We’re three weeks away from the release of The Eye of God, by James Rollins, and I’m marking the countdown with reviews of all the previous Sigma Force novels.
This is the sixth book in a series. This review DOES contain spoilers for previous books. If you don’t want to read anything about the first five books in the series, you can skip to the bold text near the end for my spoiler-free closing thoughts.
The Doomsday Key, by James Rollins
#6 in the Sigma Force series
William Morrow, June 2009
431 pages (hardcover)
At Princeton University, a famed geneticist dies inside a biohazard lab. In Rome, a Vatican archaeologist is found dead in St. Peter’s Basilica. In Africa, a U.S. senator’s son is slain outside a Red Cross camp.
Three murder victims on three continents, linked by a pagan Druidic cross burned into their flesh.
Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma Force have only days to solve an apocalyptic puzzle dating back centuries. Aided by two women from his past — one his ex-lover, the other his new partner — Gray must uncover a horrifying secret that threatens America and the world, even if it means sacrificing the life of one of the women at his side. The race is on — from the Roman Coliseum to the icy peaks of Norway to the lost tombs of Celtic kings — and the future hangs in the balance. For humankind’s ultimate nightmare is locked within a talisman buried by a dead saint — an ancient artifact known as… The Doomsday Key.
It almost feels like there’s a series within the Sigma series, and this story is a continuation of Map of Bones and The Judas Strain. Once again, Gray is forced to work with Seichan, and this time Rachel is along as well. This triangle is extremely fun to watch, mostly because it’s not actually a love triangle. Gray and Seichan may have an interesting relationship, but it’s not romantic by any means. Gray and Rachel had a serious (if strained) relationship for a year before breaking it off solely because of the distance. The unlikely pair of women actually seem more comfortable with each other than either is with Gray… at least at first. The shifting dynamics make for some entertaining reading.
But of course all this is supplemental to the main plot. The rest involves a collision of past and present, as most of Rollins’s novels do. In this case, a mysterious thousand-year-old pestilence has resurfaced, and it’s up to Gray to connect the dots before it’s too late. Meanwhile, Painter leads his own investigation into the current events, finding the connection between the three international murders.
As one would assume, there’s plenty of action and several close calls along the way. And despite the fact that he’s supposed to have a desk job, I do love seeing Painter out in the field.
(spoiler-free from here to the end)
I knew I couldn’t keep these reviews spoiler-free forever, and unfortunately the main thing that makes this one so great is exactly what makes it hard to review without giving things away.
While the story itself does stand on its own, I’d caution against starting with this book; not only will you spoil yourself on past books, but (unlike The Last Oracle) I honestly don’t think it would be as good without the background. Read the earlier books. Get to know the characters. Then come back to this one.
Next week: The Devil Colony.
Obviously the best books will do both, but in an ongoing series, what’s more important to you: keeping the stories fresh, or developing the character relationships?