Crimson Shore by Preston & Child (Book Review)

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Crimson Shore by Preston and Child is the 15th novel in the Agent Pendergast series and may be the first time I will give something far less than a stellar review to one of these novels. This is surprising when the premise held such promise.

“…That is the distal phalanx of the left index finger of a human being. You will note the very tip is chipped, scraped, and fractured. That was done perimortem-at the time of death.’
She handed it back. ‘I can see that.’
‘Now let us look at the building stones.’ He pivoted with the penlight. “I’ve arranged them on my jacket as they were in situ, with the inside face towards us. Note the deep gouges, scratches, and those splatters of a dark substance.’ She watched as he used the LED as a pointer. ‘What do they tell you?’
Constance had seen this coming. ‘That someone, many years ago, was chained and walled up in that niche alive, and tried to claw his way out…”

Agent Pendergast is relaxing at home with his ward Constance Green when they receive a visitor. In the seaside village of Exmouth a priceless wine collection is stolen. Pendergast agrees to investigate the theft but what he finds is far more than a burglary. Behind the stolen wine is a secret chamber that holds the remains of human body. A body that had been tortured and left to die, sealed in forever. As Pendergast investigates he uncovers a mysterious shipwreck that may have led to an act of mass murder. Bodies begin to pile up in the salt marshes of Exmouth as the mysteries of this small village are dug up.

The first part of this novel is intriguing and has all the moments and hidden gems that come with a Preston and Child novel. Then strangely, two thirds of the way, the story starts to set up what is to come in the next novel. The mystery of the hidden body and the history of Exmouth almost become secondary to the mystery that has been laying beneath it all. A mystery which will not be really revealed until the next book comes along. That is too bad as the mystery of Exmouth and the hidden body would have made a terrific tale on its own. Preston and Child have made their names with powerfully written, complex and terrifically researched tales. Pendergast as a character is a modern day, Poe inspired, Sherlock Holmes. But here, the character changes. His sentiment for his ward Greene seem to cause him to miss clues that would normally been obvious to him. Then comes the final part of the novel where the forgotten coven of witches and the creature they breed come to bear. A creature that is similar to that in the Relic.

There are two separate books here in Crimson Shore. That’s two bad because they could each have made two good books. Instead we have one book, with two novels, neither one truly complete.


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