Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – the latest entry in the Pendergast series and every bit as tightly plotted and exciting as the others. FBI agent A.X.L. Pendergast and his evil younger brother, Diogenes, are at it again, with A. in federal prison awaiting trial on murder charges and D. loose in the Museum of Natural History in NYC. As A. languishes in prison, D. goes forward with a diabolical plot to destroy all of his enemies and a goodly number of the general population as well. Curator Nora Kelly is assigned the monumental task of re-opening the Tomb of Senef, a museum exhibit that was mysteriously closed and bricked up in the 1930’s. Little does she know, she has become a pawn in Diogenes’ deadly pursuit of what he sees as justice for a wrong done him when he was a child. Preston & Child are masters at twisty-turny plots that pull the reader in one direction after another, but which are so finely crafted that you never lose your way. One thing I have always liked about the Preston-Child collaboration is that they keep their characters to a bare minimum, which allows the reader to keep track of the complicated plot without having to remember a million characters and what they do. Highly recommended for those readers who like action and a kick-ass mystery.
Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman – I thoroughly enjoyed Goodman’s earlier work, Lake of Dead Languages, so picked this one up when I happened upon it in the library a few weeks ago. It seemed to have all the elements I like in a story, so I gave it a shot. Sorry I did. I knew immediately I wasn’t going to like this book because Goodman resorts to a literary convention I really, truly don’t like — alternating chapters between the present time and an earlier time. I find that incredibly disconcerting and find myself reading all the chapters about one time, then reading all the chapters about the earlier time. Weird, I know. Anyway, just in case any of you don’t mind the alternating space-time thing, here’s a brief synopsis from Publisher’s Weekly:
- An isolated Victorian mansion in upstate New York is the backdrop for Goodman’s latest literary mystery, which stars a debut novelist and her fellow residents at the artists’ retreat Bosco. Ellis Brooks has been accepted to Bosco primarily because her first novel is to be a fictional account of the mansion’s mysterious past; while there will be no deaths during her stay, there’s spookiness aplenty, as well as several 1893 murders still begging resolution. Goodman’s narrative alternates between Ellis’s first-person present and 1893. Coincidentally-or not-two of Bosco’s other guests are also working on projects related to the mansion. But they turn out to be little more than convenient accessories as Ellis, the daughter of a psychic (and possessor of certain powers of her own), unlocks clue after mystical clue to secrets long buried by the mansion’s original owners. As great a player as any is the mansion itself and its creepy (and possibly haunted) gardens. Is this an updated Victorian drawing room mystery or a romance novel/crime fiction-cum-ghost story? Never mind. Enjoy the atmosphere. And enjoy the ride; its twists and turns mesmerize, even if they don’t surprise.