Series: Pendergast #3
on July 1, 2002
Genres: Suspense, Horror, Fiction
Buy on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Buy 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.