James Rollins is one of those authors that I return to time after time; his novel Subterranean has the distinction of being the first eBook I ever read while, in those days when books would add ballast to my suitcase, I wouldn’t travel abroad without a Rollins thriller for holiday company. It was a pleasure then to snap up the latest novel, The Devil Colony, when it was published during the aftermath of Christmas when there is little better to do than to recline with a good, easy read and digest calories and units of alcohol.
The Devil Colony continues the adventures of the Sigma force, an American top level military and intelligence agency that has been responsible for saving the United States and the world on more than one occasion despite the infiltration of a succession of megalomaniacs. This time, Sigma’s director Painter Crowe receives a distress call from his niece Kai, who has just found herself at the centre of a storm. An anthropologist has been burned to a cinder while opening a cave full of Native American mummies and gold in front of the cameras in Utah. Kai, who has become involved with a group of extreme Native American freedom fighters and was there to create an incident, is held responsible. When she flees, she is pursued and shot at.
When Painter Crowe and his team arrive, it becomes clear that something astonishing was responsible for the incineration of the anthropologist, something that is having a devastating impact on the earth itself and spreading with an irresistible power. This threat to the world is understood by the guardians of the cave and their descendants, who would do anything to keep the secret safe, not least smother it with curses. As one would expect, where there are precious metals and mysterious deadly weapons, there are also bad guys. And so, as Crowe and the others follow the trail of clues, we enter the world of conspiracy theories surrounding the origins of America’s first inhabitants and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
I must admit to not having read all of the Sigma novels, nevertheless this did not matter at all. I might not know the back history of all of the characters or the full story behind the Sigma organisation, but this had no impact on my enjoyment of a novel that stands very well as a standalone thriller. It would be difficult for more action to be contained within the pages of The Devil Colony. While an element of suspension of disbelief is required it’s no difficult task when the reward is a well-written thriller full to the brim with explosions, archaeological mysteries, geographical wonders, volcanic lava tubes, Native American legends, political conspiracy and more. A fast, exhilarating and thoroughly entertaining, escapist read, just as you would hope and expect from a writer who knows exactly what he’s doing and delivers just what he promises.