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The Cabinet of Curiosities (Special Agent Pendergast Series #3)

The Cabinet of Curiosities (Special Agent Pendergast Series #3)

4.4 338
by Douglas Preston

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In an ancient tunnel underneath New York City a charnel house is discovered.
Inside are thirty-six bodies—all murdered and mutilated more than a century ago.
While FBI agent Pendergast investigates the old crimes, identical killings start to terrorize the city.
The nightmare has begun.


In an ancient tunnel underneath New York City a charnel house is discovered.
Inside are thirty-six bodies—all murdered and mutilated more than a century ago.
While FBI agent Pendergast investigates the old crimes, identical killings start to terrorize the city.
The nightmare has begun.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Featuring fabulous locales, colorful characters, pointed riffs on city and museum politics, cool forensic and paleontological speculation and several gripping set pieces including an extended white knuckle climax, this is a great [novel]...Preston & Child at the top of their game."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)"

THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES is intelligent, witty, fast-moving, and fun."—The San Jose Mercury News"

Absolutely terrific thriller....[Preston & Child] score another big winner. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

The San Jose Mercury News
"THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES is intelligent, witty, fast-moving, and fun."
In lower Manhattan, excavators make a gruesome discovery: the buried bone stash of a late-19th-century serial killer. After a newspaper reporter broadcasts the story of this ghastly archaeological find, deadly things begin to happen. Murder follows murder. Who is holding New York City in fear: Is he a copycat killer or is he the rightful heir of the Five Points madman? Fortunately, FBI agent Pendergast and his cohorts are on the case.
Publishers Weekly
In seven bestselling novels (from Relic to The Ice Limit), Preston and Child have delivered a body of science-based thrillers that for high excitement and robust scientific imaginings rival those of Michael Crichton. Their eighth outing is another richly entertaining tale, about the hunt for a seemingly immortal serial killer at work in New York City. Preston and Child revive characters and settings from earlier novels, often a red flag that authorial imagination is tiring; but in this case, all comes together with zing. There's FBI Special Agent Pendergast (from Relic), pale, refined and possessed of a Holmes-like brain; dogged New York Times reporter William Smithback Jr. and his fiery erstwhile girlfriend, Nora Kelly of the New York (read American, where Preston used to work) Museum of Natural History (both characters from Thunderhead with the museum the setting for Relic). The action begins when groundbreaking for an apartment tower in downtown Manhattan reveals a charnel house of murder victims from the late 19th century. Enter Pendergast, who for unexplained reasons taps Kelly to study the remains before the site is stripped by the building's developer, a Donald Trump-type who, with the mayor's backing, will accept no construction delays. As Kelly calls on Smithback for investigative help, the city is struck by killings that duplicate the earlier murders, with the victims' spinal cords ripped away and clues pointing to a 19th-century scientist who sought the secret of immortality. Featuring fabulous locales, colorful characters, pointed riffs on city and museum politics, cool forensic and paleontological speculation and several gripping set pieces including an extended white-knuckle climax, this a great beach novel, at times gruesome, always fun: Preston-Child at the top of their game. (June 3) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This absolutely terrific thriller brings together a lot of old friends from previous books: FBI Special Agent Pendergast and New York Times reporter Bill Smithback (Relic and Reliquary), archaeologist Nora Kelly (Thunderhead), and the New York Museum of Natural History (Relic). This time, the historical shenanigans center on a serial killer who operated 130 years ago out of a "Cabinet of Curiosities," a scientific sideshow of sorts that was the 19th-century precursor to natural history museums. With the help of Smithback and Kelly, Agent Pendergast determines that the killer harvested parts from living human beings and distilled them into an elixir that would, in turn, allow him to live forever. It was a gruesome business in 1870, and it is no less terrifying when "copycat" killings start anew in 2002. Could there really be a murderer on the loose for 130 years? This adventure has all the elements of the perfect summer read: the wonderfully spooky atmosphere, the dogged reporter smitten with the lovely scientist, and the mysteriously prescient FBI agent. Authors Preston and Child have been hot since Relic, and here they score another big winner. Highly recommended for all fiction collections. Rebecca House Stankowski, Purdue Univ. Calumet Lib., Hammond, IN Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-FBI Special Agent Pendergast needs the talents of Nora Kelly, an archaeologist, and William Smithback, Jr., a researcher and reporter, to track down a serial killer whom he is sure has been stalking his prey since the late-19th century. When a real-estate developer demolishes a building and finds victims of a murderer who killed by tearing out their spinal columns, the three team up to pursue the evil behind the acts. Along the way, they nearly lose their lives as they relentlessly track the killer who, indeed, is still alive at the beginning of the 21st century. Pendergast stands out as a unique character, mysterious in his own right, with almost superhuman strength and endurance, and encyclopedic knowledge, and the human emotions and abilities of his two assistants intensifies interest in them. The authors again weave facts from New York City history with a thriller plot to produce an adventure filled with fast-moving events, gruesome scenes, and enough scary moments to keep the pages turning quickly. Fans of Preston and Child's Relic (Tor, 1996) or Reliquary (Forge, 1997) will enjoy this title as well.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Special Agent Pendergast Series , #3
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Cabinet of Curiosities

By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Warner Books

Copyright © 2002 Splendide Mendax, Inc., and Lincoln Child
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-61123-9

Chapter One

PEE-WEE BOXER SURVEYED THE JOBSITE WITH DISGUST. THE FOREMAN was a scumbag. The crew were a bunch of losers. Worst of all, the guy handling the Cat didn't know jack about hydraulic excavators. Maybe it was a union thing; maybe he was friends with somebody; either way, he was jerking the machine around like it was his first day at Queens Vo-Tech. Boxer stood there, beefy arms folded,watching as the big bucket bit into the brick rubble of the old tenement block. The bucket flexed, stopped suddenly with a squeal of hydraulics, then started again, swinging this way and that. Christ, where did they get these jokers?

He heard a crunch of footsteps behind him and turned to see the foreman approaching, face caked in dust and sweat. "Boxer! You buy tickets to this show, or what?"

Boxer flexed the muscles of his massive arms, pretending not to hear. He was the only one on the site who knew construction, and the crews resented him for it. Boxer didn't care; he liked keeping to himself.

He heard the excavator rattle as it carved into the solid wall of old fill. The lower strata of older buildings lay open to the sun, exposed like a fresh wound: above, asphalt and cement; below, brick, rubble, then more brick. And below that, dirt. To sink the footings for the glass apartment tower well into bedrock, they had to go deep.

He glanced out beyond the worksite. Beyond, a row of Lower East Side brownstones stood starkly in the brilliant afternoon light. Some had just been renovated. The rest would soon follow. Gentrification.

"Yo! Boxer! You deaf?"

Boxer flexed again, fantasizing briefly about sinking his fist into the guy's red face.

"Come on, get your ass in gear. This isn't a peepshow."

The foreman jerked his head toward Boxer's work detail. Not coming any closer, though. So much the better for him. Boxer looked around for his shift crew. They were busy piling bricks into a Dumpster, no doubt for sale to some pioneering yuppie around the corner who liked crappy-looking old bricks at five dollars each. He began walking, just slowly enough to let the foreman know he wasn't in any hurry.

There was a shout. The grinding of the excavator ceased suddenly. The Cat had bit into a brick foundation wall, exposing a dark, ragged hole behind it. The operator swung down from the idling rig. Frowning, the foreman walked over, and the two men started talking animatedly.

"Boxer!" came the foreman's voice. "Since you ain't doing squat, I got another job for you."

Boxer altered his course subtly, as if that was the way he'd already been going, not looking up to acknowledge he had heard, letting his attitude convey the contempt he felt for the scrawny foreman. He stopped in front of the guy, staring at the man's dusty little workboots. Small feet, small dick. Slowly, he glanced up.

"Welcome to the world, Pee-Wee. Take a look at this." Boxer gave the hole the merest glance. "Let's see your light."

Boxer slipped the ribbed yellow flashlight out of a loop in his pants and handed it to the foreman.

The foreman switched it on. "Hey, it works," he said, shaking his head at the miracle. He leaned into the hole. The guy looked like an idiot, standing daintily on tiptoe atop a fallen pile of brick, his head and torso invisible within the ragged hole. He said something but it was too muffled to make out. He withdrew.

"Looks like a tunnel." He wiped his face, smearing the dust into a long black line. "Whew, stinks in there." "See King Tut?" someone asked.

Everyone but Boxer laughed. Who the hell was King Tut? "I sure as shit hope this isn't some kind of archaeological deal." He turned to Boxer. "Pee-Wee, you're a big, strong fella. I want you to check it out."

Boxer took the flashlight and, without a glance at the weenies around him, hoisted himself up the collapsed pile of bricks and into the hole the excavator had cut into the wall. He knelt atop the broken bricks, shining his light into the cavity. Below was a long, low tunnel. Cracks doglegged up through the walls and across the ceiling. It looked just about ready to collapse.

He hesitated. "You going in, or what?" came the voice of the foreman. He heard another voice, a whiny imitation. "But it's not in my union contract." There were guffaws. He went in.

Bricks had spilled down in a talus to the floor of the tunnel. Boxer half scrambled, half slid in, raising clouds of dust. He found his feet and stood up, shining the light ahead. It lanced through the dust, not getting far. From inside, the place seemed even darker. He waited for his eyes to adjust and the dust to settle. He heard conversation and laughter from above, but faintly, as if from a great distance.

He took a few steps forward, shining the beam back and forth. Threadlike stalactites hung from the ceiling, and a draft of foul-smelling air licked his face. Dead rats, probably.

The tunnel appeared to be empty, except for a few pieces of coal. Along both sides were a long series of arched niches, about three feet across and five high, each crudely bricked up. Water glistened on the walls, and he heard a chorus of faint dripping sounds. It seemed very quiet now, the tunnel blocking all noise from the outside world.

He took another step, angling the flashlight beam along the walls and ceiling. The network of cracks seemed to grow even more extensive, and pieces of stone jutted from the arched ceiling. Cautiously, he backed up, his eye straying once again to the bricked-up niches along both walls. He approached the closest one. A brick had recently fallen out, and the others looked loose. He wondered what might be inside the niches. Another tunnel? Something deliberately hidden?

He shined the light into the brick-hole, but it could not penetrate the blackness beyond. He put his hand in, grasped the lower brick, and wiggled it. Just as he thought: it, too, was loose. He jerked it out with a shower of lime dust. Then he pulled out another, and another. The foul odor, much stronger now, drifted out to him.

He shined the light in again. Another brick wall, maybe three feet back. He angled the light toward the bottom of the arch, peering downward. There was something there, like a dish. Porcelain. He shuffled back a step, his eyes watering in the fetid air. Curiosity struggled with a vague sense of alarm.

Something was definitely inside there. It might be old and valuable. Why else would it be bricked up like that?

He remembered a guy who once found a bag of silver dollars while demolishing a brownstone. Rare, worth a couple thousand. Bought himself a slick new Kubota riding mower. If it was valuable, screw them, he was going to pocket it.

He plucked at his collar buttons, pulled his T-shirt over his nose, reached into the hole with his flashlight arm, then resolutely ducked his head and shoulders in after it and got a good look.

For a moment he remained still, frozen in place. Then his head jerked back involuntarily, slamming against the upper course of bricks. He dropped the light into the hole and staggered away, scraping his forehead this time, lurching back into the dark, his feet backing into bricks. He fell to the floor with an involuntary cry.

For a moment, all was silent. The dust swirled upward, and far above there was a feeble glow of light from the outside world. The stench swept over him. With a gasp he staggered to his feet, heading for the light, scrambling up the slide of bricks, falling, his face in the dirt, then up again and scrabbling with both hands. Suddenly he was out in the clear light, tumbling headfirst down the other side of the brick pile, landing facedown with a stunning blow.

He vaguely heard laughter, which ceased as soon as he rolled over. And then there was a rush to his side, hands picking him up, voices talking all at once.

"Jesus Christ, what happened to you?" "He's hurt," came a voice. "He's all bloody." "Step back," said another. Boxer tried to catch his breath, tried to control the hammering of his heart.

"Don't move him. Call an ambulance." "Was it a cave-in?" The yammering went on and on. He finally coughed and sat up, to a sudden hush.

"Bones," he managed to say. "Bones? Whaddya mean, bones?" "He's not making any sense."

Boxer felt his head begin to clear. He looked around, feeling the hot blood running down his face. "Skulls, bones. Piled up. Dozens of them." Then he felt faint and lay down again, in the bright sunlight.


Excerpted from The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child Copyright ©2002 by Splendide Mendax, Inc., and Lincoln Child. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

The thrillers of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child "stand head and shoulders above their rivals" (Publishers Weekly). Preston and Child's Relic and The Cabinet of Curiosities were chosen by readers in a National Public Radio poll as being among the one hundred greatest thrillers ever written, and Relic was made into a number-one box office hit movie. They are coauthors of the famed Pendergast series and their recent novels include Fever Dream, Cold Vengeance, Two Graves, and Gideon's Corpse. Preston's acclaimed nonfiction book, The Monster of Florence, is being made into a movie starring George Clooney. Lincoln Child is a former book editor who has published five novels of his own, including the huge bestseller Deep Storm.
Readers can sign up for The Pendergast File, a monthly "strangely entertaining note" from the authors, at their website, www.PrestonChild.com. The authors welcome visitors to their alarmingly active Facebook page, where they post regularly.

Brief Biography

Place of Birth:
Cambridge, Massachusetts
B.A., Pomona College, 1978

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The Cabinet of Curiosities (Special Agent Pendergast Series #3) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 338 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best of the first three by far and I liked the first two just fine. Very interesting plot, with Pendergast at his best and more of a developed character now. It will leave you scampering for 'Still Life with Crows,' and then on to 'Brimstone,' where things really 'heat up.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would have to say this is the best book they have written. I felt as if I was in the story, they did a great job at making this story suspensful. It was very creepy and I couldn't put it down. I am a fan of all of thier books, and I think they did a great job of describing the story. This is a great read for anyone who love these books and I definetly recommend reading this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The premise behind this book will really scare you...and make you think. More than Relic or Reliquary, Cabinet of Curiosities starts to give us a look at the Pendergast history, and the driving force behind all of Agent Pendergast's actions. Another great addition to the series that will keep you guessing until the very last pages!
Elfe More than 1 year ago
I read this book and I loved it so much that I read it a second time. Preston and Child are some of my favourite writers and I would recommend them to anybody. They are some of the best writers and I love to reread all of their books.
caroline18 More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! I just finished it and it was the first of the Preston and Child books that I have read and I am currently adding all their books to my cart and buying them. It was fantastic, I was hooked from the first few pages. It was very interesting and captivating, I couldn't put it down! FABULOUS! It was so hard to not look ahead and try to figure out the book. I HIGHLY recommend reading this book even if you read no other Preston and Child book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't hold out much hope for this book as the earlier two novels in the series proved to be a dissapoint, but i throughly enjoyed this novel. it was compelling and interesting. these guys write awesome thrillers and have captivated my interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Two of the best authors i've ever read. I love
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a thriller from the first few pages! I found no slow spots throughout the book, story line very intriging, I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a great thriller!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this one. It is always nice to get back to the characters that you know. That being said, I did not like this as much as the first two in the series. Pendergast seemed too artificial in this book. Also, I think it was D'Agosta and the doctolady that made the other teo so good. Still, I will give Pendergast another shot, because the next book in the series sounds good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book by these authors in my opinion. Read every single one they have out. Pendergast is incredible and such an intricate and unique character. Definitely a must read for anyone who loves reading and enjoys being kept on their toes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was waiting for this to came back in hardcover. Was expecting a dust jacket. Went one for two. Glad the book is so much better than the cover.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Pendergast books are the best thrillers I have read in years. Some of these reviews say Pendergast is too unreal, no one can survive that many accidents, but that is what is so fun; it's just Harry Potter in a black suit. Great read!
grammiebets More than 1 year ago
I am trying to read these in order, and I must say, it didn't take much to get me hooked with this book. From the initial "find" to the fast paced conclusion, I enjoyed this read very much. I will continue to read this series, and any Preston & Child offering I find. Very good reads!
Ms_H45 More than 1 year ago
First of the series i read - couldnt put it down!
neogina More than 1 year ago
Second reading is better than 1st-if that is possible. I still feel this is a diabolical masterpiece. Hooked forever. One of the books I would include in my top 10 scary mysteries.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first Pendergast book I have read. I don't usually like mysteries, but absolutely loved it. The writers, Preston and Child, really have it together. The research is extensive and extremely interesting. I am now reading Reliquary and again very in depth technical jargon. I'm hooked on Pendergast.
Mary Ann Halkard More than 1 year ago
Fast moving, unexpected, thoroughly enjoyable!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book was fairly good but it took me a while to get over the little mind trips Pendergast takes. What is wrong with a normal plot instead of having to lace it together with this supernatural crap? Stephanie Clanahan
JWagstaffe More than 1 year ago
Preston and Child have a way of writing that keeps you interested throughout the story.  Keeping you on the edge of your seat and nervous for what may lay around any corner is a talent few writer's possess well.  The conclusion of the story also leaves one satisfied as they touch on the fantastical without losing credibility.  A very good read. 
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Reading-Fool More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite of the Agent Pendergast books.  Its the first where Agent Pendergast becomes the focal point of the series and he is presented with one heck of a mystery that reaches back into the very roots of his own family. Much of what happens in this book carries over through the rest of the series. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago