Reliquary (1997) – Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child


The second novel in the Pendergast series from Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child serves as a direct sequel to 1995’s The Relic.

Pendergast, Margo, Frock, D’Agosta and Smithback are all back with the addition of a few new characters including the tough, and very smart Hayward. And while the revelation in the final act didn’t come as a huge shock, there is enough going on in this book to more than make up for that.

After the incident with the museum beast, as chronicled in Relilc, things settle down for a while, but that quiet, especially in a city like New York, doesn’t last long. Headless corpses have begun showing up, and there is evidence to suggest that something like the Mbwun may be on the prowl.

As Pendergast and D’Agosta investigate, Smithback finds himself allied with a rich widow, Wisher, who is ready to start a class war over the murder of her daughter. Unfortunately, as these things so often do, everything comes to a head at the same time, plunging the inhabitants of New York into a horrific night as the upperclass clash with the homeless, who are driven out of the catacomb of tunnels under the city by the police as they hunt something the under-dwellers simply call Wrinklers.

Once again, Preston and Child have created an epic tale that thrills right to the last moment, and has some truly unnerving sequences.

preston child

First and foremost among them are the attacks by the Wrinklers in the tunnels. I;m not sure how they’ve done it exactly, but there is such a sense of claustrophobia and terror in the underground sequences that even as I read them aboard the streetcar to and from work, I was more than a little bothered, and verging on the freaked out. They were great sequences.

Building on what we learned and experienced in Relic, we know, going in, how dangerous this is going to be, and when we learn that there may, in fact, be more than one of these things wandering around the uncharted and lost tunnels beneath New York, the fear gets ratcheted up exponentially.

Pendergast is a little more prevalent in this book, and I’ll be very curious where his further adventures take him, but he still has that unflappable cool Southern gentleman thing going, he’s rather Holmsian, but as far as I know to date, without the addiction problems.

While it may seem a little coincidental that everything absolutely has to happen on the same night, when things go south, it makes a huge impact on the story, and consequently has a number of’ “Oh, shit.” moments.

I’ll be curious to see what Pendergast gets up to next when he takes on The Cabinet of Curiosities.

I will say this, I actually enjoyed this one more than Relic. So check it out!




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