Virals by Kathy Reichs (Tory Brennan series #1)

Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends they're a pack. They are Virals.

Kathy Reichs is well known for writing the hit TV series Bones and for the adult forensic series “Temperance Brennan” on which the TV series Bones is based upon. Virals is the introduction of Kathy Reichs into the Young Adult range, centring around the niece of Temperance Brennan, Tory Brennan. After having recently explored another Young Adult crime book, that of Niall Leonard's “Crusher”, I got the feeling that this crime sub-genre had a lot to offer and Virals really got my attention.

Virals starts off with a very interesting idea that actually produced a bit of goose bumps on my arms. On a secluded island, Loggerhead, there is a primate research facility. Okay, so there are already two points, secluded island and primate research facility. Continuing from this is the fact that there is a mention of fences, but not to keep the primates in... but to keep them out... it is with these introductions that I get that certain feeling that either we are into top secret research gone bad or that there is foul play. Well, you’re in for a quite the surprise when reading Virals. And this brings me to the second part that makes this book great. After the introductions are all finished there is a sequence of events that actually causes the storyline to neatly split into two but they are still linked on a higher level. Using this approach created a very engaging, interesting and edge-of-your-seat story.

In Virals you follow a group of four friends: Tory, Ben, Hiram (Hi) and Shelton. Their parents are all part of the research facility on Loggerhead Island. The four friends all love to go on adventures and find new things. The story of Virals is being told from Tory’s point of view. And the beginning is again pretty catchy, where the narration of Tory says “Wait, I am getting ahead of myself” and she retells the event that led to prologue where they got shot at. It is with these catchy phrases used in the book that really grabbed my attention. Tory is the leader of the four who call themselves later Virals. Although the introductions of the characters are in the book they felt for me just a bit to plain to start off with and were not quite developing as the story progressed. But somehow, looking back, they slowly grew more into their role as the events surrounding the research facility got out. So on another note you did see what happened to them and how they became Virals and that played okay into the development of their characters into the storyline.

As I previously mentioned, the theme of this book really got me hooked. And by mixing the supernatural aspect with a crime/forensics aspect, and to top it off adding a thriller element to it was very cool. Both of the storylines were neatly constructed and by similarly using the catchy phrase Wait, I am getting ahead of myself” there is another neat one “paved my path to monster hood”. Looking at the storyline where they turned into Virals, it was constructed in such a way that it played as a more or less collateral part of the main storyline solving the case of the murdered Katherine Heaton. When they got into the top research labs, and there was an animal in the bench I was literally screaming at the book Don’t! Don’t!! but well they did... and by this sequence of events everything goes first for the better but then also a great part for the worst where you see the four friends actually realizing what they did, and in this part Tory is a hoarding up information, not even telling her friends... Where the turning into Virals is a more or less secondary storyline, the main storyline focuses around the Virals trying to solve an old murder case. After having found dog-tags on a beach they want to know how they got there and to whom they belong, but as they get deeper and deeper into this mystery they are opening doors that would have better left closed.

All in all I found that this specific combination of supernatural and forensic science worked to it fullest in Virals producing a very engaging, unique and interesting story. This unique blend did greatly appeal to me and I know that it will appeal for a broad younger audience. Now that the Virals have truly grown into their powers... anything can happen.

9/10 A very engaging, unique and interesting story.

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