2016; 425 pages. Book #12 (out of 12, but #13 is due out in December) in the Sigma Force series. New Author? : No. Genre : Action-Thriller; Save-the-World (several times over). Overall Rating : 8½*/10.
After two years of being missing and presumed dead, Professor Harold McCabe, an archaeologist with an obsession with Moses and the ten plagues, has suddenly wandered out of the Sudanese desert and back into civilization.
Well, “civilization” was in this case a small village on the edge of the desert, and Professor McCabe was at death’s door when the villagers found him. They cared for him as best they could, but he died soon afterward. His body was then shipped to Cairo and that’s when things turn strange.
For starters, the cadaver is showing signs of partial mummification. Even weirder is that the process appears to have been initiated by Professor McCabe himself. Why in the world would he do such a thing?
Then comes the final surprise. The opening of the body is suspected of triggering some sort of outbreak of a lethal and unknown disease. Everyone on the Egyptian forensics team who's been exposed to Professor McCabe's body is falling victim to some sort of virus, and a majority of them are dying from it.
You could almost call it a plague.
What’s To Like...
The Seventh Plague is your typical James Rollins “Sigma Force” tale. The action starts right away and really never lets up. All your favorite Sigma Force peeps are here, plus some cameo appearances in one of the prologues by Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, and Stanley, he of the famous “Dr. Livingstone, I presume": quote. The settings are great, and run a climatic gamut: cold and wet England, cold and dry northern Canada (Ellesmere Island, and when's the last time you read a book with that setting?), hot and dry Sahara desert, and hot and wet Rwandan jungle.
I liked the clever blend of religion with science, even if it did strain the limits of my believability at times. And FWIW, the titular “Seventh Plague” is not of any particularly greater importance than the other nine; James Rollins attempts to explain all ten of them via naturally-occurring phenomena. Michael Crichton would be proud.
There are a bunch of neat drawings in the book; those were an unexpected treat and help the reader with the puzzle-solving. The self-mummification is a nice twist, and I enjoyed the “elephant painters”. Overall, The Seventh Plague felt more “sciency” than usual for a Sigma Force novel, and that’s a plus for me.
The baddies aren’t exactly “gray”, but neither are any of them pitch black. All of the main ones have a redeeming quality or two, and some of them live to fight another day.
Everything builds to an exciting, if somewhat un-twisty, two-location ending, I liked the accompanying double (or even triple) epilogue(s) as well. And the “Truth or Fiction” afterword by James Rollins is way-kewl. This is a standalone novel, as well as part of a series
“If nothing else,” she said, “I could use a tall pint. Maybe two. To help settle the nerves.”
She offered him a small smile, which he matched.
“Since it’s for medicinal purposes,” he said, “the first round’s on me. I am a doctor after all.”
She looked askance at him. “Of archaeology.”
“Of bio-archaeology,” he reminded her. “That’s almost as good as a medical doctor.” (pg. 46)
“Which path do we take? Esophagus or trachea?”
Derek shifted his beam to the damaged left tonsil. “It looks like there was more traffic in and out of the airway.” He pointed out the evident trampling in the trachea compared to the esophagus. “So I say we ignore Robert Frost and take the road most traveled.”
Gray nodded. “Let’s move out.”
Only Kowalski seemed disgruntled by this decision. ”Yeah, let’s go deeper into the belly of a demon-wrestling god. How could that possibly go wrong?” (pg. 201)
“Elephants didn’t build this. … I don’t care how good they are at tool use.” (pg. 341)
There are a couple quibbles. Once again, the puzzles to be solved are incredible abstruse, but our Mensa-minded heroes seem to easily cut through them. I kept rolling my eyes each time they sussed out another conundrum, but it has to be said, it’s entertaining as all get out.
Ditto for the ending. It’s very exciting, yet somewhat predictable. I mean, really now, what do you expect will happen when you have a herd of wild elephants standing around, at your beck and call?
But I pick at nits. James Rollins writes action-thrillers, not police procedurals. The Seventh Plague delivers exactly what one expects from Rollins, and there's no indication that he’s getting tired of researching and writing these Sigma Force novels. That means I’ll be on the look-out for the next one in the series, The Demon Crown, due out on December 5th.
8½ Stars. Subtract ½ Star if you’re the type of reader who just has to solve the puzzles in books like this before the heroes do. You won’t.