Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Book of the Dead - Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child


2006; 597 pages. Third book in the "Diogenes" trilogy. Genre : Thriller. Overall Rating : B.
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Three storylines are intertwined in this finale to the trilogy. Our hero, Aloysius Pendergast (think Sherlock Holmes), finds himself in Solitary in an "escape-proof" prison, accused on three murders, including a senior FBI agent. His evil brother, Diogenes, (think Professor Moriarty), amuses himself by sending the New York Museum of Natural History's stolen diamond collection back to them as ground-up dust, and messing with the head of Aloysius's ward, Constance Greene. And the NYMoNH decides to re-showcase an ancient Egyptian tomb, despite the fact that they mothballed it 70 years earlier because of "the curse".
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What's To Like...
Preston & Child always write a good thriller. The tension in BoTD rises steadily for the first 400 pages, despite no violence taking place for more than 100 pages. Once again, the reader is left to figure out whether the Mummy's Curse is natural or supernatural; P&C resolve plots in this series via both techniques. Aloysius's prison-escape plan (well, you knew he'd do this) is captivatingly clever.
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Alas, there are some believability issues. After having made his escape (and showing up in public at the NYMoNH), the FBI and NYPD seem to just say, "Oh well", and lose interest in recapturing the triple-murder escapee. Not likely, guys. And Diogenes, who's been running circles around everybody for two books, ultimately gets his comeuppance from a rank amateur. I'll ignore the spur-of-the-moment concocting of tri-nitroglycerine, made from scratch, and using only chemicals conveniently found at the museum.
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Then there's the conclusion itself. The climax of the Mummy's Curse storyline is just a duplicate of what P&C used in the first book in this series, Relic. C'mon guys - enough of the "trapped crowd in the museum" schtick. Last but not least, Diogenes' ultimate demise is both unbelievable and stolen straight from Arthur Conan Doyle's method of disposing of Moriarty. And since there's no body, P&C can always write Diogenes back into the series whenever they run out of fresh ideas for villains.
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Just another manic Mummy...
But I quibble. The book, and indeed the whole trilogy (Note : These three stories - Brimstone, Dance of Death, and The Book of The Dead - are not stand-alones. You definitely want to read them in order.) are action-packed page-turners, with interesting characters, lots of twists, good suspense, and a worthy Ultimate Evil. We'll give BoTD a B, only because it runs out of steam with 200 pages to go. This was "A" reading up until then.
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And BTW, P&C's newest release in the Pendergast series, Cemetery Dance, has just been released in hardback. I will most certainly be reading it, albeit waiting until it comes out in paperback or shows up at the used bookstore.

3 comments:

Lula O said...

Sounds like an interesting premise. Speaking of mummy's in museums, Hank Azaria plays one funny mummified corpse in that movie that just came out, Night at the Museum II, or Look at Ben Stiller's Weird Hair, or whatever it's called. My kids loved it. I actually laughed, and for a kids movie that's always a plus, as I usually end up snoring by the second act.

Christina said...

Sherlock and mummies? Hmm... I might have to try it out one day. When I saw the title, for some reason I keep thinking of the Mummy movies with Brandon Frasier, hmmm.... I think I need to go to the movie rental place soon.

hamilcar barca said...

one small non-spoiler caveat : the book's title has absolutely nothing to do with the story itself. one wonders if this was a marketing ploy mandated by the Publisher.