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Crimson Shore
by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Grand Central, 337pp, $27
Published: November 2015

The latest entry in the Agent Pendergast series by Preston and Childs takes us to Massachusetts and the small coastal town of Exmouth. And like so many small towns, especially in New England—the secrets here are dark, nasty and horrifying.

Pendergast, at loose ends from his previous adventures, takes on a private job, accompanied by Constance Green to discover who stole thousands of dollars’ worth of fancy wine from the cellar of a local artist who works in granite.  Well, Pendergast, fae and fast on his mental feet as always, immediately uncovers an old horror in the empty wine cellar of the sculptor---and the story takes off.  As it usually does when Pendergast is on the case.

Family secrets, historical nightmares---lonely storm ridden salt marshes—this tale tears along like a hurricane.  Until it’s finished.  But, whoa, there’s still almost 100 pages left of the book in hand!

So, hey presto! Let’s dig up ANOTHER horror from the town of Exmouth’s past and have that run amuck killing and terrorizing and….

Damn. This was like reading two different stories.  It’s as if the original story got tied up way sooner than the authors expected and because it was too short we get—practically out of nowhere—another murderous monster brought to light and the chase is on…again.  It felt so very tacked on. Yes, there had been some vague allusions to it earlier on in the midst of the first story but it never really went too far.

But this is not the only thing that bothered me about this novel. There is a scene between Constance and Pendergast that well---zang! It strikes out of nowhere and is quickly hushed up. And again: It doesn’t work for me. It’s a highly charged scene---but it feels way out of character for both and thrown in for effect.

And even more…A.X.L. Pendergast is an FBI agent. A special FBI agent. Why does he have down time (with no explanation in this novel?) His actual work for the FBI seems to be vague and spotty. He whips out his badge when he wants to cut through tedious red tape---but he never ever seems to do any actual work FOR the FBI. They let him wander at will and provide just a convenient door-opener for him to solve bizarre crimes.  And yes, it works! It’s worked spectacularly in several novels.

But somehow, in this book, with its major construction issue, the fact of Pendergast’s connection to the FBI is becoming more nebulous and random. This quirk is beginning to wear out for me.

So, sad to say, this was a very disappointing novel. Even the nasty character that shows up in the last pages signaling a return of someone we’ve run into before didn’t really pique my interest. Sigh. We’ve chewed this gum before.  Perhaps Pendergast needs to be retired. ~~ Sue Martin

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