Map of Bones (2005) – James Rollins

James Rollins second novel in his Sigma Force series continues the highly enjoyable combination of science, mythology, history and high adventure. This time, Sigma Force’s Grey Pierce is assigned with his team to investigate a massacre at a church in Germany, and the subsequent theft of ancient Catholic relics.

Relics that have some strange properties, and could lead Pierce, and his enemies, a shadowy organisation known as The Dragon’s Court, aided by Sigma Force’s nemesis The Guild, are on a globe-trotting adventure that takes them around the Mediterranean, following an ancient path, with a journey tied to the legendary magi, and the possibility of long forgotten, and powerful, ancient knowledge.

Tied in with that is the science of M-state metals, the mystery of manna, super-conductivity, and what those metals can be used for, and are being developed to do.

It’s a fast-paced novel filled with action sequences, betrayals, turnabouts, chases, gunfights, revelations and discoveries, and they end up being a helluva read. While it took me a little while to get into this one, mainly because I was eager to figure out what the mystery of the magi was, and where it would lead.

We travel from Germany to the Vatican, Egypt and further afield to Switzerland and on to France, as the chase leads the Pierce and his team to the lost tomb of Alexander the Great, and a re-discovered ancient library. There are revelations about a secret church inside the Catholic church, lost gospels, and a life-changing mystery.

It’s a great read, and I am truly getting into Rollins story-telling style, and I love the way he combines actual science and the ancient past. He ties all of the threads together, weaving together a believable and cohesive presentation of the past, but put together in a new way. He develops his characters, and while some of them could be nothing more than cardboard cutouts, he does his best to layer them out, and give each of them their distinctive personalities and moments.

The villains are a real menace, and their threats and the way they deliver on them, is terrifying, but Pierce and his team will have to be more than their equal, even with the possibility of the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Rollins keeps the moments coming, occasionally hides things from the reader to up the narrative a bit, but there’s never any thing that could be defined as a cheat. It works, and it thrills, and the sense of continuity Rollin has already created with two novels must this a world I enjoy visiting, and discovering along with the heroes.

And it’s a great ride… which means I’m ready to sign up for the next adventure…Black Order.

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