The Doomsday Key - Sigma Force 6 By James Rollins

The Doomsday Key - Sigma Force 6 By James Rollins
The sixth book in the Sigma Force series, The Doomsday Key, published June 2009, starts with three murders on three different continents. Each shares a puzzling, hideous disfigurement but, otherwise, no other obvious connection. A clue links the father of one victim, an influential U.S. senator, with a Norwegian corporation. Painter Crowe takes part of the team to Oslo, whilst an unexpected phonecall from a traumatised Rachel Verona has Grayson rushing to Rome. From the Colosseum, Gray goes to the Lake District in England, drives to Aberdaron at the end of the Lleyn Peninsular, and by boat to Bardsey Island in Wales. He ends up in a high-security prison in France. Painter and his team fly over the Arctic Circle to land in Spitzbergen, the largest island in Svalbard. Ultimately, it is revealed that the characters are dealing with an ancient, fungal parasite that was discovered and used first by the Egyptians and then, later, by eleventh century ancient Celts and Druids as a bioweapon. Had it been used in an attempt at genocide? Viatus International has been infiltrated by the Guild. Together, and with the assistance of Senator Sebastian Gorman, they have put a major part of the U.S. population at risk of contracting an appalling fatal plague. Firstly, by obtaining the fungus, and secondly, by combining it with genetically modified corn. A counter-agent must be found. Ultimately, an ancient embalming compound is revealed to be the cure. A surprise twist at the end indicates that the SIGMA team may have been traveling with a senior member of the Guild. Director Painter Crowe plays a major role in this book.

From the book

The ravens were the first sign.
As the horse-drawn wagon traveled down the rutted track between rolling fields of barley, a flock of ravens rose up in a black wash. They hurled themselves into the blue of the morning and swept high in a panicked rout, but this was more than the usual startled flight. The ravens wheeled and swooped, tumbled and flapped. Over the road, they crashed into each other and rained down out of the skies. Small bodies struck the road, breaking wing and beak. They twitched in the ruts. Wings fluttered weakly.
But most disturbing was the silence of it all.
No caws, no screams.
Just the frantic beat of wing-then the soft impact of feathered bodies on the hard dirt and broken stone.
The wagon's driver crossed himself and slowed the cart. His heavy-lidded eyes watched the skies. The horse tossed its head and huffed into the chill of the morning.
"Keep going," said the traveler sharing the wagon. Martin Borr was the youngest of the royal coroners, ordered here upon a secret edict from King William himself.
As Martin huddled deeper into his heavy cloak, he remembered the note secured by wax and imprinted by the great royal seal. Burdened by the cost of war, King William had sent scores of royal commissioners out into the countryside to amass a great accounting of the lands and properties of his kingdom. The immense tally was being recorded in a mammoth volume called the Domesday Book, collected together by a single scholar and written in a cryptic form of Latin. The accounting was all done as a means of measuring the proper tax owed to the crown.
Or so it was said.
Some grew to suspect there was another reason for such a grand survey of all the lands. They compared the book to the Bible's description of the Last Judgment, where God kept an accounting of all mankind's deeds in the Book of Life. Whispers and rumors began calling the result of this great survey the Doomsday Book.
These last were closer to the truth than anyone suspected.
Martin had read the wax-sealed letter. He'd observed that lone scribe painstakingly recording the results of the royal commissioners in the great book, and at the end, he'd watched the scholar scratch a single word in Latin, in red ink.
Many regions were marked with this word, indicating lands that had been laid waste by war or pillage. But two entries had been inscribed entirely in crimson ink. One described a desolate island that lay between the coast of Ireland and the English shore. Martin approached the other place now, ordered here to investigate at the behest of the king. He had been sworn to secrecy and given three men to assist him. They trailed behind the wagon on their own horses.
At Martin's side, the driver twitched the reins and encouraged the draft horse, a monstrously huge chestnut, to a faster clop. As they continued forward, the wheels of the wagon drove over the twitching bodies of the ravens, crushing bones and splattering blood.

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