Crimson Shore

"Crimson Shore"
By: Douglas Preston
and Lincoln Child
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 352
Buy at
of other books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

"Brimstone," August 2004

"Dance of Death," June 2005

"The Book of the Dead," June 2006

"Two Graves," December 2012

"White Fire," November 2013
Preston and Child talk about "Brimstone," August 2004
Preston and Child
Douglas Preston, left, and Lincoln Child

The official website for Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child is loaded with interesting information about them and their books.

A colorful new thriller
from Preston & Child
Special Agent Pendergast and his ward Constance
find more than they'd bargained for in coastal village
December 27, 2013

The almost always reliable writing team of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have turned out one of the more amusing and entertaining books in their wide collection of Agent Pendergast thrillers, "Crimson Shore."

The novel is carried along at first by Pendergast and the unusual charm of his personal life, including his ward, Constance, and by bits of fascinating science. There is a ramping up of excitement with some murders with strange, occult details, an apparent easy climax, and then a sudden rush into the truly weird.

Very satisfying.

The first passage that made me laugh depends a bit, I suspect, on me having read all of the preceding Pendergast thrillers.

Pendergast is speaking: "'Percival Lake ... The name is familiar. Constance, would you be so good as to look that up on .. what is that website? It was named after a large mathematical number.'


"'Ah, yes. Google him for me, if you please.'"

Yes, it's a little silly, but that's OK. Pendergast's fans know him to be more educated and aware than he might let on, and they know him to be elegant, in his very weird way.

Percival Lake turns out to be a famous and wealthy sculptor whose extensive and expensive collection of red wines has been stolen. He wants to hire Pendergast to find it.

He is rebuffed at first, partly because Pendergast is a special agent of the FBI, not a private detective, but when it is revealed that the thieves missed a case of Chateau Haut-Braquilanges, Pendergast agrees to do the job, in return for one bottle of that ridiculously rare wine.

So, Pendergast and Constance are off on what they think will be a lark, a visit to a coastal Massachusetts village off the tourist path.

But then Pendergast, clever fellow, finds something the incompetent locals cops had missed: A bricked-off niche in the wine-cellar wall — a space that had held someone. Shades of "The Cask of Amontillado," by Edgar Allen Poe. Preston & Child are very much given to little tributes to Poe, and to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

And, Pendergast finds one small bone in the niche, and a fascinating bit of modern science reveals that the man who had been bricked up to die in the niche had been a black sailor who died around 1880.

Pendergast, as soon as he found the bone, before he knew its age, immediately wanted Constance to return to the safety of their New York City mansion, but she refuses, and the two of them launch an investigation into why that man had been so cruelly murdered, and why someone in modern times had stolen most of his remains and all that wine.

As the story progresses, some fresher bodies show up, with weird markings carved into them, and Pendergast spends his time exploring the dangerous nearby marshes, while Constance researches local witchcraft and lore.

We, the readers, are aware of what's going on with Constance, who is one of Preston & Child's odder creations, but Pendergast is surprised when that denouement is reached — a long-term plot development I found amusing.

Plot-wise, a point is reached when Pendergast thinks all has been solved, but Constance disagrees. And she is right, as something monstrous, powerful and terrifying erupts in the little seaside village.

And that is not enough for Preston & Child: The book is left with several cliff-hangers.

Fun stuff, especially for longtime fans of the series.

It works fine as a stand-alone, but the entire series, which began in 1995 with "Relic," makes for fun reading and is recommended.

Email John Orr at


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