The Cabinet of Curiosities (2002) – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child


The third novel featuring FBI agent Pendergast is set, once again, in New York.

It’s been a number of years since the journey into the sublevels of the Big Apple, but a curious discovery has drawn Pendergast back to the city. A charnel house has been discovered while the foundation of a new building is being laid. Thirty six corpses, brutally murdered, may hold the key to solving a decades old mystery.

Pendergast is aided by a policeman, his old friend, newspaperman, Bill Smithback and archaeologist, Nora Kelly.

Things take a turn for the darker when it seems New York is now being plagued by a copycat murderer. Bodies are being discovered with the lower portion of their spinal cords removed, while the victims are still alive.

Pendergast believes that the murders are being committed by the same person, despite the fact that the remains in the charnel house are over a century old. Is he right? Is there a killer out there that has found a key to eternal life, and is stalking the streets for some unknown reason?

Smithback, while not believing that theory, scents a story, and a chance to get back into Nora’s good graces, digs into the mystery, and before the end of the story, finds himself in a terrifying situation.


Pendergast, meanwhile, works to discover the killer’s home, but it’s the reader who is in for a shock or two, as we learn more about Special Agent Pendergast this time around.

Preston and Child have once again crafted an engrossing novel that delves into the dark places of humanity. They continue to flesh out their Holmsian creation, Pendergast, never unveiling too much, but instead, giving us hints and impressions not only of Pendergast’s current life, but that of his youth as well… We get the first mention of a brother in this book, and something tells me that will come back to haunt us.

The two writers know how to craft a tense sequence, and there are a number of them. From someone stalking Nora through the museum archives, to the nail-biting climax as Pendergast comes face to face with the true villain of the piece.

There are other things going on as well throughout the book, political maneuverings by a mayor up for re-election, who promises results, and a police detective, Custer, who may, or may not be on the right trail.

Much like it’s two predecessors, this novel boots along quickly, combing science, a hint of procedural, and a lot of thrills. I was a little worried about where the series would go, especially after how the two previous books were connected not only be characters but by subject. It seems there is plenty of interesting things out there for Pendergast to investigate.

I do wonder how many of them are going to be in New York, though. It’s a big world out there, and I bet Pendergast can find his way into all kinds of trouble worldwide.

The next book in the series is called Still Life With Crows… we’ll see where that one takes us.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s