(Pendergast, #1)

Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum's dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human...

But the museum's directors plan to go ahead with a big bash to celebrate the new exhibition, in spite of the murders.

Museum researcher Margo Green must find out who-or what-is doing the killing. But can she do it in time to stop the massacre?

“What we have here is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

When I was a young horror-watching gal, I used to watch Relic. I didn’t know it was based on a book, but I enjoyed its fun monster movie gimmicks set in a conveniently too-dark museum.  The past few years I’ve seen mention of these authors, and even had an unread book of theirs donning my shelves, yet I knew nothing about them. I wasn’t sure if they wrote horror, mystery, but knew I’d figure it out eventually. (edited to note – I still don’t know their genre really – horror/mystery/thriller??) Now fast forward to this year, after I bought a lot more of their books from a friend, where I was finally spurred on by a group read, where everyone was digging into Relic, and now here we finally are.

If you were like me and had seen the movie but not read the book, expect big differences. Murders occur at the New York Museum of Natural History before a major opening exhibit, prompting the arrival of the local detective D’Agosta. When more bodies pop up, enter the FBI agent Pendergast. It slowly becomes clear to the characters that more than a mere man is responsible for these monstrosities. Half the book is mystery trying to figure the culprit; the other half is figuring out how to best the beast and escape with their lives.

Despite being a fascinating story, the book does produce dull moments, especially in the first quarter. It keeps picking up, however, and proved to be a surprisingly quick read at 473 pages. The slightly sedate pace worked well to develop the right kind of atmosphere for a creepy tale. The close wraps up the book with a wallop ending I didn’t see coming.

I’d heard about what a great character Pendergast is – and he proved to be all that and more (except my misgivings about big game hunting stories). He takes a while to come on board, but meanwhile detective D’Agosta is an unexpected delight who steals the page-time just as hard. Margo as the main character is serviceable but nothing special.

Thanks to the characters we have humor, but thanks to the writers we have a dark book that’s hard to put down. You can almost feel the shadows closing in when reading this one. Tense scenes are riveting, I may have chewed a fingernail or two. The monster is a creepy villain who manages to stay creepy even when he’s not on scene. It’s not particularly bloody, but it’s violent when needed. Mystery is strong as I figured things out slowly along with the other characters. A good thing about intellectual mumbo-jumbo like this is I can’t fully pre-guess what’s going to happen since I can’t fully grasp it in the first place!

The ending leaves the book open for a sequel. Once you close the page you’re already ready for more. Despite some slower areas and a little academically dry dribble, this was an excellent start to a series I plan to continue.

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