sentence. Outstanding!