The Return Man by V.M. Zito
The outbreak tore the USA in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness, known by survivors as the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.
Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.
But in the wastelands of America, you never know who - or what - is watching you.
I thought this was a really cool take on the zombie apocalypse and it’s one of the better zombie books I’ve ever read in the genre.
The story centers on Marco, who’s an ex-Neurologist. He’s built a name for himself as the “Zombie Hitman” or the “Return Man” by those in the safe zone of the East coast. His job…to travel into the Evacuated States of the West to find and end the undead lives of loved ones he’s been sent to find. It seems like this would be almost impossible to pull off. Seriously, it’s not like the dead leave forwarding addresses. Which is why I loved the explanation that the dead return to the places that meant something to them. And it doesn’t have to have been a happy place. Just somewhere that had a strong emotional attachment. Surprisingly, this is a theory that makes sense and explains why so many of them return to malls.
So, yes…this is a zombie book. But, it has a ton of action, betrayal, blackmail and new theories that bring something new to any jaded zombie aficionado. There are still a few zombie clichés… ripping flesh, the biting and tearing jaws of walking corpses, and screaming victims who’ve woefully misjudged their skills, speed or intelligence. I loved all of it!
I’d almost say that the zombie aspect of the book is secondary to the core thriller theme. Of course, other countries want the zombie vaccine, of course there is a mole, of course there are unscrupulous government officials who will do anything to gain power the power owning the only vaccine would give them. And, of course there is back stabbing galore. But, I’d also say that it didn’t feel tired or rehashed at any point.
I will probably re-read this one again, fairly soon. If you’re looking for a zombie read that will latch on and not let go, Zito is an author you should give a chance. I only hope that he comes out with another book in the series soon, because I need more Marco.