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My reading list is quite eclectic and goes the full spectrum from fantasy to horror right through to the current vogue of Scandinavian set novels. Lately though I have been reading a lot of conspiracy books which seem to have some sort of secret society hell bent on either world domination or Armageddon. Most of these books are usually some sort of Dan Brown clone where there is an ancient secret usually involving the life of Jesus which if the secret ever gets out will destroy the Catholic Church etc. etc. For something with a secret society which is a little bit different I decided to re-read all of James Rollin's Sigma force books which I already have on my kindle.
Map of Bones is book two in the Sigma force series of books and probably my favourite one out of the series. Ironically even though I am sick to the back teeth of books which involve the Catholic Church this book does involve the Vatican but it is less derivative than the rest of the secret society conspiracy books out there.
The plot involves an attack on Cologne Cathedral where a masked gang attack a midnight mass killing the parishioners in a strange unknown way whilst stealing the Cathedrals greatest treasure The Bones of The Magi. The Vatican wanting to recover one of their greatest treasures and nervous that terrorists are plotting to attack other churches call in the help of the Sigma Team. Working alongside them is an agent from the Vatican and a female officer in the Italian police who specialises in recovering stolen historical treasures.
The plot like all the Sigma books takes in locations all over the world and introduces much more information about the Dragon Court secret society who are a feature in all the Sigma books whilst trying to stop them from unleashing the strange powers that the Bones of The Magi seem to possess that could threaten to destroy the world.
Although this is book two in the series new readers could jump straight into this book and bypass the first book as there is nary a mention of that book in this one and it could easily be read as a standalone book. However this would deprive readers of getting into the whole story and they would miss out on vital clues which will become apparent in later books.
The reason I enjoyed this book the most out of the Sigma series is purely because I found the mission in this one to be the most enjoyable to read. There are some amazing set pieces and to be honest whilst reading this I could picture exactly how it would look as a big budget Hollywood movie which I am sure was the writer's intention. It is fast paced enough to hold the interest of even the most fickle reader and whilst it is definitely pulp fiction it is pulp fiction at its finest and although it will never win any awards for being great literature Rollins writes better than most of his contemporaries in this particular field of novel.
The plot may seem similar in style to a thousand other Dan Brown clones but what makes this stand out is the combination of mysticism and adventure and you could easily take out any mention of secret societies and end of the world Armageddon and still be left with a hugely enjoyable book in the vein of the Bourne books just a lot more fun.
The thing about reading a series of books that I enjoy is that you get to know the characters and whilst the character development in this book isn't the best the core caste of the whole series is quite small so you actually get to feel as though you know them better by the time the book is finished. Even the romantic sub plot which is an almost requirement of these types of books held my interest and I found myself hoping to see them together in later books.
The book is peppered with interesting little facts such as the fact that every Catholic alter in the world must contain a piece of a saint in it. Being a bit of a geek I love these little factoids and the mix of history and modern science really works well here, the book never felt jarring trying to mix its historical sub plots in with the Sigma team who are an ultra-modern group of elite soldiers with scientific specialities.
If Mr Rollins decides on a new direction then he should definitely think of pursuing a career as a travel writer as the this book like his others is set all over the world with much of it being in Europe. I have visited some of the places described in the book and I really got a sense of being there again and with the places I hadn't visited I also got a sense of what they looked like and this to be is the mark of a good writer making it much easier to visualise what was on the page.
Map of Bones is a fantastic book. It has thrills and spills galore but it also has enough intellect in it to not make it feel as though you are reading some mindless airport novel. I would highly recommend that you start with Sandstorm which is book one in the Sigma series just so that you can get a feel for Rollins writing style but book two is really where the action and intrigue is really ramped up and feels like a more appropriate start to the Sigma adventures that follow it.
As I said I already have the whole series on my kindle but Map of Bones is available on Amazon for £5.29 for the paperback and £4.49 for the kindle edition and in my opinion it is well worth buying as to me at least it has everything you could ask for in a novel of this type.