Book Review: The Cabinet of Curiosities (Pendergast #3) by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Posted January 10, 2020 by @Angelized_1st in Books, Entertainment, Kindle / 0 Comments

Book Review: The Cabinet of Curiosities (Pendergast #3) by Douglas Preston & Lincoln ChildThe Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston, Preston Child
Series: Pendergast #3
on July 1, 2002
Genres: Suspense, Horror, Fiction
Pages: 466
Format: eBook
Source: Library
ISBN: 978-1788547048
Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksBuy on: Audible

In an ancient tunnel underneath New York City a charnel house is discovered.

Inside are thirty-six bodies--all murdered and mutilated more than a century ago.

While FBI agent Pendergast investigates the old crimes, identical killings start to terrorize the city.

The nightmare has begun.


One of my favorite thrillers to watch is the 1997 film, “The Relic,” staring Penelope Ann Miller and Tom Sizemore. This film is based on the book of the same name by authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Like most book adaptations, this one differs greatly from the novel, but it helped sparked my interest in the original source material. So of course I picked up the book after seeing the film at a used book sale, and devoured it, only to discover that it was the first in a series of novels. However, despite my love for book series, I didn’t continue with the series of these books until this holiday.

One of the differences between “The Relic” film and novel is a change in who is the main character. In the film, Lt. D’Agosta is the lead detective following the clues, but this is series is not his. In fact, it belongs to a character completely cut from the film adaptation, Agent Pendergast. The agent was a quirky, rogue FBI agent who aided D’Agosta in the museum killing mystery, and he is the main character of this third novel.

It’s been awhile since the events of the first two novels have concluded, and Agent Pendergast has returned to New York City to investigate a charnel house that was uncovered during the construction of a high-rise in Manhattan. Inside this ancient structure, workers uncover thirty-six bodies that were mutilated over a century ago. As the agent investigates these old crimes, a copycat killer begins terrorizing the city.

Though I love the film adaptation of Lt. D’Agosta, I find Pendergast more interesting. He’s a detective shrouded in mystery, who the FBI has on a long leash. Despite being born to a wealthy family, Pendergast relishes his job as an Agent, even though he often works cases as if it’s his hobby. Maybe because he works as a detective because he wants to, and not for a paycheck, does he seem to take chances many detectives wouldn’t. I find that learning more about him in each novel, and unraveling his mystery, is as interesting as the crimes themselves.

Even though the Natural History Museum is featured in this novel once again, neither Lt. D’Agosta or Dr. Margo Green make an appearance in this third novel. Instead, we are introduced to a new scientist, Nora Kelly, who aids Pendergast in this case. New York Times reporter, Bill Smithback, who was in the novel version of The Relic, as well as its sequel, returns to crack open the case. While I really liked Nora Kelly, I’m not a fan of Smithback’s. If anyone from the first two books in the series moved on to greener pastures (a la D’Agosta and Green), I wish it was him. He’s an annoying, unlikable character, and I wanted to skip his chapters so much. I hope his personality improves in future books if he must be present, but I doubt it. I’ll just keep hoping that Pendergast’s next case takes him away from New York.

The mystery in this novel is very interesting, and will keep you guessing. While I figured out a few of the twists, I was completely fooled by the final unveiling of the killer’s identity. Though you don’t have to necessarily read the books in order, I would advice it, as much reference is made to the previous two novels in the series. This is also really helpful if you, like me, are a fan of the film,”The Relic,” as it cut out so much from the source material that trying to jump into the series without having read the previous novels will leave you completely confused and lost. Preston & Child keep readers on the edge of their seats by injecting New York history into their story, and revealing New York’s underground world. I had a lot of fun looking up some of the references, and learning which were real, and which were written just for the story. The characters’ behaviors rang true, especially the political bureaucracy, but I found it odd that the streets seemed to always be deserted whenever the killer appeared. Having been to New York City, this convenient plot device irritated me arguably more than the character of Bill Smithback. Aside from this irritation, the novel was a fun read, and one I’d definitely recommend.

About Douglas Preston

Douglas Preston was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1956, and grew up in the deadly boring suburb of Wellesley. After unaccountably being rejected by Stanford University, Preston attended Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he studied mathematics, biology, physics, anthropology, and geology, before settling down to English literature. After graduating, Preston began his career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York as an editor, writer, and manager of publications. Preston also taught nonfiction writing at Princeton University. His eight-year stint at the Museum resulted in the non-fiction book, Dinosaurs in the Attic, edited by a rising young star at St. Martin’s Press, Lincoln Child. During this period, Preston gave Child a midnight tour of the museum, and in the darkened Hall of Late Dinosaurs, under a looming T. Rex, Child turned to Preston and said: “This would make the perfect setting for a thriller!” That thriller would, of course, be Relic.

In 1986, Preston piled everything he owned into the back of a Subaru and moved from New York City to Santa Fe to write full time. In the early 1990s Preston and Child teamed up to write suspense novels; Relic was the first, made into a movie by Paramount Pictures. In Relic they introduced one of the most celebrated fictional detectives of modern times, Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast. Relic has been followed by more than a dozen other books in the Pendergast series, including The Cabinet of Curiosities, Blue Labyrinth and The Obsidian Chamber. Their last fifteen novels in a row have been New York Times best-sellers, including several reaching the #1 position. The Cabinet of Curiosities and the other Pendergast novels are currently being developed into a television series called PENDERGAST, by legendary producer Gale Anne Hurd (“The Terminator,” “Aliens,” “The Walking Dead.”)

Preston has also continued a career in journalism. He writes about archaeology, history and paleontology for the New Yorker magazine, as well as for Smithsonian, National Geographic, Harper’s and the Atlantic. In the course of his journalistic profession Preston has explored lost temples in the jungles of Cambodia, been the first to enter a tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, and ridden on horseback across thousands of miles of the American Southwest-which earned him membership in the elite “Long Riders Guild.”

About Lincoln Child

Lincoln Child was born in Westport, Connecticut, which he still calls his hometown. Lincoln graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, majoring in English. He made his way to New York in the summer of 1979, intent on finding a job in publishing. He was lucky enough to secure a position as editorial assistant at St. Martin’s Press.

While at St. Martin’s, Lincoln assembled several collections of ghost and horror stories, beginning with the hardcover collections Dark Company (1984) and Dark Banquet (1985). Later, when he founded the company’s mass-market horror division, he edited three more collections of ghost stories, Tales of the Dark 1-3.

In 1987, Lincoln left trade publishing to work at MetLife. While at MetLife, Relic was published, and within a few years Lincoln had left the company to write full time. He now lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter.


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