Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Verses for the Dead, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

           Woo Hoo!   Silver-eyed, silver-haired and silver-tongued FBI special Agent Aloysius Pendergast is back, and about time, too:  it’s all very well gadding off to the Himalayas to bring back Constance, his 120 year-old (or thereabouts.  Ask me no questions;  you will just have to read the previous books) ward, for whom he has developed a great love, even though she has been despoiled by his wicked  brother Diogenes and bore him (Diogenes) a child (looked after by monks in the same Himalayan Monastery.  Oh, for goodness’ sake:  do I have to fill in the whole backstory?  Read the books!)
            Pendergast and Constance are back in New York, cosily ensconced in his Riverside Drive Mansion, when he is called to Miami on a most distressing case:  a young woman has been found dead, her heart cut out – and the same heart has been found on the gravestone of a young woman who committed suicide.  Also, Pendergast has a new boss in place of his late superior, who always allowed him free reign to employ often unconventional – and sometimes fatal – means to solve the many cases for which he is famous:  Assistant Director Pickett has no such intentions – it’s time Pendergast’s rogue behaviour and lack of discipline was curtailed.  The sooner he is exiled to a desk job in Utah, the better.
            To that end, Pendergast is given a partner of Pickett’s choosing, Agent Coldmoon, a rising, ambitious young star who will solve this awful crime and expose Pendergast for cutter-of-corners and lamentable rule-breaker that he is:  Coldmoon will report everything to Pickett;  the FBI will shine and Pendergast will be out the door. 
            But that doesn’t happen:  Three more young women are killed by the same horrible method, their hearts left on the tombs of three suicides, and it is patently clear that only Pendergast has the expertise and foresight to plumb the depths of the sick mind behind these crimes.  As always, our hero wears his usual garb in spite of the Florida humidity:  a series of black designer suits of finest wool, equipped with multiple pockets in which to secrete plastic bags of clues that he gathers at the crime scenes.  He invariably resembles a very rich undertaker.  He does change at night, though, into a white suit of finest linen, accompanied by hand-made loafers.  He is a polymath par excellence, and Coldmoon has never met anyone like Pendergast, ever;  eventually, he is so impressed with his unconventional partner that he defies his boss, offering to go to Utah too, rather than betray Pendergast. 
            And what of the killer, and who done what?  The big reveal is made in true Preston and Child fashion;   an entirely unsuspected villain is unmasked, snakes and alligators feature in large numbers, and Special Agent Pendergast, covered with gory glory (as usual) is free to return to his Constance.  Great fun!  FIVE STARS      

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