Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Review: The Bone Chamber by Robin Burcell

Copyright 2010 by HarperCollins Publishers
388 pages
ISBN 978-0-06-112229-3
Trade Paperback

Summary (Press Release)
Mysteriously summoned to Quantico to help re-create the face of a murdered, mutilated young woman, FBI forensic artis Special Agent Sydney Fitzpatrick knows immediately this is no ordinary crime. The hit-and-run death of the forensic anthropologist assisting her - a close friend - and Sydney's abrupt dismissal from the case by covert government investigators only strengthen her need for answers. Now her hunt for a killer is carrying her from Washington to Rome to the hidden chamber of a legendary tomb - on the trail of a fabled treasure of the Knights Templar...and a curse.

For buried deep in the mysteries of the Freemasons and the Vatican's Holy See is a secret that could rock the world. Suddenly an ancient map is pointing Sydney toward something the Templars wished to hide away forever - something that could unleash an unstoppable tide of blood and devastation.

My Review
Ms. Burcell certainly has developped an intriguing and deceptive mystery. As Sydney searches for clues to the death of her missing friend, she discovers that two researchers investigating conspiracy theories involving the government have gone missing. Several microbiologists, experts in their fields investigating deadly plagues and bio-weapons, have also gone missing or have turned up dead. Although Sydney is supposed to be on holidays, and is also considered to be a model FBI Agent, she takes matters into her own hands, and flies to Rome to discover more about what is going on around her. For the first time, she is flouting direct orders and taking matters into her own hands. While we see a more nervous Sydney at the beginning of the novel, she develops into a confident and secure Sydney towards the end of the novel, one who believes in herself, one who knows she is capable of doing anything. She is a heroine I could identify with and care about. Sydney and Undercover Agent Griffin help each other deal with their pasts and confront their fears in a satisfying way.

This novel features black ops, special ops, FBI, Knights Templar, Freemasons, the legendary Knights Templar treasure, Vatican intrigue, Biblical plagues, bio-weapons, Italian mafia, deadly curses, and lots of archaeological treasures. The twists and turns kept me interested every step of the way and kept me guessing as to what was happening. Even the way the characters were introduced, such as the priest Dumas and Professor Francesca, was done in such as a way as I didn't know if they were on Sydney and Griffin's side or against throughout the novel. I kept waiting for the 'bomb' to drop, so to speak.

Ms. Burcell has an amazing talent to describe the locale of her novels. I felt as if I was there in Rome, in the catacombs, and could 'see' them clearly with my mind although I have never visited Rome personally. It also gave me the desire to go to Rome and view these amazing monuments for myself. I was often caught up in the archaeological explorations, but I love things like that, and enjoyed the chase from tomb to tomb looking for clues to the final resting place.

This was a great novel in that there were many layers and puzzles to decipher. It is also filled with breathtaking moments and amazing locales, with many plot twists that will leave you feeling like you were on a rollercoaster at times. I enjoyed the relationships between the characters: they were not perfect, they had their down moments, but it made them seem more human. The race to piece the clues together left by a wealthy prince who was trying to avoid the Vatican was interesting and fast-paced. While the ending was enjoyable and satisfying, Ms. Burcell certainly did not end it cleanly. Dare we hope there will be a third book in the series?

Author Robin Burcell is a FBI-trained forensic artist who worked in law enforcement for over twenty years as a police officer, detective, and hostage negotiator. She is also the author of the Anthony Award winning SFPD Homicide Inspector Kate Gillespie novels.


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