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The Bone Labyrinth
by James Rollins
William Morrow, $27.99, 462pp
Published: December 2015

James Rollins is my new thrill pleasure.  He writes fantastic thrillers with a depth and breadth that is so satisfying.  He also wrote the tie-in book “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

In his latest story, from the Sigma Force series, he focuses on a secondary character – Joe Kowalski.  Joe is tasked with a very different assignment, one that no one expects to be very exciting or dangerous:  sign interpreting for a young male gorilla.  But this is no ordinary gorilla; he is the result of a very special breeding program using ancient DNA.  His handlers, geneticist twins, find themselves on very dangerous ground.  Maria loves her charge, Baako, dearly; even as a son; while she still harbors doubts about the morality of what she has created in her lab.  Her sister Lena is on an expedition in Croatia to see a singular cave and give her expert opinion on the astounding artifacts when the expedition is brutally attacked.  Lena, with a couple companions who also escape, wanders through a labyrinth of caves reeling with the information they have just discovered.

Meanwhile, Sigma Force has been alerted and dispatched a team to find Lena and another to secure Maria and Baako.  Unfortunately, they meet with mixed success.  Maria, Baako and Joe are captured by the Chinese and it’s pretty much up to them to survive and escape from the center of Beijing and a horrific fate. The Chinese, you see, have their own breeding program and their goals were quite different.

The story also veers off into the fantastic when Lena embarks on another expedition – to South America – on the trail of a 17th-century Jesuit scholar who may have found the most significant ancient human skeleton, ever, and to find an explanation for the astounding crypt she found in Croatia.

I love this sort of story; full of adventure, romance, love, terror, action…what did I miss?  Oh, yes – mystery, too.  There’s little A-Team-type heroics since the story focuses strongly on the twins and Joe’s developing relationship with Baako and Maria.  The author also spends a lot of time and energy involving us in the mystery of human origins - something that scientists are still guessing at. There were a couple of revelations that he stated is relatively new information in the field that amazed me.  There was also some wonderful pulling-the-rabbit-out-of-the-hat theatrics involving small ancient mysteries and math to explain our origins with some of the most astounding theories I’ve ever heard.  It was great fun.

Rollins is a very competent writer and a great storyteller.  His plot rockets along smoothly; his characters are well-developed with clear voices.  I really can’t think of a reason for anyone not to read him.  ~~  Catherine Book

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