One-Minute Book Reviews

August 13, 2009

James Rollins’s ‘The Doomsday Key’ – Blarney About Celtic Myths and More

An elite military unit has to grapple with codes and ciphers to find an antidote to a bioweapon

The Doomsday Key: A Novel (Sigma Force Novels). By James Rollins. Morrow, 448 pp., $27.99.

By Janice Harayda

What if the ancient Egyptians had brought to the British Isles the antidote to a deadly fungus that was threatening to wipe out the world in the 21st century? And what if their knowledge had passed to the Celts and early Christians, who left clues to the remedy in codes, symbols or conspiracies that involve the Vatican, a U.S. Senator, and shadowy global terrorist group called the Guild?

These questions underlie James Rollins’s latest technothrilller, a book that shows that you can write better than Tom Clancy and still serve up blarney. Rollins doesn’t trade in Clancy’s jingoism and alphabet-soup of acronyms, and he shows more respect for the English language than many authors who have left their mark on this paranoid genre.

But he has his own problems in his sixth novel about Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma Force, a fictitious unit of the U.S. Department of Defense. Rollins allows a subplot about genetically modified foods to sputter out about 75 pages before the end, which slows the pace and works against satisfying resolution to the plot. He gives the same emotional weight to so many events – a firefight, a reunion between ex-lovers, an avalanche above the Arctic Circle – that you can’t feel all you should for any of them. And only a conspiracy theorist or the most ardent fan of The Da Vinci Code might love his mishmash of real or historical figures, places or objects: Merlin, druids, Stonehenge, Celtic crosses, Queen Nefertiti, the Domesday Book, the Knights Templar, Saint Malachy, Princeton University, the Abbey of Clairvaux, Pope Benedict XVI and more. A few of these might have been intriguing. As it, when an off-kilter Freemasonry symbol appears near the end, you wonder: Will a reference to the Kennedy assassination be next?

Best line: “In Israel, botanists grew a date palm from a seed that was over two thousand years old.”

Worst line: No. 1: “Her methods were brutal – like murdering the Venetian curator – but who was he to judge? He had not walked in her shoes.” No. 2: “So in other words, we’re looking for a bunch of pissed-off Druids.” No. 3: “Her apartment was on the third floor. Though small, she did have a nice view of the Coliseum from her balcony.”

Editor: Lyssa Keusch

Listen to an audio excerpt from The Doomsday Key.

Published: June 2009

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

February 18, 2008

Is This ‘Da Vinci Code’ Acolyte a Delete Key Awards Candidate?

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,Mysteries and Thrillers,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:36 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

What kind of writing might qualify for one of the Delete Key Awards, given to authors who don’t use their delete keys enough? Bill Peschel over at Reader’s Almanac nails it with his suggestion of D. L. Wilson’s Unholy Grail, a Da Vinci Code acolyte that involves a manuscript said to be written by Jesus’ brother, James, and includes characters such as rogue priest who is killing others around the world and marking their bodies with stigmata.

This paperback original might seem like small potatoes compared with Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach (longlisted for a “Bad Sex” in fiction award) and Steve Martin and Roz Chast’s The Alphabet From A to Y, a book for roughly 2-to-4-year-olds that sends the message that kids are never too young to make fun of people with disabilities. But Bill noted that Unholy Grail “fights above its weight with its combination of subject matter, timeliness and powerfully bad writing.”

Here are three of my favorite Delete Key contenders from this religious thriller, chosen from a rich list that Bill sent:

“For two thousand years, Christianity’s held up pretty darn well.”

“’Here’s the kicker, Charlie,’ Carlota sank into her chair and let out a sigh. ‘Professor Hamar’s husband felt so much guilt over contributing to the disease that killed their son that he committed suicide.’ Charlie smacked his hands to his head so hard he knocked his cap off.”

“A uniformed task force had been sent to the Hotel Royal and, thank God, there was no dead priest in any of the rooms.”

You can find a review of Unholy Grail on Bill Peschel’s site www.planetpeschel.com/index?/reviews/bookreview/the_jesus_and_mary_chain/ and a blurb for it from Clive Cussler (“a tale rich with intrigue”) on D.L. Wilson’s www.dlwilsonbooks.com.To find out if the novel it made Delete Key Award shortlist, check back on Feb. 29, when One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists for this year’s prizes.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

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