Fiction, Mystery, Reviews, Thriller

Crimson Shore

By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

A secret chamber.

A mysterious shipwreck.

A murder in the desolate salt marshes.

A seemingly straightforward private case turns out to be much more complicated-and sinister-than Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast ever could have anticipated.

Pendergast, together with his ward Constance Greene, travels to the quaint seaside village of Exmouth, Massachusetts, to investigate the theft of a priceless wine collection. But inside the wine cellar, they find something considerably more disturbing: a bricked-up niche that once held a crumbling skeleton.

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Pendergast is in as great of form as ever. Instead of the wide-spread cast of characters that can crop up in a Pendergast book, this book featured only Pendergast and Constance Greene.

Some reviewers mentioned that it felt like Preston & Child couldn’t decide which book to write, so they wrote both of them. Maybe there’s truth to that, but it was still a wildly thrilling wild filled with mystery, horror, new developments in Pendergast and Constance’s relationship, as well as the return of one character we all never wanted to see again, but secretly did…

I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next book!

Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Blue Labyrinth

By Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

A long-buried family secret has come back to haunt Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast…

It begins with murder. One of Pendergast’s most implacable, most feared enemies is found on his doorstep, dead. Pendergast has no idea who is responsible for the killing, or why the body was brought to his home. The mystery has all the hallmarks of the perfect crime, save for an enigmatic clue: a piece of turquoise lodged in the stomach of the deceased.

The gem leads Pendergast to an abandoned mine on the shore of California’s Salton Sea, which in turn propels him on a journey of discovery deep into his own family’s sinister past.

But Pendergast learns there is more at work than a ghastly episode of family history: he is being stalked by a subtle killer bent on vengeance over an ancient transgression. And he soon becomes caught in a wickedly clever plot, which leaves him stricken in mind and body, and propels him toward a reckoning beyond anything he could ever have imagined…

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Another exciting Pendergast novel! After fourteen novels, you’d think Preston and Child would be running out of ideas, but apparently not.

 

SPOILERS

 

Okay this might be not that much of a spoiler since it happens in the first two chapters, but Preston and Child decided to kill off Pendergast’s son, Alban. Which I’m not sure was actually a good idea. They only really utilized Alban for one book and now….dead. Hmm.

Anyway, this book starts off in typical Pendergast fashion, following a few threads that seem like they have nothing to do with each other and then miraculously tying them up in a neat little box.

I don’t usually complain on implausibility in a book series that relies on more than a touch of the supernatural. But I must say the climax of this book was a bit implausible. Resurrecting an antidote that didn’t work and fixing it because one of the ingredients was improperly prepared? And then another ingredient having gone extinct, so they used something similar? Um, okay.

Still all in all another good entry in the series. Loved the Constance twist, too.

 

END SPOILERS

Fiction, Horror, Thriller

White Fire

By Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Special Agent Pendergast arrives at an exclusive Colorado ski resort to rescue his protégée, Corrie Swanson, from serious trouble with the law. His sudden appearance coincides with the first attack of a murderous arsonist who–with brutal precision–begins burning down multimillion-dollar mansions with the families locked inside. After springing Corrie from jail, Pendergast learns she made a discovery while examining the bones of several miners who were killed 150 years earlier by a rogue grizzly bear. Her finding is so astonishing that it, even more than the arsonist, threatens the resort’s very existence.

Drawn deeper into the investigation, Pendergast uncovers a mysterious connection between the dead miners and a fabled, long-lost Sherlock Holmes story–one that might just offer the key to the modern day killings as well.

Now, with the ski resort snowed in and under savage attack–and Corrie’s life suddenly in grave danger–Pendergast must solve the enigma of the past before the town of the present goes up in flames.

After the Helen sub-series, (see my last review of Two Graves) Pendergast gets backs to his roots: a fast and thrilling read from start to finish with all the twists, turns, and daring detective work we’ve grown accustomed to from our favorite, bizarrely weird FBI agent.

I read this on the plane back from Colorado to San Diego, so the Colorado winter was fresh in my mind and my still-cold toes. The novel takes place in a town that bears more than a little resemblance to Aspen, Colorado.

At the center of the mystery is a nefarious real estate agent (also, how apropos) so I was more than a little excited to get lost in this book.

I plowed through the whole thing between the airport and the plane ride, reading as fast as I can go. And I loved every minute of it.

Just when you think maybe Preston & Child are getting lost in the mire of their own amazing creation, they pull off a novel that puts the faith back in you.

 

Fiction, Horror, Thriller

Two Graves

By Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

After his wife, Helen, is brazenly abducted before his eyes, Special Agent Pendergast furiously pursues the kidnappers, chasing them across the country and into Mexico. But then, things go terribly, tragically wrong; the kidnappers escape; and a shattered Pendergast retreats to his New York apartment and shuts out the world.

But when a string of bizarre murders erupts across several Manhattan hotels-perpetrated by a boy who seems to have an almost psychic ability to elude capture-NYPD Lieutenant D’Agosta asks his friend Pendergast for help. Reluctant at first, Pendergast soon discovers that the killings are a message from his wife’s kidnappers. But why a message? And what does it mean?

When the kidnappers strike again at those closest to Pendergast, the FBI agent, filled anew with vengeful fury, sets out to track down and destroy those responsible. His journey takes him deep into the trackless forests of South America, where he ultimately finds himself face to face with an old evil that-rather than having been eradicated-is stirring anew… and with potentially world-altering consequences.

Confucius once said: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, first dig two graves.” Pendergast is about to learn the hard way just how true those words still ring.

This is the concluding novel in the Helen sub-series and another great offering in the Pendergast saga.

This book had more of the same we can expect from a Preston & Child Pendergast novel: lots of action, mystery, gruesome crime, a borderline supernatural plot, and Pendergast’s uncanny deduction abilities. It also had an element I wish wasn’t there and I know many other readers of the series feel the same: The Helen sub-series was weak because we find it somehow improbable that such a cold, methodical, bizarre, intelligent man as Pendergast could have fallen victim to that crazy maddening sickness that plights us mere mortals: love.

It was all right that he had a dead wife. But a possibly alive wife as the Helen sub-series posited? Now we’re forced to deal with a Pendergast at odds with our perceptions of him: how does a Pendergast with a one true love, a soul mate, fit our picture of the FBI Special Agent we’ve been following around for twelve books? Not very well.

Not a bad book by any means, but glad the annoyance of Helen is over.

I read the next book in the series right after this one and I must say, the end of the Helen sub-series gets us right back in with Pendergast as we know him.

Check back for that review soon! I must say it’s the best Pendergast book of the past few years!

Author Spotlight, Fiction, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Author Spotlight: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

In my opinion, these guys have a lock on the thriller genre. And for good reason. In a genre that counts among its authors, Dan Brown, Jack DuBrul, James Patterson, Clive Cussler, Greg Bear, Iris Johansen, James Rollins, Raymond Khoury, David Lynn Goleman, William Gibson, and a bunch more, these guys really only have competition from Michael Cricton, who’s probably the undisputed God of this genre. Let’s talk about the fact that this is a convoluted and ambiguous subset of fiction. I think that most of the books one could term “thriller” also have their fingers in a separate genre. According to Amazon, my interests are apparently in “action & adventure fiction”, “science-fiction adventure”, “mystery & thriller”, “suspense thrillers” (really, Amazon?) and “techno thrillers”. Makes sense, yeah? Good, moving on.

I suppose you could say I’m a Preston and Child Completist. To-date, I’ve read (including solo efforts):

-Relic

-Reliquary

-The Cabinet of Curiosities

-Still Life with Crows

-Brimstone

-Dance of Death

-The Wheel of Darkness

-The Book of the Dead

-Cemetery Dance

-Fever Dream

-Thunderhead

-Tyrannosaur Canyon

-Blasphemy

-Riptide

-Mount Dragon

-The Ice Limit

-Impact

-The Monster of Florence (non-fiction)

-The Codex

-Death Match

-Utopia

-Deep Storm

-Terminal Freeze

-I’m currently in the midst of reading Cold Vengeance.

About the only thing I haven’t read yet is Douglas Preston’s non-fiction and the “Gideon” books.

So what is it about these guys? These are thriller novels, not literary fiction. With the exception of the Pendergast series, the characters aren’t deep. But the writing is tight and quick, propelling you to an insane conclusion, one that you can’t reason out from page one. There isn’t any lag-time in these novels. You don’t even have a chance to get bored. Much as you don’t have a chance to stop reading the book. Sure, if you’re hardcore against these novels, I suppose you won’t enjoy them. They do require suspension of belief. But it’s not really a hard-sell. But I’m not convincing people who hate these types of novels to give them a shot. I’m explaining why these guys are at the top of their game and why their novels are absolutely top-notch. I started with Relic. That would be my suggestion to anyone looking to break into the series. The Pendergast set is what made them famous and for good reason. I read the series in order though, in the midst of waiting for the new releases (I’d estimate I started these books in the winter of 2006), I read their other stuff. The Preston solo efforts are a bit stronger than the Child projects, but they are all nonetheless quite good. Out of all of these, I probably liked The Codex the least.

These guys are masters of plot. They can spin subplots and subtext like woven wool. To read one of these novels is to embark on a ride you didn’t know existed. With the passing of Michael Crichton (whose later works were certainly less brilliant and whose career included some unfortunate missteps) this pair is the worthy successor to such a dynasty. They rarely write anything that isn’t excellent (though I haven’t heard good things about the Gideon series, though apparently Hollywood is trying to turn it into a movie, so go figure) and whenever I get my hands on another of their novels, I always start it next. Case in point: I got Cold Vengeance for Christmas and I started it on the 26th, right after finishing The Fellowship of the Ring.

Book Blogger Thoughts:

Cold Venegance at A Walrus Darkly

Relic at Ryder Islington

Riptide at Cher Cabula’s Mindbox

Thunderhead at Jandy’s Reading Room

Impact at The Book Smugglers