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Dr. Moreau lives: In a secret, deep-pockets laboratory on a remote island in the Caribbean, a greedy scientist with an unhealthy sense of entitlement (shocker) makes a fatal mistake by sending a selection of his specimens to Washington, D.C. on a trawler. En route, a violent storm off the coast of Louisiana causes the trawler to run aground, leaving the Border Patrol with what they think is part of an illegal animal smuggling operation. But these animals are very, very strange. Organising both their rescue and the ensuing investigation is the ruggedly handsome Border Patrol officer, Jack Menard, an ex-Marine who leads the BP’s Special Response Team (the best of the best of the best plus gadgets and weapons). He enlists the assistance of Dr. Lorna Polk, a beautiful blonde (groan) research veterinarian, with whom he has a long and complicated history. They quickly tease apart the mystery and horror the cargo represents; the development of their mutual attraction is an expected diversion from what is otherwise a typically delightful Rollins excursion into mayhem and destruction, all for the greater good.

The setting, in and around New Orleans, is obviously dear to Rollins; he evokes its sights, sounds, and smells with the reverence of a native who’s been away for a while. From pain perdu, glimpses of architecture, maze-like wetlands, and Uncle Joe’s Alligator Farm, New Orleans life is presented in a whirlwind tour, conveying a distinct home advantage for Jack’s beleaguered team that also serves them well in enemy territory. In addition to teaching you more about high-tech weaponry than you’d ever thought to learn, Rollins takes a few liberties with genetic theory to explore the nature of humanity in the most inhumane environment possible. It’s all very plausible given a slightly cynical worldview. In the end, not even the maximally-fortified and -funded machinations of a morally bankrupt operation can stand up to the combined powers of love, friendship, family, and a specialised virus. Exactly as it should be. Thanks, James. I had a blast!

For more information about James Rollins and his current projects, please visit his website.

Something new: Those of you with e-readers can now get Altar Of Eden for $1.99 on Amazon!