With their previous release in the long-running FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast series, WHITE FIRE, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child introduced a rarity --- a novel that clearly could be seen as a stand-alone title. More importantly, especially for Sherlock Holmes fans like myself, it featured an allegedly unpublished Holmes tale by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
In BLUE LABYRINTH, Preston and Child have returned fully to the Pendergast tome of novels, and it is steeped in both history from his past and several references to earlier stories in the series. Though not impossible to enjoy this book without reading the previous entries, it is highly recommended that readers become somewhat familiar with them to enhance enjoyment. There is even reference to the novel that started it all for them: RELIC.
"This may be a bold statement, but I believe BLUE LABYRINTH is the finest Pendergast novel yet.... The story gives you everything readers have become accustomed to when delving into a Preston and Child thriller: edge-of-your seat suspense, flawless plotting and enough scientific detail to please all of their fans."
This 14th Pendergast tale is top notch from start to finish and defiantly dares readers to place it down, even momentarily. In TWO GRAVES, Pendergast learned that he had twin sons --- one good, one less than good. The more nefarious of the twins, Alban, turns up dead on the doorstep of Pendergast's uptown Manhattan mansion on Riverside Drive. Though he barely knew him and had never formed any attachment, Pendergast is still shocked by the event and launches himself into the streets of NYC, chasing after the vehicle that dumped the body so crudely on his front steps.
The case is turned over to the NYPD where one of Pendergast's long-time companions, Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta, works. Alban's murder is given to a Detective Angler, who looks past Pendergast's infamous reputation as an eccentric FBI agent with an uncanny ability to solve mysterious cases. Meanwhile, D'Agosta is investigating a murder at the New York Museum of Natural History, where he swore never to step into again after the events that took place in RELIC. Who knew then that this murder and Alban's would be connected somehow?
Alban's autopsy uncovers a unique finding --- a turquoise gem in his stomach. Further research provides Pendergast with information that the origin of this gem is on the edge of the Salton Sea on the West Coast. It is there where Pendergast confronts a mysterious man --- the same man who ends up being the lead suspect in D'Agosta's case --- who perpetrates a lethal crime against him. Pendergast has been led into a trap whereby an unknown toxin has been inhaled that will cause debilitating and excruciating pain, eventually followed by a nasty death.
The ironic thing is that this toxin can be traced back to an elixir originally created by Pendergast's great-grandfather, Hezekiah Pendergast. That elixir caused many people to die in horrific ways, and it now appears that someone has gone to great and intricate lengths to exact the ultimate revenge upon Pendergast in response to the sins of his family lineage. Pendergast's ward, Constance Greene, must now deal with his quickly deteriorating health situation. She teams with D'Agosta and botanist Margo Green in a race against time to find an antidote that may be hidden in Hezekiah's journals.
The perpetrator of this complex revenge scheme turns out to be someone whose family was directly affected by Hezekiah's elixir. This gentleman, who is extremely powerful, military-minded and crafty, has endless resources to ensure Pendergast’s death. Once Pendergast learns of this person's identity, he realizes that he may be dealing with the devil himself and urges his friends to stop trying to save his life lest they place themselves in mortal danger in the process.
This may be a bold statement, but I believe BLUE LABYRINTH is the finest Pendergast novel yet. He's already one of the most unique protagonists in thriller fiction --- sort of like a Cajun Sherlock Holmes --- and that alone sustains high interest in all of the books in this series. The story gives you everything readers have become accustomed to when delving into a Preston and Child thriller: edge-of-your seat suspense, flawless plotting and enough scientific detail to please all of their fans. They take what seems to be the most daunting threat ever presented to Agent Pendergast and still maintain a level of suspense that grabs you by the throat and never lets go. BLUE LABYRINTH is a fine work and one of the best reads of 2014.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on November 13, 2014