2009; 715 pages. Book #2 (out of 12) in the Sigma Force series. New Author? : No. Genre : Action-Thriller. Overall Rating : 8½*/10.
It was an outright massacre that took place during the midnight High Mass at the main cathedral in Cologne, Germany. Parishioners and priests alike were slaughtered, down to almost the last man.
The motive seemed obvious – there’s a gold sarcophagus in the cathedral, worth millions, and it was the goal of the assassins. What doesn’t make sense is why they chose to go after it when the place was packed. It would’ve been a much easier heist if they had waited until no one was at the church.
It was even stranger when the robbers/killers didn’t even try to carry off the sarcophagus. They just opened it up and stole its contents – a few ancient bones. Tradition says they were from the three wise men that journeyed to visit the Christ child in the Bible. It’s a quaint legend, but probably fiction. How in the heck would you track down those wise men, let alone stick around until they died and then make off with a couple of their bones? Most likely these relics are medieval forgeries.
But then why would somebody be willing to kill hundreds of people just to steal them?
What’s To Like...
The action in Map Of Bones begins immediately (there’s a Prologue), and continues non-stop until the final page. There are two sets of bad guys (The Guild and the Dragon Court) and two sets of good guys (the Vatican and our Sigma Force heroes), but the lines of trust and loyalty among those four groups can best be described as “fluid”.
Based on previous books, I thought Sigma Force was just a special-ops unit, but apparently they are picked for their assorted technological and scientific backgrounds. Indeed, science plays a prominent part here – weird things like superconductors, Meissner fields, and m-state elements.
The puzzle-solving has a decidedly historical flavor to it, with special emphasis on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. So if you like topics such as Alexander the Great, the Library at Alexandria, Sphinxes, and the Magi, you’re in for a treat. Even one of my personal historical heroes, Eratosthenes, gets a brief mention. If history isn’t your shtick, no problem. The underground city in Seattle gets cited (there really is such a thing), as do the music groups Godsmack and the Pixies.
The settings are great – Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, and Egypt, and they had the “feel” of James Rollins spending time in each place to make them realistic to readers and locals alike. Rollins throws in some snippets of foreign languages here and there – French, German, Latin, Italian and Portuguese, and I always like that. My Gnostics get some major ink here, and I like that they were evenly presented as the early opposition to the Orthodox Church. Most authors make it a good-vs-evil sort of thing, favoring one side or the other. Here, both theological stances are presented as having their pluses and minuses.
There are a bunch of plot twists to keep you on your toes. Have fun trying to guess who the Imperator is. I bet you’ll guess wrong. Hey, so did I. Everything builds to a great climactic showdown. Some good guys and bad guys die; some of each also get away.
There is some cussing and adult situation, and of course, lots of violence. If this offends you, you’re reading the wrong genre. There’s also a smidgen of Romance here, but not enough to frighten away the male readers. Map Of Bones is a standalone novel, as well as part of a series. It was also surprisingly quick-reading, which was a plus for its 700+-page length.
Kewlest New Word ...
Corbeled (v.) : (something) supported by a projection jutting out from a wall (i.e., a corbel).
Map Of Bones sells for $3.99 at Amazon. The other Sigma Force e-books are in the $2.99-$9.99 range, but if you have patience, you will find some of the older ones occasionally discounted to $1.99. Rollins’s non-Sigma-Force novels are similarly priced. All in all, I find his e-book rates quite reasonable.
Gray remembered her eyes upon him and her dark curiosity. But he also remembered Painter’s earlier warning about her. It must have been plain on his face.
“Yes, I am going to betray you,” Seichan had said plainly as she pulled on her shirt. “But only after this is over. You will attempt the same. We both know this. Mutual distrust. Is there a better form of honesty?” (loc. 6161)
She heard a satisfying grunt and the clatter of a gun to stone. Something heavy followed with a thud.
Rolling across the floor, she reached Vigor. The monsignor crouched near the top of the firepit tunnel. She handed him her gun. “Down,” she ordered. “Shoot anybody that comes into view.”
“What about you?”
“No, don’t shoot me.”
“I mean where are you going?” (loc. 7252)
Why steal the bones of the Magi? (loc. 301)
The negatives are minor. Parts of Map Of Bones are a bit over-the-top. Meissner fields and m-state elements are real (Wiki them), but levitation is not. You will find the puzzles indecipherable here, but our plucky heroes solve each one in no time flat. And every time someone points a gun at Grayson Pierce’s head, you just know something will go awry for the baddies.
Still, this is like quibbling over the action details in an Indiana Jones movie. It may be over-the-top, but good golly, Miz Molly, it sure is entertaining.
This was my fifth James Rollins novel, and my third of his Sigma Force series. Three more are sitting on my Kindle, waiting to be read. James Rollins is gradually replacing Steve Berry as my favorite historical-themed action-thriller author.
8½ Stars. The midnight High Mass scene brought back memories of my freshman year in college,, when my RA was a priest-in-training. He would occasionally take part in the service, usually sprinkling the incense around. We freshmen usually had nothing better to do – we were required to live in dorms and forbidden to have cars.. So we would sometimes attend the service, albeit generally in an inebriated state.
If you’ve never attending a High Mass, I highly recommend the experience, no matter what your religious views are. Just remember to be respectful, and if you’re not a Catholic (and I’m not), do NOT partake of the wafers and wine. Who knows, it could be a matter of life and death.