Fresh Meat: Bloodline by James Rollins

Bloodline by James Rollins is a Sigma Force novelBloodline by James Rollins is a global thriller about Sigma Force (available June 26, 2012).

When it’s Sigma Force, the first thing you need to know is that the canvas will be HUGE, potentially covering the entire world and often centuries. Projected across this giant space will be an unusual point of international history twined to a provocative bit of contemporary science.

I do appreciate that the author provides more information about these elements in extra notes with resources  for the curious autodidact. What he does with these bits of information, however, is to threaten the world-at-large with a horrific fate and a ticking clock, usually created by the urgent and violent attentions of shadowy, deep-pocketed global villains, often delightfully idiosyncratic ones at that.

Facing these and other impossible odds—and where would the fun be if the odds didn’t appear hopeless?—are the heroes and heroines of Sigma Force, a small, but incredibly efficient organization operating covertly under the auspices of DARPA. Sigma is well-funded, high-tech, all-access, and its military-trained members still manage to be caring and morally concerned. With all that’s usually going on (supervolcanoes and Himalayan Nazi time-warping weapons to mention previous threats), it’s only during pauses for breath that the series characters deal with their own issues, but these frequently involve the more everyday difficulties of having and being family.

Well, in this installment, matters of heritage are at the beating heart of every plot and subplot. You’ll flashback to a scene of a surprising Templar Knight in Galilee, 1025. You’ll be teased by opening quotes from assassinated presidents, and a vision of Sigma’s main man in the field, Commander Gray Pierce, getting ready to take a shot. As was hinted in the last novel, the current Oval Office-holder, James T. Gant, has a unique pedigree among well-connected and ancient families. This story’s crisis begins when Gant’s very pregnant daughter, Amanda, is kidnapped by Somali pirates who turn out to be hired guns for people with much darker intentions than simply collecting ransom. (Yes, that’s DNA on the book cover, you clever thing.) So that’s the family part, but now let me share with you another well-researched and very appealing new player in this novel.

Kane is a small black shepherd, a Belgian Malinois, who outranks his handler, as all military-trained war-service dogs do. It takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to train one (and you thought planes and hammers were expensive), but they can have vocabularies of a thousand words and a hundred hand gestures along with other skills in disciplined tracking, scenting, and even surveillance:

Tucker headed down a few meters until he discovered a gap between the fence and the sandy ground . . . He drew Kane there, then pointed to the gap, circled a finger, and touched his nose.

Crawl through, search for the target’s scent.

Tucker knew this was a task Kane could handle. Humans had 6 million olfactory receptors in their nose; hunting dogs had 300 million, which heightened their sense of smell a thousandfold, allowing them to scent a target from two football fields away.

At the end of the instructions, Tucker lowered his palm facedown, signaling Kane to stay hidden if the target was found.

Finished, Tucker slipped a hand to the shepherd’s flank, running his fingers over the black jacket that blended perfectly with his fur. It was a K9 Storm tactical vest, waterproof and Kevlar-reinforced. He checked Kane’s earpiece, which allowed them to communicate in the field—then flipped up an eraser-size lens of a night-vision video camera secured near the collar and positioned it between the dog’s pricked ears.

If you enjoy this kind of spectacle, as I unabashedly do, Bloodline offers the high-octane, globe-trotting, popcorn-chomping thrills you already know you enjoy, but this time, with even more family and fur!


Clare Toohey is Clare2e here and also at Women of Mystery. She had a mildly amusing, surreal crime story appear in Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices. She’s an omnivorous literary grazer who wants a taste from your plate.

See all of Clare Toohey’s posts at Criminal Element.

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