The Cabinet of Curiosities

Pendergast, #3


In downtown Manhattan, a gruesome discovery has just been made-an underground charnel house containing the bones of dozens of murder victims. Research reveals that a serial killer was at work in New York's notorious Five Points neighborhood in the 1880s, bent on prolonging his lifespan by any means. When a newspaper story on the old murders appears to ignite a new series of horrifyingly similar killings, panic overtakes New York City. Now, FBI agent Pendergast, journalist Bill Smithback, and archaeologist Nora Kelly join forces to protect themselves from a vicious killer...before they become the next victims.

“One can reach the gates of hell just as easily by short steps as by large.”

Staying in New York, this third novel deals with the museum and archaeological finds again. This time it's closet to home when tearing down structures for new business reveals hidden bones and horrors beneath cement walls, telling a tragic story of the past. A modern killer is up to no good, however, bringing out Special Agent Pendergast, returning character journalist Bill Smithback, and struggling archaeologist Nora Kelly.

While the mystery angle is different, this book has a lot in common with the previous two, Relic and Reliquary because of so much time spent in the museum, using similar research to unearth mystery, and trailing New York City to unmask a killer. Unlike the other two, Pendergast is more front and center focus. There's something about the detective that's addictive - he's unique and in some cases downright odd. He has an almost unrealistic uncanny ability to determine the truth of the matter and smooth his way past conventional legal channels. Still, even if he's not wholly realistic, he's just awesome and steals every page scene he graces. Kudos to the author for making him more of a focus and regular. He stood out in the other books but he just wasn't there enough before. As inhuman and otherly than he could appear in previous books, he gets a fuller fleshing out this time, even with glimpses of his personal life and family.

The new addition of a down-on-his-luck cop was a gift. O'Shaughnessy was my favorite when you remove Pendergast from the story. At first he seemed like he would be another one layered addition to the corrupt, laziness of the system, but it's a pleasant surprise to find instead that he was pretty epic in his own, slower manner.

The killer is a demented being and the big reveal of what's at stake is intriguing. It certainly raises the implications of this being another mass murderer killing for mere psychosis out of the bag. There's a horrible death at the end that soured the taste of the of the book for me, though - I was just sitting there with a no, they didn't go there face. Cleverly twisted with suspenseful spots, I can't fault the mystery story itself other than the pacing of the book lagging, waxing and waning at random times.

I started getting weighed down with Nora and Bill especially. I think if a lot of the scenes with Bill were removed, the book would have improved its pacing and interest because he went from annoying to boring. Nora wasn't really that interesting either - I dug some of her inner political struggles and liked how the ending of the book worked out for her, but she didn't hold a high degree of chemistry with me.

The mystery element isn't bad and I enjoyed learning about the Cabinet of Curiosities, but the book was weighed down by inconsistent pacing. If it were shorter, it would have worked better. 

   Book Quotes:

“The wise and good are outnumbered a thousand to one by the brutal and stupid.”

   Cover Gallery:

   Author Extras:

The Deleted Epilogue

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