Tory Brennan is as fascinated by bones and dead bodies as her famous aunt, acclaimed forensic anthropologist, Tempe Brennan. However living on a secluded island off Charleston in South Carolina there is not much opportunity to put her knowledge to the test. Until she and her group of technophile friends stumble across a shallow grave containing the remains of a girl who has been missing for over thirty years.

With the cold-case murder suddenly hot, Tory realises that they are involved in something fatally dangerous. And when they rescue a sick dog from a laboratory on the same island, it becomes evident that somehow the two events are linked.

On the run from forces they don’t understand, they have only each other to fall back on. Until they succumb to a mysterious infection that heightens their senses and hones their instincts to impossible levels. Their illness seems to have changed their very biology – and suddenly it’s clear that the island is home to something well beyond their comprehension. It’s a secret that has driven men to kill once. And will drive them to kill again…

“Virals” is the beginning of a new series by Kathy Reich, forensic scientist and author of the Temperance Brennan novels. The book stars fourteen year old Tory Brennan, great niece of forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. Tory lives on a small island near Charleston with her marine biologist father, a man that she only found out existed when her mother died less than a year ago. Whilst she and her three friends are visiting the research island where her father works, Tory meets a family of wolf-dogs; when one of the pack goes missing, she decides to investigate and ends up with a lot more than she bargained for, including a 40 year old murder to solve and a mystery illness.

The book is written in the first person, and Tory makes an entertaining and witty narrator. This style of writing means that the reader very quickly finds out a lot about her and the way she thinks, her background, and, in particular, how intelligent she is.

The paranormal twist in the tale occurs when Tory and her friends contract a newly developed and untested virus from one of the wolf-dogs, and are left with super-sensory powers. These abilities bind the group together as a ‘pack’, and come in particularly handy if you need to sniff out the odd hidden skeleton.

I liked the way that Tory and her gang were all gifted in different areas and worked well together as a group, with Tory as a rather bossy leader! As Tory is only fourteen I thought it was appropriate that there was no real love story in the book, although she does have a small crush. In fact, the four teenagers are brilliant role models for the young adults reading this book – they don’t drink or do drugs, but they’re cool, fun, and work hard at school. I’ll admit they do a fair amount of breaking and entering, but it’s all in a very good cause!

“Virals” is Kathy Reich’s first book aimed at young adults, and I found that I really enjoyed it. I liked the way that this novel worked well as a stand-alone adventure – the plot is tidied away neatly at the end, but the characters are compelling, and it’s so intriguing to imagine where their new powers will lead them, that I’m sure most readers will be anxious for the next instalment. This really was a fantastic mystery, which kept me hanging on right till the end to discover exactly who was responsible for the crimes. The addition of a supernatural element only served to enhance it to my mind.

4 stars

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