Sunday, August 1, 2010

Altar of Eden


Altar of Eden by James Rollins
HarperCollins Publishers, 2010
Hardcover, 398 pages
ISBN-13: 9780061231421
very highly recommended

Synopsis
Following the fall of Baghdad, two Iraqi boys stumble upon armed men looting the city zoo. The floodgates have been opened for the smuggling of hundreds of exotic birds, mammals, and reptiles to Western nations, but this crime hides a deeper secret. Amid a hail of bullets, a concealed underground weapons lab is ransacked—and something even more horrific is set free.
Seven years later, Louisiana state veterinarian Lorna Polk stumbles upon a fishing trawler shipwrecked on a barrier island. The crew is missing or dead, but the boat holds a frightening cargo: a caged group of exotic animals, clearly part of a black market smuggling ring.
Yet, something is wrong with these beasts, disturbing deformities that make no sense: a parrot with no feathers, a pair of Capuchin monkeys conjoined at the hip, a jaguar cub with the dentition of a saber-toothed tiger. They also all share one uncanny trait—a disturbingly heightened intelligence.
To uncover the truth about the origin of this strange cargo and the terrorist threat it poses, Lorna must team up with a man who shares a dark and bloody past with her and is now an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, Jack Menard
My Thoughts:

The perfect summer read - a stand alone thriller from James Rollins! While the sigma Forces novels are good, I always liked the earlier stand alone thrillers just a little bit more. Altar of Eden introduces us to Dr. Lorna Polk, a veterinarian with the New Orleans Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, or ACRES. She is called in to help Jack Menard, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, as he explores a case of smuggling of exotic animals, which quickly points to genetic engineering. Action goes from the bayous of Louisiana to an island in the Gulf. I don't want to give away any of the story, but suffice it to say there is plenty of action and gun fights. There is also a nice blend of real science and information used to tell the story. Rollins excels at writing a good action/adventure thriller.
Very Highly Recommended - great escapism for a long summer day

Quotes:

The two boys stood outside the lion's cage.
"I don't want to go inside," the smaller one said. He kept close to his older brother and clasped tightly to his hand. opening

He understood nothing about what had happened. He knew only one thing for certain. He remembered the beast's ravenous eyes, shining with a cunning intelligence, aglow with a smokeless fire.
Makeen knew what he had seen. The beast known as Shaitan in the Koran - he who was born of God's fire and cursed for not bowing down to Adam.
Makeen knew the truth.
At long last, the devil had come to Baghdad. pg. 7

Though associated with the city's zoo, ACRES was not open to the public. Sheltered within a hardwood forest, the grounds included a few outdoor pens, but the main facility was a thirty-six-thousand square-foot research building that housed a half-dozen laboratories and a veterinary hospital.
The latter was where Dr. Lorna Polk had worked since completing her postgraduate residency in zoo-and-wildlife medicine. She oversaw the facilities frozen zoo, twelve tanks of liquid nitrogen that preserved sperm, eggs, and embryos from hundreds of endangered species... pg. 12

According to her boss, the Border Patrol had been searching the area following last night's storm surge. It was common for smugglers to work under the cover of storms to bring in drugs, guns, even human cargo. Early this morning, a team had discovered a trawler beached on one of the outlying islands. After investigating the ship, they'd made a call to ACRES. pg. 16

"Dr. Polk," he said stiffly. His accent grew thicker, more husky. "I called you here because... because I didn't know who else had the expertise to offer guidance about what we found." pg. 20

He led her along a row of cages, shining his flashlight into the shadowy recesses. Each enclosure held a different animal, some familiar, some exotic. But like the monkeys, they all bore some twisted abnormality. pg. 24

"This cub is something more than just an oversized jaguar," Lorna warned.
"How so?"
She stood up, carrying the creature, and ducked out to join Jack. "This is the cub of a saber-toothed cat." pg. 30

2 comments:

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

This sounds intriguing -- I am way overdue for a thriller. :-) And I do enjoy books set in Iran.

http://laughingstars.net

Lori L said...

Only the very beginning is set in Iran - but don't let that fact stop you from reading it. Altar of Eden was a very fun, enjoyable thriller.