Good, but Too Formula and Too Conceited to Be One of the Best
First, I am a big fan of the Pendergast series by Preston and Child, which is why I deliberated so long on my review of this novel. But in the end, what seems a shift in the main character’s personality and the familiarity of some story themes left me feeling less engaged than I had felt previously.
The novel reads like it was written in two parts. The first, which accounts for about two-thirds of the book, involves solving the theft of the wine collection. Sometimes I wonder if Preston and Child spend much of their time between novels researching vocabulary, because they always seem to find terminology to fit the feel and lineage of the plot. In this case, they use a number of somewhat archaic words to underscore a story with roots in the 1690s. I always appreciate their attention to this type of detail. The shortcoming of this section, however, is what seems to be a shift in Pendergast’s view of the world. He is always been aloof and extremely particular in his tastes in everything from his associates to his wardrobe to the food and drink he consumes. Even so, he usually finds a “diamond in the rough” in the people he deals with, e.g., Carrie Swanson, even when their potential is not apparent to others. But in this book, he seems to become quite snobbish and condescending of nearly everyone.
In the second part, the plot becomes more violent and darker. It is, in a phrase, more typical Pendergast action. But to some degree, this is also the limitation. Preston and Child seem to have adopted a few specific physical settings to evoke anxiety in the reader and a few methods to explain otherwise inexplicable occurrences, and this part of the book uses a couple that are becoming somewhat well-worn within the series. Having said that, however, there is still enigmatic turn of events at the end that assures that I, once again, will be buying the next installment as soon as it appears as a pre-order.