Brimstone by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Pendergast #5

Behind the gates of a fabulous Hamptons estate, FBI Special Agent Pendergast comes upon the carnage of a gruesome crime: one that recalls the legendary horrors that befall those who make a Faustian pact with the devil. Surrounded by the choking stench of brimstone, the smoldering remains of art critic Jeremy Grove are found in a locked, barricaded attic next to a hoofprint singed into the floorboards.

Unable to resist a case that defies all but supernatural logic, Pendergast reunites with police officers Vincent D'Agosta (Relic) and Laura Hayward (Reliquary) to search for a more earthly explanation. But their investigation soon takes them from the luxury estates of Long Island and penthouses of New York City to the crumbling, legend-shrouded castles of the Italian countryside, where thirty years ago four men conjured up something unspeakable. . .

“While dead men tell no tales, their corpses often speak volumes.”

Opening with one of the most intriguing mystery starters ever, Brimstone makes it seem like the devil himself has come to settle scores. Like many other Pendergast novels, sometimes it seems like the story is Paranormally focused, but by the end that's not always the case. I won't say whether it is or isn't this time around, just like Relic and Still Life with Crows, things are usually more than they initially seem, even if what they initially seem is already downright fascinating without adding more plot point brownie points on top.

The creepy atmosphere is well-maintained, although it dwindles down into more of a whodunnit. Finally at the end it almost feels like a spy action-adventure novel. The authors are excellent at weaving up interesting, complex storylines that borrow a little of this and that from various genres. Even Pendergast himself feels little like James Bond. Really there isn't anyone else out there like him, which makes the stories seem even more unique, but you can pick up other far-out there traits shared with other detectives. While the book starts strong, it stays fascinating, but the ending is a little weak in comparison to the rest of the book. Usually the endings of these are showstoppers, so this was a little surprising.

Pendergast doesn't go as far out into Super-Pendergast territory as some of his previous novels, and we get returning characters such as Vincent D'Agosta. This was a treat since I always loved the guy, although he's now had major changes in his life and has to deal with demotion, depression, and self-doubt. It was interesting seeing him deal with his issues and getting a new lease on life, thanks to the supportive friendliness of our pale crusader.

While the fifth in a series, it's also the first of a trilogy focusing on the mystery of Pendergast's long-lost and apparently twisted, evil brother Diogenes.

Overall another psychologically gripping story, but in this case I kind of wish more of a supernatural bend would have come into play. Outstanding characters, well-placed tension, and groovy atmosphere support it up against any weight of plot pitfalls though, so this is another one highly recommended in the long-running series.

   Book Quotes:

"He'd forgotten about those eyes. They made you feel like you had just been stripped of your secrets.”