Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Doomsday Key

The Doomsday Key by James Rollins
HarperCollins, 2009
Hardcover, 448 pages
Sigma Force Series #6
ISBN-13: 9780061231407
very highly recommended

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. The three murders on three continents bear a horrifying connection: all the victims are marked by a Druidic pagan cross burned into their flesh.
The bizarre murders thrust Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma Force into a race against time to solve a riddle going back centuries, to a ghastly crime against humanity hidden within a cryptic medieval codex.
Aided by two women from his past - one his ex-lover, the other his new partner - Gray must piece together the horrifying truth. But the revelations come at a high cost, and to save the future, Gray will have to sacrifice one of the women at his side.
That alone might not be enough, as the true path to salvation is revealed in a dark prophecy of doom...

My Thoughts:

In The Doomsday Key, the sixth book in James Rollins' Sigma Force series, three bodies are discovered on three continents. All three were murdered under mysterious circumstances and are marked with the pagan symbol of a cross within a circle. The Sigma force becomes involved and the action-packed mystery takes members to Rome, and across England, Norway, and France as they try to unravel clues while narrowly escaping the bad guys.

I thoroughly enjoyed this addition to the series. Rollins did an excellent job blending together historical references and theories with modern research and development. He includes background information at the beginning and, after you have read the book, he has an author's notes section at the end that is not to be missed. But, the main pleasure of this fast paced book is the non-stop action, adventure, and narrow escapes the main characters endure while trying to solve the mystery.

I need to point out to readers who have never read Rollins that the Sigma Force series is better appreciated if you read the books in order. The character development and background is ongoing. By the time you have reached the sixth novel in a series, most fans are well acquainted with the main characters. Rollins has several stand alone action/adventure novels that I would very highly recommend.

However, if you are simply looking for escapism with an action/adventure novel and don't care about character development or background, then you can certainly enjoy The Doomsday Key without reading the rest of the books in the Sigma Force series. If you like it though, you'll want to read them anyway.
Very Highly Recommended, especially for fans


Spring, 1086; England
The ravens were the first sign.
As the horse-drawn wagon traveled down the rutted track between rolling fields of barley, a flock of ravens rose up in a black wash. They hurled themselves into the blue of the morning and swept high in a panicked rout, but this was more than the usual startled flight. The ravens wheeled and swooped, tumbled and flapped. Over the road, they crashed into each other and rained down out of the skies. Small bodies struck the road, breaking wing and beak. They twitched in the ruts. Wings fluttered weakly.
But most disturbing was the silence of it all. opening

Some grew to suspect there was another reason for such a grand survey of all the lands. They compared the book to the Bible’s description of the Last Judgment, where God kept an accounting of all mankind’s deeds in the Book of Life. Whispers and rumors began calling the result of this great survey the Doomsday Book.
These last were closer to the truth than anyone suspected. pg. 2

Martin stared at the gutted boy. Here was the secret reason the survey had been undertaken to begin with. To search for this blight on their homelands, to stamp it out before it spread. The deaths were the same on that lonely island. The deceased appeared to eat and eat, yet they still starved to death, finding no nourishment, only a continual wasting. pg. 6

Present Day:
Not knowing what else to do, Marco simply fled, staying low. He knew he would most likely die, but the secret he held was more important than his own life. He had to survive long enough to reach the far exit, find one of the patrolling Swiss Guards, and get word to the Holy See. pg. 9

Back in the twelfth century, an Irish saint named Malachy had a vision of all the popes from his century to the end of the world. According to his vision, there would be 112 popes in total. He described each with a short cryptic phrase. In the case of Urban VIII—who was born five centuries after Malachy’s death—the pope was named “the lily and the rose.” And like all such prophecies, the description proved accurate. Pope Urban VIII had been born in Florence, whose coat of arms was the red lily.
But what was most disturbing of all was that the current pope was next-to-last on St. Malachy’s list. According to the prophecy, the next leader of the Church would be the one to see the world end.
Marco had never believed such fancies before—but with his fingers clutched tight to the tiny leather satchel, he wondered how close they truly were to Armageddon.
Footsteps warned Marco. One of the assassins was closing in. He had only enough time for one move. pg. 11

His relief matched hers—until she lifted a pistol and fired three times into his chest. The shots felt like punches, knocking him backward to the floor. Fiery pain followed, turning the night even darker. Distantly he heard gunfire, explosions, and more screams. pg. 21

A new noise intruded.
The roar of a motorcycle, coming up fast.
Gray sat straighter. Down the road, his target had swung around and was barreling back toward him. pg. 25

On the screen shone a digital map. It traced a crooked red line from Thailand to Italy.
The path of the assassin ended in Venice.
Sigma had been tracking her for over a year. Her location was marked by a small red triangle on a computer monitor. It glowed in the middle of a satellite map of Venice. Buildings, crooked streets, and winding canals were depicted in precise grayscale detail, down to the tiny gondolas frozen in place, capturing a moment in time. pg. 27-28

A sense of foreboding jangled through him.
Something was wrong with this whole situation. He sensed a storm brewing out there, but Gray didn’t know which way the winds were blowing. He knew only one thing for certain.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” he promised Rachel. pg. 32


Literary Feline said...

My parents love this series but I have yet to try it. It sounds like a good series. I'm sure I have the first book around here somewhere. I'll have to dig it out.

Lori L said...

If you like action/adventure novels, Wendy, I would also very highly recommend some of his earlier stand alone novels. Of course, if you have the first book of the Sigma series somewhere then you can try it if the mood strikes. I started reading Rollins years ago so I've managed to keep up with the series.