You know it's a bad sign when you keep flipping to the end of the book to see how much further you have to slog 'til the end. I consider myself a fan of the Lincoln-Child (LC) books. At the time of this writing I've read seven Pendergast books back-to-back earlier this year. Although I wouldn't categorize them as tomes of High Literature I do find them well-written (especially for the thriller genre), suspenseful, interesting, and almost always entertaining.
Having blazed through those seven co-authored books, I wanted to try out each author "on their own" in some of their solo books to see how they fared. Judging solely from this slapdash novel I'd say that the two authors together are far greater than the sum of their parts. I suspect that working together sets up some friendly competition resulting in more complex novels, propelling their stories to greater heights.Coincidences, or "Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before?"It's stunning -- some would say "astonishing" -- how many similarities appear in this book. Here are a few that have been dragged out of previous books which Douglas Preston co-authored.
1. The feisty, under appreciated -- but highly intelligent -- female museum worker.
2. The sleazy, uptight, bug-up-his-butt museum director.
3. The dark chase in the deserted museum basement. You know the one: a terrified character is running down aisles, knocking stuff over in the dark, hiding from a mysterious killer who -- against all odds -- knows a shocking amount of detail about the museum and its security. (See LC's [b:"Dance of Death"], I believe, and a few others if I'm not mistaken -- reading seven [b:Pendergast series] books back-to-back earlier this year has caused some of them to blur together).
4. Unmistakable shades of Pendergast in the government uber-agent who appreciates the finer things in life, has a superhuman past and a wife who was murdered, and, as the story begins, is holed up in a remote monastery.
5. The dark chase through the tunnels of an abandoned mine (see the LC book [b:"White Fire"]). What's this fixation Douglas Preston has with mines?
6. The dizzying number of time the word "astonished" (or astonishes and astonishing) is used. Well, mystery solved, I guess: now we know which of the two authors, Child or Preston, manages to jam the word onto every page.
Problems and Questions
1. Is it really believable to think that anyone would be so stubborn as the character Tom is about the "promise from a dying man" -- even as the reasons keep piling up why he should break that promise? I suppose this was needed so that the story and all its implausibilities could begin stacking up.
2. How is it that Wyman Ford happens to be a few minutes' drive away, is an expert code breaker, and happens to be in a vulnerable state of mind to be drawn into action?
3. The improbable coincidence of this near-complete T-Rex's remains being found in Tyrannosaur Canyon is actually pointed out by a character in the book (as in, "wouldn't that be a kicker if it ended up being found there?") -- then the book actually goes there!
4. We are given an ex-con caricature of a man with the "world's most biologically accurate T-Rex tattoo" who refers to every guy as a "son of a bitch" and every woman as a "bitch". World's most biologically accurate... Uuumm. Yeah.
5. Why doesn't anyone clear that damn sticky blood smear off the dead prospector's notebook? Lysol wipe, people.
6. Minor gripe here but can someone explain to me why Weeder buys a coffee and a slice of pizza at the convenience store, pays with exact change, then goes outside to dump the coffee and throw the pizza onto a cactus
7. Hackneyed action sequences abound like the protagonist jumping out of a flaming truck before it flies off the road to explode in a canyon and another scene where one of our bad guys rises from the flames of a crashed chopper to fire away at the good guys before falling over dead.
8. Why does Weeder keep Sally alive in the cave when he is obviously going to kill her? She doesn't end up serving as bait to Tom or any other purpose and the fact that she is chained to a wall to be "Dealt With Later" is obviously just a ham handed plot device to try to introduce some kind of tension to the book.
In short, this book didn't really work for me. The plot was paint-by-numbers, the characters shallow, and the very brief 2 or 3 page chapters that give the book a "movie" feel and their brevity never really allowed me to immerse into any extended passages of the book. Every chapter felt almost like it ended needing a commercial break.
I toss the book aside and wait patiently for [b:Blue Labyrinth|20980959|Blue Labyrinth (Pendergast, #14)|Douglas Preston|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1395260672s/20980959.jpg|40358210] later this year. Though we'll still have to dodge more than a few abuses of the word "astonishing", it's a fair bet that the result of Lincoln and Child joining heads will result in something better than this.