If it is true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then it's clear that Preston and Child are none too shy about expressing their unabashed admiration for Conan Doyle's hero, Sherlock Holmes.
Just as Holmes struggled to the death with his arch-enemy Moriarty on the brink of Reichenbach Falls and then retired briefly from the world to a life of contemplative meditation in the Tibetan Himalayas, FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast and his ward Constance Greene have sought the peace and solitude of the isolated Gsalrig Chongg monastery after their titanic struggle with Pendergast's evil sibling, Diogenes. This hard won respite and serenity is but short-lived as the monks seek Pendergast's assistance with the recovery of a thousand year old relic. The Agozyen, one of the monastery's most guarded artifacts, has been stolen by a mountaineer who stayed briefly at the monastery to recover from injuries sustained in a climbing accident. The monks are terrified that the thief may inadvertently release the power of the Agozyen prophesied to have the power to cleanse the world of mankind's evil by eliminating all life!
Pendergast and Greene ingeniously track the Agozyen and follow its gruesome trail of murder onto the maiden voyage of the ultra-modern ocean liner, the Britannia. At that point, Preston and Child jam the thriller throttle to the stops and never let it up until the delicious ending of an amazing epilogue. Their style is eminently recognizable and, if it isn't trademarked, it sure ought to be! "The Wheel of Darkness" is a superb blend of stoicism, mysticism, philosophy, eastern religion and, indeed, the paranormal with character development of almost astonishing power and depth, exciting dialogue and non-stop high speed standard thriller action and chills. Like all of its predecessors, "The Wheel of Darkness" is also a wellspring of informative, arcane detail on a fascinating piece of technology that somehow furthers the plot - in this case, the minutiae of the construction and operation of a massive modern ocean-going passenger ship!
Newcomers to Pendergast, be warned! Unless the idea of getting to the end of a book and saying, "What in the world was that all about?" appeals to you, do NOT read this book without reading the rest of the series first. Do yourself a favour and go back - go way back - to the very beginning and start with "Relic"!
Old-time Pendergast fans may also take warning. Enjoy every delicious page and, whatever you do, don't take that proverbial peek at the last page!
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About the reviewer
Paul Weiss (cpw1952)
A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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