William Morrow | 2016 | 448p | Bought copy | Buy the book
Every year I look forward to the next instalment of the Sigma series by James Rollins, one of the best authors of action thrillers writing today. I gobble these books up the moment the moment they become available and this year’s The Seventh Plague, the twelfth in the series, was no different – I stayed up until midnight to download the kindle version the instant it was published.
As usual with the Sigma thrillers, The Seventh Plague has a historical mystery at its heart and this time it can be traced back to ancient Egypt and its biblical plagues. Archaeologist Professor Harold McCabe disappears, along with his son Rory, while exploring in the deserts of Sudan. Two years later the professor stumbles out of the desert but he dies before help can be sought. Pathologists in Cairo discover that McCabe’s body had been partially mummified – while he was still alive. His colleague Safia calls old friend Painter Crowe to ask for his help. Fortunately for her, Painter is now Director of Sigma Force and, when he watches Safia being abducted before his eyes during a video call, he will stop at nothing to save her and explain the mystery behind Harold McCabe’s extraordinary and gruesome death.
Painter isn’t going to stay in the office for this one. He sends out his troops – old favourites Gray, Kat, Monk, Seichan and Kowalski – in different directions to chase the clues and the trail takes them to Sudan but also to a sinister technological complex in the Arctic. It soon becomes clear that the mystery they’re pursuing has its roots in ancient times and, intriguingly, in a more recent period of history, when Livingstone and Stanley explored the heart of Africa. All intertwine in this chase and all the time the clock ticks down to a cataclysmic event, even more devastating than that faced by ancient Egypt when smitten by the plagues of God.
The Seventh Plague is the twelfth in the Sigma series and, as can be said for several long-running series of books, they’re not all going to be as good as the best. That would be too tall an order, I think. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this is one of the weaker novels of the twelve.
There are lots of things that I love about it – the characters, whom I adore; James Rollins’ love of animals which constantly shines through and here we have more animal characters who steal attention; the sense of place and of history. The locations are wonderful and so too is the background story of the plague, in ancient Egypt and in Victorian England and Africa. The action sequences, as normal, are second to none.
The main problem, though, is that, while I’m perfectly willing and able to suspend my powers of disbelief in a thriller, I struggled with The Seventh Plague. I don’t want to go into details as that would give too much away but its ideas and its discoveries were just too implausible for me to accept and these unbelievable elements followed thick and fast. I also felt that the novel suffered from following too much of a formula familiar from the other Sigma novels. I think effort has been made to create a more interesting villain but this was overshadowed and my attention did flag.
I set high standards for this, one of the finest thriller series there is, and so that can make me extra critical. The Seventh Plague is still a good, solid thriller which I was so glad to read and, as I always do and I always will, I count the days to the next.
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With Rebecca Cantrell – Innocent Blood (The Order of the Sanguines 2)
With Rebecca Cantrell – Blood Infernal (The Order of the Sanguines 3)