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Ah, Annja Creed. Why can't I quit you? Well, what can I say? I'm a sucker for sexy sword-wielding celebrity archaeologists. It must be some deep dark secret in my past. See what I did there?

Annja's seventh globetrotting, tomb-raiding and bullet-dodging adventure is one of the series' most enjoyable, with Mel Odom demonstrating himself absolutely suited to crafting Rogue Angel's escapist thrills. At this point the series had gotten pretty well warmed up, and Odom manages to slip in — amidst the stereotypical bad guys and implausible action scenes — some of the better character moments to appear yet. This is an element one does not ordinarily look for from Gold Eagle's "men's adventure" potboilers. Annja, while still every inch the fantasy superwoman she was conceived to be, comes across as more convincingly human and vulnerable than she ever has. Regular supporting players Garin Braden and Roux, the 500-year-old-and-counting immortals, get a little extra human dimension as well. Plus, this book's arch-villain is the dissolute scion of German aristocracy, which I absolutely love because it allows me to envision a younger Udo Kier in the role. The only thing better would be to have a full-on German aristocrat in the mix, which would allow me to envision Kier in the role at his present age. I suspect I'll be judging future Rogue Angel volumes by their Udo Kier Factor.

Unfortunately, despite the various improvements in writing, this one features a few too many moments of "author's convenience," and the ending doesn't deliver the payoff you're hoping for. God of Thunder finds Annja on the trail of what may be nothing less than the legendary hammer Mjolnir, said to be wielded by the Norse god Thor, as anyone who's ever picked up a Marvel comic knows. An old friend and colleague has sent her a package containing an intriguing puzzle as to its possible whereabouts. But, being Annja Creed, she no sooner steps out of her loft than the usual gaggle of rent-a-villains are on her trail, in the employ of the aforementioned Teutonic baddie seeking to protect a potentially devastating family secret.

If I ever decide on a career change and take up supervillainy, I need to remember the fine art of subtlety. Employing henchmen who are in the habit of opening fire at the drop of the proverbial hat, even on crowded Bronx streets in front of hundreds of eyewitnesses, is the sort of thing that tends to call attention to itself, and by extension, to you. Also, if I'm someone with an ages-old family name whose reputation I am determined to protect at all costs, it would probably behoove me not to establish my own reputation as that of a ruthless, sociopathic killer. No no no, real supervillains go into politics, and then have armies to do their killing for them while they sit back and enjoy the old "plausible deniability" thing. Just sayin'.

Yeah, overall this is one of the better Rogue Angel entries. Still, it's a series that can't seem to push too forcefully against its ingrained mediocrity. It tells the kinds of stories in which Annja always conveniently stumbles upon a plot device, or bumps into a random person who will help her out of her current pickle (here, a potboiler novelist named Stanley Younts, who doesn't turn up until 200 pages in, and serves as a bit of self-parody on Odom's part, one assumes). Also, like some prior entries, God of Thunder introduces a new character who's given an intriguing background, who's bursting with promise for future development — and whom we will almost certainly never see again. Swell action scenes, and the fact that the plot's premise can be counted on to have a decent footing in actual history and legend, makes up for some of the foolishness, making a good Rogue Angel adventure not especially dumber than, say, your average Hollywood summer blockbuster. Just be aware that all you're in for is a turn-off-your-brain escapist romp about a babe with a sword, and you'll be less likely to find your sense of literary taste hammered. Still, it all could be so much better...

Followed by Secret of the Slaves.