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Book Review: Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

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Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child bring The Pendergast Trilogy to a gripping conclusion with Book of the Dead. The story arc that began with Brimstone and continued with Dance of Death wraps up with a number of questions answered, and important changes in the lives of some of the major characters.

Book of the Dead brings the usual players – D'Agosta, Hayward, Smithback, Kelly, Green and of course, the Pendergast brothers – back to the New York Museum of Natural History for another round of the deadly cat-and-mouse struggle between Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast and his criminal genius brother Diogenes. Readers will find echoes of Relic and Dance of Death in the premise of another big museum exhibit gone wrong, but the novel is in no way a stale re-hash of previous plots. Preston and Child put their characters in precarious and confounding situations, and Diogenes spins a complex web of evil. There are even a few surprises thrown in.

One of the most fascinating details is the revelation of the event that sent Diogenes over the edge and into a lifelong hatred of brother Aloysius. The story arc draws to a satisfying conclusion, but the authors leave just a little room for doubt, plus a "Wow!" moment on the final page.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Preston and Child's work is their ability to put old characters in new and interesting settings. Pendergast, D'Agosta, Hayward and Smithback were first introduced to the reader in Relic. Nora Dunn originally appeared in Thunderhead before later crossing paths with Pendergast in The Cabinet of Curiosities. Eli Glinn was introduced in "Ice Limit", while Viola Maskelene came along in Brimstone.

If Book of the Dead has a weakness, it lies in the fact that Pendergast is sometimes too good at everything. He's not physically imposing, but he can take out prison toughs in the blink of an eye. He's brilliant, well-read and a master of spiritual disciplines. At times one wants to ask, "What can't this guy do?" This is a flaw common to many heroes in the genre, and detracts only minimally from the enjoyment of the story.

A note to the reader – Do not read this novel as a stand-alone piece. At minimum, read Brimstone and Dance of Death before diving into Book of the Dead. If you are a fan of the adventure-thriller genre, start with Relic and read all the Pendergast novels in order. A few plot threads from Still Life With Crows and Cabinet of Curiosities carry over into the Pendergast Trilogy, so take your time and enjoy all the works of these fantastic authors.

Rating: 8/10

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