Altar of Eden
Released On: Dec 29, 2009

Following the fall of Baghdad, two Iraqi boys stumble upon armed men looting the city zoo. The floodgates have been opened for the smuggling of hundreds of exotic birds, mammals, and reptiles to Western nations, but this crime hides a deeper secret. Amid a hail of bullets, an underground secret weapons lab is ransacked–and something even more horrific is set free.

Seven years later, Louisiana state veterinarian Lorna Polk stumbles upon a fishing trawler shipwrecked on a barrier island. The crew is missing or dead, but the boat holds a frightening cargo: a caged group of exotic animals, clearly part of a black market smuggling ring.

Yet, something is wrong with these beasts, disturbing deformities that make no sense: a parrot with no feathers, a pair of Capuchin monkeys conjoined at the hip, a jaguar cub with the dentition of a saber-tooth tiger. They also all share one uncanny trait–a disturbingly heightened intelligence.

To uncover the truth about the origin of this strange cargo and the terrorist threat it poses, Lorna must team up with a man who shares a dark and bloody past with her, now an agent of the U.S. Border Patrol, Jack Menard.

Together, the two must hunt for a beast that escaped the shipwreck while uncovering a mystery tied to fractal science and genetic engineering, all to expose a horrifying secret that traces back to mankind’s earliest roots.

But can Lorna stop what is about to be born upon the altar of Eden before it threatens not only the world, but also the very foundation of what it means to be human?

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Critical Acclaim

  • In this stand-alone thriller from author of the Sigma Force novels, Dr. Lorna Park, a researcher at a high-tech facility dedicated to preserving endangered species, teams up with a border patrol officer, Jack Menard, to track down the people responsible for a boatload of genetically modified animals found beached on a small island near the cost. The book is written with Rollins' usual emphasis on history, cutting-edge science, and fast paced adventure, and the villains are carefully drawn and supplied with sufficient intelligence and motivation to make them feel like real people—and not cardboard-cutout bad guys. The two leads make a good team—there's a personal undercurrent to their relationship—and, as in all of Rollins' books, there is a series of questions, puzzles, and mysteries to be sorted out before the book's rousing conclusion. Readers who detect something different in this novel, a sense that the author is perhaps personally invested in this story than usual, aren't imagining things: Rollins is a practicing veterinarian, and his affection for animals comes through pretty clearly. A very good thriller and further proof (after his earlier stand-alones, not to mention his recent adaptation of the latest Indiana Jones movie) that Rollins is as sure-footed on new ground as he is in the familiar Sigma Force World.

    David Pitt, Booklist


  • Q. And I see you decided to make Dr. Lorna Polk a woman. Actually, you have a huge female following. How are you able to get inside the mind of a woman so well and what made you want to write from the point of view of a woman for this book?
    A. When I was in veterinary school, half of the class was composed of women. Since then, that percentag ... Read More
  • Q. Another aspect of your thrillers that appeal to women is the romantic themes throughout your series. Does Lorna have a romantic interest?
    A. She does. Jack Menard is an elite member of the Border Patrol. And like Lorna’s family, he has roo ... Read More
  • Q. Another concept that you include in ALTAR OF EDEN is the idea of a higher, collective intelligence. Do you believe in the notion that animals can think together? Do you believe this type of intelligence already exists?
    A. Something is definitely going on, something beyond our current understanding. One of the scientific ... Read More
  • Q. As a veterinarian, how do you feel about the genetic experimentation that is one of the foundations of ALTAR OF EDEN’s plot?
    A. As with the case at ACRES, innovative research into genetics can be of great benefit, holding the po ... Read More
  • Q. In ALTAR OF EDEN you delve into the concept of private military contracts with a scientific research company called Ironcreek Industries who are experimenting with some pretty scary things. There has to be some sort of regulation for this type of experimentation, RIGHT?
    A. While there might be some regulation for labs within the United States, once you cross the borders i ... Read More
  • Q. I’m sure many fans of the SIGMA series are panicking, wondering when they are going to see Gray Pierce, Painter Crowe and the rest of SIGMA again. Why don’t you quell their fears, when can we see the next SIGMA?
    A. It comes out next summer (July 2010). In that book, a major storyline that has been building over th ... Read More
  • Q. Much of the book is set at ACRES, the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species. What is this center for? You say it’s not open to the public, but have you visited? If not, where did your ideas for this center come from?
    A. ACRES is a real facility associated with the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. The research building is lo ... Read More
  • Q. One of the true scientific gems you include in ALTAR OF EDEN is the idea of “genetic throwbacks.” What exactly is a genetic throwback and is it possible for my next kitten to be born with saber-tooth fangs?
    A. The scientific term for “genetic throwback” is atavism. It’s a real phenomenon where a genetic ... Read More
  • Q. What else is on the horizon for James Rollins?
    A. Always another book or two or three. In the spring of 2010, the second novel in my kid’s series de ... Read More
  • Q. Where did the story of ALTAR OF EDEN originate?
    A. It started with lunch. I was having a conversation with my editor at HarperCollins. She asked me a q ... Read More
  • Q. You are known for your extensive and intensive research. What amazing adventures did you undertake in researching/mapping the plot of ALTAR OF EDEN?
    A. For the first time as an author, I got to follow the old adage: to write what you know. Of course, t ... Read More
  • Q. Your SIGMA series has been incredibly popular. In fact, the most recent entry, THE DOOMS DAY KEY, hit #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. What drew you to write a stand-alone thriller now?
    A. After writing six Sigma novels, I was ready to tackle an independent story, one free of baggage and ... Read More
  • Q. Your SIGMA series is set across the globe and finds your characters in far flung locales such as Antarctica, Tibet and Africa. Most of ALTAR OF EDEN is set in New Orleans. Why did you choose to center most of the story in one locale? And why New Orleans?
    A. I love New Orleans. I’ve visited the city at least a dozen times—both before and after Katrina. ... Read More
  • Q. You’re a busy guy, do you ever sleep?
    A. Sleep? I’ve never heard of such a thing. Tell me more. ... Read More


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