The Bone Labyrinth | James Rollins | 2015 (ebook), print (2016) | William Morrow | 501p | Bought copy | Buy the book
A new Sigma thriller by James Rollins is a big thing in my world and this week, when The Bone Labyrinth came into being, I made sure that I stayed up to midnight to download the ebook at the first available second. Anything else being read at the time kindly volunteered to take a step aside to let me enjoy a guilt-free binge read. The Bone Labyrinth is the eleventh in the series and it is one of those additions that stands fully alone. It also in some ways reminded me of early Rollins thrillers, such as Excavation and Subterranean, with its move away from global conspiracies and disaster to focus on one particular mystery. In other words, The Bone Labyrinth is a great thriller, for those who have enjoyed the Sigma series as well as for other readers who are ready to welcome a new thriller writer into their lives.
Twin sisters Lena and Maria Crandall are investigating the origins of the human species and the development of cognition. While Maria works with an extraordinary young gorilla called Baako in a well-funded lab in Atlanta, Lena, is happier in the field. She is part of an expedition to Croatia where caves have been found that are full of the most incredible wonders from humanity’s distant past. But the expedition is not the first to marvel at them. A 17th-century priest, Father Athanasius, sent his own team, men who even built a church inside the cavern within which to revere the ancient bones. But before Lena and the others can record the find they are attacked by a deadly force from China. Meanwhile, the lab in Atlanta is also attacked, with Maria and Baako stolen.
The Sigma organisation has an invested interest in the Crandall sisters’ work and they are immediately stirred into action, with split teams following each sister while another chases the mystery, across Europe and into South America. The thriller moves between the stories with the pace of a runaway train and it was all I could do to hang on while relishing the fact that this is a long book and I could enjoy a good long wallow in it.
As this is a thriller that depends on a multitude of cliffhangers, I’m not going to say anything more about the plot. James Rollins is a thriller writer at the height of his powers and so a reader has some idea of what to expect. But I will mention, as it does on the cover, that there will be Atlantis, there will be talk of Neil Armstrong and the Moon, there will be jaw-dropping discoveries.
We learn little more about the Sigma team in The Bone Labyrinth but one member shines here – Joe Kowalski. His relationship with Baako the gorilla is quite possibly the most special element of this novel and I’m not ashamed to admit that it made me laugh and cry. James Rollins’ love of animals always radiates from his novels and this reaches its heights in The Bone Labyrinth.
The Bone Labyrinth is a mystery thriller, it’s not history and it’s not science. I go into these novels with my imagination wide open and my sense of disbelief button turned off. There is a fair bit here – in the novel and in the opening history/science sections – that I disagreed with and, in a different context, would have enjoyed arguing against. But this did not matter a jot. I read these thrillers for pure entertainment, nothing more, nothing less, and I was almost completely satisfied. The only issues I had with the book is that there were one or two threads kept loose and a whole strand of the story I was expecting to learn more about that was left undeveloped. It had a slight feel that it was a part one of two. Perhaps there are ideas here that the series will return to later on.
The last novel in the series, The 6th Extinction, was in my opinion the weakest in the series. I’m delighted to say that The Bone Labyrinth was for me a return to form and I thoroughly enjoyed every page.