The special-ops trained scientists of Sigma Force battle the criminals of the shadowy Guild in bestseller Rollins’s lively third Sigma Force thriller (after Black Order). An ancient and deadly plague, the Judas Strain (which afflicted Marco Polo), has suddenly re-emerged. Gray Pierce, a Sigma operative, and Seichan, a Guild defector, pursue clues to the nature of the plague to the Vatican, Istanbul (with a fine shootout in the Hagia Sophia mosque), Marco Polo’s tomb and, finally, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. Meanwhile, Guild members hijack a cruise ship full of plague victims (to provide experimental subjects for the weaponizing of the plague), and Gray’s parents are taken hostage (though the senior Grays prove feistier than their kidnappers reckon). Sophisticated the plot isn’t, but Rollins includes more than enough action and suspense to keep readers turning pages. 8-city author tour. (July)
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The crack, ultrasecret Sigma Force team returns in another adventure that, as usual, unfolds at breakneck speed. Sigma Force, made up of former Special Forces officers trained as experts in various scientific fields (“killer scientists,” one of their number calls them), scours the world for technologies that could help or threaten the U.S. This time the group’s mission involves a devastating bacteriological plague, a mysterious cryptogram that may predate humanity, and the deadly truth about what happened after Marco Polo’s expedition to China. After a handful of Sigma Force novels, Rollins has fine-tuned the formula to precision: characters rendered in broad strokes, punchy dialogue, short paragraphs that propel us headlong through the story. The novels are like prose versions of comic books, or lightly fleshed out movie treatments. But this is not a criticism, at least not completely. The books’ style perfectly matches their subject matter, and it’s impossible not to be swept up by their energy and excitement. Action/adventure fans unfamiliar with Rollins’ work should be emphatically urged to read this series. David Pitt
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