Altar of Eden, James Rollins (Morrow)


In this stand-alone thriller from the author of the Sigma Force novels, Dr. Lorna Polk, a researcher at a high-tech facility dedicated to preserving endangered species, teams up with a border patrol officer, Jack Menard, to track down the people responsible for a boatload of genetically modified animals found beached on a small island near the coast. The book is written with Rollins’ usual emphasis on history, cutting-edge science, and fast-paced adventure, and the villains are carefully drawn and supplied with sufficient intelligence and motivation to make them feel like real people—and not cardboard-cutout bad guys. The two leads make a good team—there’s a personal undercurrent to their relationship—and, as in all of Rollins’ books, there is a series of questions, puzzles, and mysteries to be sorted out before the book’s rousing conclusion. Readers who detect something different in this novel, a sense that the author is perhaps more personally invested in his story than usual, aren’t imagining things: Rollins is a practicing veterinarian, and his affection for animals comes through pretty clearly. A very good thriller and further proof (after his earlier stand-alones, not to mention his recent adaptation of the latest Indiana Jones movie) that Rollins is as sure-footed on new ground as he is in the familiar Sigma Force world.

This review originally appeared in Booklist, November 2009.


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