James Rollins’ (The Demon Crown, 2017, etc.) 14th Sigma Force novel delivers such a shocking conclusion that the author actually starts off with a warning to readers to proceed at their own risk.
What starts as a lighthearted opening set in Silver Spring, Maryland, soon morphs into something tragic. Commander Grayson Pierce and Monk, his best friend and colleague, talk over drinks at a small tavern on Christmas Eve. Monk, who was recently fitted with a newer, more advanced prosthetic, uses DARPA’s latest tech to earn the duo free drinks by flipping random coins and consistently predicting whether it’ll come up heads or tails.
While the shenanigans lead to a confrontation with a group of drunk patrons, it’s nothing compared to what they discover back home.
Returning to Pierce’s house–where Monk, his wife, and their kids are staying for the holidays–Gray discovers that his home has been ransacked. Worse, Monk’s wife, Kat, is found on the kitchen floor covered in blood after barely surviving a vicious attack that left her in a coma. Seichan, Gray’s pregnant lover, is gone. So too are Monk’s two girls–they all vanished without a trace into the night.
Just when it seems things can’t get worse for the duo, they’re called into the office by Sigma Force Director Painter Crowe, who has more bad news.
At the same time that Kat was attacked and Seichan and the girls were abducted, a group of female scientists were killed in a fiery attack in Portugal. Having come together after years of networking, the group had gathered to further the research of a genius twenty-something-year-old named Mara Silviera, a brilliant scientist who had made huge advances in the world of artificial intelligence research. Now, she’s gone too, and Painter Crowe believes both events are somehow connected.
What few know is that an ancient group of religious zealots were behind the attack in Portugal, serving as the latest act in their quest to return the world back to a time when witches were burned at the stake. Now in possession of an unprecedented weapon capable of unleashing an evil onto humanity unlike anything the world has ever seen, the group must be stopped at all costs, and it’s up to Sigma to track them down before it’s too late.
For Pierce and the rest of the gang, their search relies on clues gathered from the days of the Spanish Inquisition, linked to the most “blood-soaked book in human history,” a mysterious text known as “The Hammer of Witches.” With the clock ticking and evil waiting for them at every turn, Pierce and company set out for their most dangerous and personal mission yet, only to find one horrifying reality after another.
With everything on the line, the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher . . . and this time, the Sigma Force gang, who are playing short-handed, may not have the resources to once again save the day when it matters most.
James Rollins has strung together a great run of top-notch thrillers the last few years, including 2017’s The Demon Crown, but nothing compares to his latest offering. Always careful to craft his stories around plausible scientific data, Rollins pulls out his most terrifying scenario yet–one that even Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Russian President Vladimir Putin have warned against.
Longtime Sigma fans can expect to see a bunch of familiar faces along the way in this one. After 14 adventures, it’s fun to see the characters’ development over the course of the series. By now, most of them are settling down and enjoying family life which, as is the case here, also makes them vulnerable in new ways. Rollins exploits those areas with the touch of a master, always finding new ways to breathe life into his cast and make them relatable, prompting readers to become further invested, which in turn adds another layer of suspense as the story unfolds.
Whereas past books are entertaining, though maybe a tad futuristic, Rollins scores additional points here by making the plot feel so plausible that it’s downright unsettling. It’s comforting to know that Crucible is fictional but, without giving anything away, the science presented by the author is rooted in real-life discoveries and advances, many of them recent, and linked to horrific past events. In that sense, it’ll prompt readers to start asking questions about where technology is headed and why we’re trying so hard to get there if the end result could look anything even close to what Rollins presents here.
With his latest Sigma Force adventure, James Rollins shows yet again why he’s the heir apparent to the throne previously held by Michael Crichton . . . Crucible is a riveting thriller that’ll stay with readers for a very long time.
Author: James Rollins
Series: Sigma Force #14
Pages: 480 (Hardcover)
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: January 22, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children