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Friday, December 26, 2014

Review - Blue Labyrinth

I hope everyone's holidays were warm and joyous.  This is the first I have read of FBI Agent Pendergast, but I read he is hailed as the modern Sherlock with "a dose of Dickensian/Sherlock Holmes-era atmosphere."  Well, how could I resist when offered to read and review the newest in such a series?!  

In preparing this review, I discovered that the series has a considerable following and has built up significant fictional history as the series has developed.  If you haven't dipped your toe into the Aloysius Pendergast world, let me introduce you to him and his world.

 Author: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Copyright: November 2014 (Grand Central Publishing) 416 pgs

Series: 14th in Agent Pendergast Thriller series

Sensuality: Although not graphic, some descriptive violence 

Mystery Sub-genre: Suspense Thriller

Main Characters: Aloysius Pendergast, wealthy FBI agent

Setting: Modern day, New York

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

It begins with someone on Pendergast's doorstep, someone close to him who was deadly in his own right...dead and tied up like a package delivered to his door.  The murder has only one small clue, a piece of very rare turquoise in the victim's stomach...which leads Pendergast to a long abandoned mine on California's Salton Sea.  But, it was all an elaborate trap. After his trip to California, his days are literally numbered and he must uncover who today is enacting revenge for an ancestor's greed, with the hope that he can somehow save his own life in the process.  NYPD Lt. Vincent D'Agosta is back in this book investigating the murder of a scientist at New York Museum of Natural History.  It seems completely unrelated, but not for long!

Aloysius Pendergast, the wealthy FBI agent who has as many black marks on his record as he has commendations, is tested not just physically, but emotionally and very personally.  Constance, Pendergast's ward, gets a good bit of page time and is key in the dramatic show down.  I was cheering for her and suspect you will too, although she can be scary when she gets pissed.  NYPD Lt. Vincent D'Agosta represents the good and steady investigation of local police, he maybe slow - but he trudges through and uncovers a good deal.  Dr. Margo Green, who was apparently in the first Pendergast book, is back and gets a significant part in this book along with Constance.

The abandoned resort and mine on the shores of the Salton Sea,  New York Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden as the location for the finale are each deftly used for maximum atmospheric impact.  Kudos. I don't think I can forget the Botanic Garden scenes! 

The plot shows how the entire world doesn't have to hang in the balance to have a stellar thriller, how a plot driven storyline can still have well developed characters, and how there are other quick-killing weapons besides a gun. The key to this thriller was the carefully plotted story line. The pacing kept me interested throughout.   The climatic show-down was fought at two locations and increased the tension significantly.  This technique worked because it was executed by master story-tellers.  The wrap-up was satisfying and left another personal glimpse of Pendergast and how he grew personally in the course of the story.

This book was a pleasant surprise, with a truly unusual main character thrown into a fantastic and deadly situation - the brightest star was the finely crafted storytelling.  This story, in lesser hands, would have never reached the brilliance it achieved due to Preston and Child's skill.  I found it to live up to the praise I had read.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

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