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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.
Posted February 20, 2008
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.'
10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 5, 2008
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.
6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 6, 2006
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.
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 29, 2011
I really wanted to like this book but there were two BIG problems i had with it. The biggest was the new main character. Pendergast becomes the main hero of the series in this book and I can't stand him. The main "FBI Agent" has no boss, is rich, drives around with a chauffeur, can apparently time travel through his imagination, knows EVERYTHING, not just has several hobbies he has studied, he seems to know EVERYTHING, seems arrogant, and apparently has no faults. He is one of the most unlikeable characters I have ever come across. I mean why not just turn him into superman but get rid of kryptonite? (SPOILER) At one point after being gut shot by a .45, having his elbow shattered by the same .45, and still weak from being stabbed in the chest, he preforms surgery on himself. COME ON! I realize there is supposed to be some kind of supernatural element in these books but this character is just terrible.
The second big problem I had with the book is EVERY CHARACTER basically turns into the same character. From the security guard to the head of the museum of natural history every character is (even if sometimes secretly) either an opera fanatic, loves old poetry or "arts" that would be considered to be something only the upper class elitists of the city's population would know anything about or enjoy, and will at some point quote some obscure mantra or passage from a book that 99% of the world would have never heard of. The only thing that really seems to separate "good guys" from "bad guys" (Pendergast being the exception) is that the bad guys are always made out to be snobs. The only reason I finished this book was because I really liked the idea of the story. I am not going to bother continuing the series with Pendergast taking the lead. However I did like and do think that the first two books in the series Relic and Reliquary are both worth reading. Although in Reliquary Pendergast really seems to start coming into his own as a really annoying, and "to perfect" of a hero. If you like books where the main character has basically no faults and the secondary characters all seem to be the same character and recycled from previous books then this is the book for you.
4 out of 15 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 21, 2010
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.
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 21, 2007
These guys are very smart. They learned a lot in those Ivy League colleges they attended, but their writing is ponderous. Characters are one- dimensional and stereotypical. For a thriller, it's way too long--just how many descriptions of specimens in the museum's archives do we have to read before the plot progresses? Do we have to know the geographical details of Manhattan to such a minute degree? Okay, okay,they can download MapQuest. We get it. Descriptions of those over 40 is way off. A 54 year is described as shuffling in the manner of a 154 year old. Jerry Seinfeld is 53. President Bush and David Letterman are 60, just six years older than the murdered museum curator. Would anyone describe these vital men as elderly? Then there's the 96 year old Miss Havisham stereotype dithering away in black bombazine. I know a 94 year old women who plays online bridge and Scrabble in her Danish modern decorated home. I've never seen her in black bombazine. Maybe one can't expect much from fiction written by a committee
1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 8, 2013
I just discovered these authors and am now "hooked". I could not put this book down. Positively loved it. I have since finished 3 more of their books on Agent Pendergast. Twelve or Thirteen more to go.
What stories. Thank you Preston & Child and keep on writing.
Posted February 9, 2011
Agent Pendergast is...interestingly unique. I skipped the first two in the series by accident, but they're now on my reading list. This story had me going back and forth to who may have done it. I was wrong on all accounts. Which I love that twist. Interesting characters, interesting places, and I actually learned what a Cabinet of Curiosity was.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 15, 2010
Posted May 15, 2010
Posted May 11, 2010
I Also Recommend:
After reading endless fantasy/scifi novels, this was a nice change. Pendergast is a wonderful protagonist, quick witted and sharp. I read the other books in the series before I got to this one, but really wish I'd have "gone in order". Not necessary for the stories sake, but it explains a lot of things about his house and Constance that I wondered about. Cabinet of Curiousities is definetly one of my favorites so far.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 27, 2009
This was my first time reading this author.I enjoyed it. I intend to purchase alot of his work. And if Rene is the one reading it I can tell you that it is a shoe-in for me.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 19, 2009
Posted October 12, 2009
This is the first Preston/Child book I've read and plan to read more. These characters are somehow strange and mysterious but with this teams writing you get to feel like you know them and like time in a weird stare at the car accident sort of way.
I was eagarly turning pages and racing to "find out" and yet didn't want it to end.
Special Agent Pendergast certainly has his work cut out. This book is dark, but thrilling! There are many clues in the book, see if you can recognize them and figure out what it pertains too!! As always, Agent Pendergast is ever so charming, witty, and highly talented! Great read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 5, 2009
Fascinating duo of authors. I thoroughly enjoy the touch of the super natural. SA Pendergast is a unique character with an intriguing combination of skills! Didn't want to put the book down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This book had everything I've come to expect from Preston - action, mystery, interesting twists that work your mind. I like the continuation of characters from different books and the small references to other story lines. All in all, this was a fun read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Amazing book from start to finish. I was never bored once. Love these guys. This is one of their best, along with Riptide. Cabinet of Curiosities is the third in a series involving FBI Agent Pendergast, IMO one of the best fiction characters of all time. Read this book!!! You will not regret it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 30, 2008
I started reading this late on a Friday evening and finished on Sunday evening - could not put it down. I love intense and I have to admit, I did have to take a break now and then... Special Agent Pendergast is one of the quirkiest characters I've ever read and yet, he always seems to be in the background of the other characters in the series, which are strong characters. The book is fast paced, but the last 150 pages, I just kept reading faster - like I said...intense, just like the first 2 Pendergast novels. The plot grabs you from page one - read this book!! Read it now!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 16, 2008
What can I say. Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child have written another bone chilling horror story. The character's ,including our beloved FBI agent, are again wonderfully complex and interesting and of course there is the pure evil of our mad man that takes our breath away. The writing is great, the plot so scary and twisted, you won't want to put the book down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.