Sunday, May 27, 2007

Preston, Douglas and Lincoln Child. Still life with crows. New York: Warner, 2004. 592pp.

I love the occasional seriously over the top thriller and this series by Preston and Child fits the bill perfectly. This is the fourth in a loose series, the first being Relic, then Reliquary and Cabinet of curiosities. There are three or four more that I haven't gotten to yet.

Gonzo, grizzly and gruesome, the three g-words that describe this great novel. The setting is a microscopically small town in Kansas where a series of increasingly bizarre and violent killing take place, potentially disrupting a hoped-for economic biotech spin off in the town. The killings draw the very stange FBI Agent Pendergrast who teams up with a local teen misfit to solve the crime. It sounds like it shouldn't work but it does. Preston and Child give the book enough narrative drive and gory detail to keep you interested. And Pendergrast is a quirky and odd enough character to keep you coming back to the series (although he isn't in all the previous books, like I said the series so far is quite loose). While Pendergrast is a little too alien a figure to give the books a intimate human dimension, the authors always come up with a local character to identify with. This time it's teen misfit Corrie Swanson, a goth kid who's ostracized by the community but is smart and savvy enough to be a real help to Pendergrast. I think we'll be seeing more of her eventually, as she would surely make a good long-term sidekick one day.

One minor complaint about the series, though. I find they always tease supernatural causes for the mayhem but in the end it always ends with a naturalistic explanation -- and that's ok. I don't need a horror novel to be supernatural, human nature is scary enough. My problem is that they always end up having the whole thing be a bit stretched to the bounds of credibility for my taste, as if they felt the need to push the limit while they were writing and they had to squeeze in the reality at the end.

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