The Wheel of Darkness

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Overview

FBI Special Agent Pendergast is taking a break from work to take Constance on a whirlwind Grand Tour, hoping to give her closure and a sense of the world that she's missed. They head to Tibet, where Pendergast intensively trained in martial arts and spiritual studies. At a remote monastery, they learn that a rare and dangerous artifact the monks have been guarding for generations has been mysteriously stolen. As a favor, Pendergast agrees to track and recover the relic. A twisting trail of bloodshed leads ...
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The Wheel of Darkness (Special Agent Pendergast Series #8)

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Overview

FBI Special Agent Pendergast is taking a break from work to take Constance on a whirlwind Grand Tour, hoping to give her closure and a sense of the world that she's missed. They head to Tibet, where Pendergast intensively trained in martial arts and spiritual studies. At a remote monastery, they learn that a rare and dangerous artifact the monks have been guarding for generations has been mysteriously stolen. As a favor, Pendergast agrees to track and recover the relic. A twisting trail of bloodshed leads Pendergast and Constance to the maiden voyage of the Britannia, the world's largest and most luxurious ocean liner---and to an Atlantic crossing fraught with terror.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

A new Preston/Child book is like a gift that keeps on giving. Through every story featuring FBI special agent Pendergast, the authors weave a tale of terror so engrossing that putting it down is an act of will. The first half of The Wheel of Darknessfinds Pendergast and his ward, Constance Green, in a Tibetan monastery in an effort to rid their minds and hearts of the horror that Pendergast's brother, Diogenes, put them through in The Book of the Dead. Pendergast is asked by one of the monks to help recover a most valuable stolen artifact, something that could prove to be a threat to the entire world. One slight problem: the monks have no idea what the artifact looks like since no one has dared to gaze at it for centuries. Once Pendergast discovers the missing item's location, the stage is set for part two: the maiden voyage of the Britannia, the largest ocean liner in the world and one that will soon be the victim of a terrifying series of events. Rene Auberjonois, veteran of previous Pendergast novels, is a master of voices and of maintaining suspense throughout. Through his skilled narration, readers will find themselves in perhaps the best Pendergast novel of all. Every library should have this in their audio collection; a great story presented by a great reader.
—Joseph L. Carlson

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781409136460
  • Publisher: Orion
  • Publication date: 9/28/2011

Meet the Author

Douglas Preston, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, worked for the American Museum of Natural History. He is an expert horseman who has ridden thousands of miles across the West.

Lincoln Child is a former book editor and systems analyst who has published numerous anthologies of ghost stories and supernatural tales.

The authors encourage readers to visit and send them e-mail at their Web site, prestonchild.com.

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Read an Excerpt

The Wheel of Darkness


By Douglas Preston Lincoln Child

Grand Central Publishing

Copyright © 2007 Splendide Mendax, Inc. and Lincoln Child
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-58028-1


Chapter One

THE ONLY THINGS MOVING IN THE VASTNESS OF THE LLÖLUNG VALLEY were two black specks, barely larger than the frost-split boulders that covered the valley floor, inching along a faint track. The valley was a desolate place, devoid of trees; the wind chuckled and whispered among the rocks, the cries of black eagles echoed from the cliffs. The figures, on horseback, were approaching an immense wall of granite, two thousand feet high, from which poured a slow plume of water- the source of the sacred Tsangpo River. The trail disappeared into the mouth of a gorge that split the rock face, reappeared at higher altitude as a cut angled into the sheer wall of rock, and finally topped out on a long ridge before disappearing once again into the jagged peaks and fissures beyond. Framing the scene, and forming a backdrop of stupendous power and majesty, stood the frozen immensity of three Himalayan mountains-Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, and Manaslu-trailing plumes of snow. Beyond them, a sea of stormclouds rose up, the color of iron.

The two figures rode up the valley, cowled against the chill wind. This was the last stage of a long journey, and despite the rising storm they rode at a slow pace, their horses on the vergeof exhaustion. As they approached the mouth of the gorge, they crossed a rushing stream once, and then a second time. Slowly, the two entered the gorge and vanished.

Inside the gorge, they continued following the faint trail as it climbed above the roaring stream. Hollows of blue ice lay in the shadows where the rock wall met the boulder-strewn floor. Dark clouds scudded across the sky, pushed before a rising wind that moaned in the upper reaches of the gorge.

The trail changed abruptly at the base of the great rock wall, mounting upward through a steep and terrifying cut. An ancient guard station, built on a projecting tongue of rock, lay in ruins: four broken stone walls supporting nothing more than a row of blackbirds. At the very foot of the cut stood a huge mani stone, carved with a Tibetan prayer, rubbed and polished by thousands of hands of those wishing a blessing before attempting the dangerous journey to the top.

At the guard station, the two travelers dismounted. From here they were forced to proceed on foot, leading their horses up the narrow trail as the overhang was too low to admit a rider. In places, landslides had peeled away the sheer rock wall, taking the trail with it; these gaps had been bridged by rough planks and poles drilled into the rock, forming a series of narrow, creaking bridges without railings. Elsewhere, the trail was so steep that the travelers and their mounts were forced to climb steps carved into the rock, made slick and uneven by the passage of countless pilgrims and animals.

The wind shifted now, driving through the gorge with a booming sound, carrying flakes of snow with it. The stormshadow fell into the gorge, plunging it into a gloom as deep as night. Still the two figures pushed up the vertiginous trail, up the icy staircases and rock pitches. As they rose, the roar of the waterfall echoed strangely between the walls of stone, mingling with the rising wind like mysterious voices speaking in an unknown tongue.

When the travelers at last topped the ridge, the wind almost halted them in their tracks, whipping their robes and biting at their exposed skin. They hunched against it and, pulling their reluctant horses forward, continued along the spine of the ridge until they reached the remains of a ruined village. It was a bleak place, the houses thrown down by some ancient cataclysm, their timbers scattered and broken, the mud bricks dissolving back into the earth from which they had been formed.

In the center of the village, a pile of prayer stones rose, topped by a pole from which snapped dozens of tattered prayer flags. To one side lay an ancient cemetery whose retaining wall had collapsed, and now erosion had opened the graves, scattering bones and skulls down a long scree slope. As the two approached, a group of ravens flapped up in noisy protest from the wreckage, their scratchy cries rising toward the leaden clouds.

At the pile of stones, one of the travelers stopped and dismounted, gesturing for the other to wait. He bent down, picked up an old stone, and added it to the pile. Then he paused briefly in silent meditation, the wind lashing at his robes, before retaking the reins of his horse. They continued on.

Beyond the deserted village the trail narrowed sharply along a knife-edge ridge. Struggling against the violence of the wind, the two figures crept along it, arcing around the shoulder of a mountain-and then at last they could just begin to spy the battlements and pinnacles of a vast fortress, standing dully against the dark sky.

This was the monastery known as Gsalrig Chongg, a name that might be translated as "the Jewel of the Awareness of Emptiness." As the trail continued around the side of the mountain, the monastery came fully into view: massive red-washed walls and buttresses mounting the sides of a barren granite rock, ending in a complex of pinnacled roofs and towers that shone here and there with patches of gold leaf.

The Gsalrig Chongg monastery was one of very few in Tibet to have escaped the ravages of the Chinese invasion, in which soldiers drove out the Dalai Lama, killed thousands of monks, and destroyed countless monasteries and religious structures. Gsalrig Chongg was spared partly because of its extreme remoteness and its proximity to the disputed border with Nepal, but also due to a simple bureaucratic oversight: its very existence had somehow escaped official attention. Even today, maps of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region do not locate this monastery, and the monks have taken great pains to keep it that way.

The trail passed by a steep scree slope, where a group of vultures picked away at some scattered bones.

"There appears to have been a recent death," the man murmured, nodding toward the heavy birds, which hopped about, utterly fearless.

"How so?" asked the second traveler.

"When a monk dies, his body is butchered and thrown to the wild animals. It is considered the highest honor, to have your mortal remains nourish and sustain other living things."

"A peculiar custom."

"On the contrary, the logic is impeccable. Our customs are peculiar."

The trail ended at a small gate in the massive encircling wall. The gate was open and a Buddhist monk stood there, wrapped in robes of scarlet and saffron, holding a burning torch, as if expecting them.

The two huddled travelers passed through the gate, still leading their horses. A second monk appeared and silently took the reins, leading the animals off to stables within the encircling wall.

The travelers stopped before the first monk, in the gathering darkness. He said nothing, but merely waited.

The first traveler pulled back his cowl-revealing the long, pale face, white-blond hair, marble features, and silvery eyes of Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The monk turned toward the other. The second figure removed its cowl with a tentative movement, brown hair spilling out into the wind, catching the swirling snowflakes. She stood, head slightly bowed, a young woman who appeared to be in her early twenties, with a delicate face, finely formed lips, and high cheekbones-Constance Greene, Pendergast's ward. Her penetrating violet eyes darted around, taking in everything quickly, before dropping again to the ground.

The monk stared at her for only a moment. Making no comment, he turned and gestured for them to follow him down a stone causeway toward the main complex.

Pendergast and his ward followed the monk in silence as he passed through a second gate and entered the dark confines of the monastery itself, the air laden with the scent of sandalwood and wax. The great ironbound doors boomed shut behind them, muffling the howling wind to a faint whisper. They continued down a long hallway, one side of which was lined with brass prayer cylinders, creaking and turning round and round, driven by some hidden mechanism. The hall forked, and turned again, driving deeper into the monastic depths. Another monk appeared in front of them carrying large candles in brass holders, their flickering light revealing a series of ancient frescoes lining both walls.

The mazelike turnings brought them at last into a large room. One end was dominated by a gold statue of Padmasambhava, the Tantric Buddha, illuminated by hundreds of candles. Unlike the contemplative, half-closed eyes of most depictions of the Buddha, the Tantric Buddha's eyes were wide open, alert and dancing with life, symbolizing the heightened awareness achieved by his study of the secret teachings of Dzogchen and the even more esoteric Chongg Ran.

The Gsalrig Chongg monastery was one of two repositories in the world preserving the discipline of Chongg Ran, the enigmatic teachings known to those few who were familiar with them as the Jewel of the Mind's Impermanence.

At the threshold to this inner sanctum, the two travelers paused. At the far end, a number of monks reposed in silence, sitting on tiered stone benches as if awaiting someone.

The uppermost tier was occupied by the abbot of the monastery. He was a peculiar-looking man, his ancient face wrinkled into a permanent expression of amusement, even mirth. His robes hung from his skeletal frame like laundry draped on a rack. Next to him sat a slightly younger monk, also known to Pendergast: Tsering, one of only very few of the monks who spoke English, who acted as the "manager" of the monastery. He was an exceptionally well-preserved man of perhaps sixty. Below them sat a row of twenty monks of all ages, some teenagers, others ancient and wizened.

Tsering rose and spoke in an English shot through with the strange, musical lilt of Tibetan. "Friend Pendergast, we welcome you back to monastery of Gsalrig Chongg, and we welcome your guest. Please sit down and take tea with us."

He gestured to a stone bench set with two silk "embroidered cushions" the only cushions in the room. The two sat, and moments later several monks appeared carrying brass trays loaded with cups of steaming buttered tea and tsampa. They drank the sweet tea in silence, and only when they had finished did Tsering speak again.

"What brings friend Pendergast back to Gsalrig Chongg?" he asked.

Pendergast rose.

"Thank you, Tsering, for your welcome," he said quietly. "I'm glad to be back. I return to you in order to continue my journey of meditation and enlightenment. Let me introduce to you Miss Constance Greene, who also has come in hopes of study." He took her hand and she rose.

A long silence ensued. At last, Tsering rose. He walked over to Constance and stood before her, looking calmly into her face, and then reached up and touched her hair, fingering it delicately. Then, ever so gently, he reached out and touched the swell of her breasts, first one, then the other. She remained standing, unflinching.

"Are you a woman?" he asked.

"Surely you've seen a woman before," said Constance dryly.

"No," said Tsering. "I have not seen woman since I come here" at age of two."

Constance colored. "I'm very sorry. Yes, I am a woman."

Tsering turned to Pendergast. "This is first woman ever to come to Gsalrig Chongg. We never accept woman before as student. I am sorry to say it cannot be permitted. Especially now, in middle of funeral ceremonies for Venerable Ralang Rinpoche."

"The Rinpoche is dead?" Pendergast asked.

Tsering bowed.

"I am sorry to hear of the death of the Most High Lama."

At this, Tsering smiled. "Is no loss. We will find his reincarnation" the nineteenth Rinpoche-and he will be with us again. It is I who am sorry to deny your request."

"She needs your help. I need your help. We are both ... tired of the world. We have come a long way to find peace. Peace, and healing."

"I know how difficult journey you make. I know how much you hope. But Gsalrig Chongg exist for thousand year without female presence, and it cannot change. She must leave."

A long silence ensued. And then Pendergast raised his eyes to the ancient, unmoving figure occupying the highest seat. "Is this also the decision of the abbot?"

At first, there was no sign of movement. A visitor might have even mistaken the wizened figure for some kind of happy, senile idiot, grinning vacantly from his perch above the others. But then there was the merest flick of a desiccated finger, and one of the younger monks climbed up and bent over the abbot, placing his ear close to the man's toothless mouth. After a moment he straightened up and said something to Tsering in Tibetan.

Tsering translated. "The abbot asks woman to repeat name, please."

"I am Constance Greene," came the small but determined voice.

Tsering translated into Tibetan, having some difficulty over the name.

Another silence ensued, stretching into minutes.

Again the flick of the finger; again the ancient monk mumbled into the ear of the young monk, who repeated it in a louder voice.

Tsering said, "The abbot asks if this real name."

She nodded. "Yes, it is my real name."

Slowly the ancient lama raised a sticklike arm and pointed to a dim wall of the room with a fingernail that extended at least an inch from his finger. All eyes turned toward a temple painting hidden under a draped cloth, one of many hanging on the wall.

Tsering walked over and lifted the cloth, holding up a candle to it. The glow revealed a stunningly rich and complex image: a bright green female deity with eight arms, sitting on a white moon disk, with gods, demons, clouds, mountains, and gold filigree swirling about her, as if caught in a storm.

The old lama mumbled at length into the ear of the young monk, his toothless mouth working. Then he sat back and smiled while Tsering again translated.

"His Holiness ask to direct attention to thangka painting of Green Tara."

There was a murmuring and shuffling of the monks as they rose from their seats and respectfully stood in a circle around the painting, like students waiting for a lecture.

The old lama flapped a bony arm at Constance Greene to join the circle, which she hastily did, the monks shuffling aside to afford her space.

"This is picture of Green Tara," Tsering continued, still translating at one remove the mumbled words of the old monk. "She is mother of all Buddhas. She have constancy. Also wisdom, activity of mind, quick thinking, generosity, and fearlessness. His Holiness invite female to step closer and view mandala of Green Tara."

Constance stepped forward tentatively.

"His Holiness ask why student given name of Green Tara."

Constance looked around. "I don't know what you mean."

"Your name Constance Greene. This name contain two important attribute of Green Tara. His Holiness ask how you get name."

"Greene is my last name. It's a common English surname, but I've no idea of the origin. And my first name, Constance, was given to me by my mother. It was popular in ... around the time I was born. Any resemblance of my name to the Green Tara is obviously a coincidence."

Now the abbot began to laugh, shakily, and struggled to stand with the help of two monks. In a few moments he was standing, but just barely, as if the slightest nudge would jostle him into a loose heap. He continued to laugh as he spoke again, a low, wheezy sound, displaying his pink gums, his bones almost rattling with mirth.

"Coincidence? No such thing. Student make funny joke," Tsering translated. "The abbot like good joke."

Constance glanced at Tsering to the abbot and back again. "Does that mean I'll be allowed to study here?"

"It mean your study is already begun," said Tsering, with a smile of his own.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston Lincoln Child Copyright © 2007 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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 180 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(74)

4 Star

(50)

3 Star

(33)

2 Star

(12)

1 Star

(11)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 152 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2007

    An Exciting Book

    This was a great mystery with supernatural undertones. I had to stay up late to find out the ending. Pendergast is an interesting character. A smart detective, an intellectual thinker, and an extremely well read man. Constance, his ward, accompanies him on a ship where trouble afloats with murders. Of course Pendergast has a reason to be aboard this fateful ship. For those of you familiar with Child and Preston, this is a stand alone Pendergast novel. It is fun to see Constance along for the ride too. The book begins in Tibet where a mysterious artifact is missing. Then the plot settles on the ship. There several strange disappearances occur. The ship's crew are good characters, trying to solve the murders themselves and save the ship. The ending is spellbinding and conclusive. Don't stay up to late reading the book like I did.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 1, 2011

    Skip It!

    I've read every book in the series and with the exception of this one, I have enjoyed all of them, especially Brimstone; I loved the way the author(s) borrowed Count Fosco from the Woman in White.

    There was just way too much Eastern mysticism involved in The Wheel of Darkness. I grow attached to the many characters I read about so I was saddened by a few of the comments Pendergast made near the end of the story.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2009

    Not the best

    I am a Pendergast fanatic, so I will read a childrens novel if he is in it. But I must admit this noval did not have the best story line. I will keep it in my library of course because he is in it, but I will need a follow up quick. I would like to see the writers make Viola more prominent in the Pendergast series. No, I don't like romantic mush, but Pendergast deserves to be happy and in love, so it would be nice to make her presence known occasionally. As for Constance, she is getting on my nerves.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 16, 2009

    My Least Favorite Pendergast book :-(

    While I adore any and all books related to Pendergast, I have to say this one is my least favorite. The whole plot/characters/everything just felt "off". I suppose it would have been nearly impossible for the authors to follow up with a novel as fantastic as the Diogenes Trilogy... Still a must read for any Pendergast fan.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    just ok

    I am a huge fan of all the Pendergast novels. This one however was the least enjoyable. I am looking foreward to the next one with hopes of a better story line.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 7, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not up to their usual quality

    Being a fan of Pendergast through all the previous adventures, I was looking forward to the next installment. But this was a let-down after the recent trilogy, and I found the situations forced and the setting claustrophobic. Hoping for improvements in their next offering.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    terrific Pendergast paranormal thriller

    Following their struggle with his insanely evil but brilliant brother Diogenes (see BRIMSTONE, DANCE OF DEATH and THE BOOK OF THE DEAD), FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast knows he and his ward Constance Greene need time away. They head to the extremely remote but still not destroyed by the Chinese Gsalrig Chongg Buddhist monastery on the Tibet-Nepal border. They hope some solitude will lead to needed mental healing. ---- However, Abbot Tsering, who is one of the few Buddhist monks who speak English, informs ¿Friend Pendergast¿ that women are not allowed here as none have come before the thousand years the edifice existed and in fact he has not seen one since he was two years old that the Most High Lama Rimpoche is dead and they seek his nineteenth reincarnation and finally they are the keepers of the sacred Agozyen, which used wrongly could make humanity extinct the artifact was just stolen from a secure locked area. The almost visiting Americans agree to search for the relic, which takes them to a luxury cruise ship, where brutal murders imply the evil has been freed. ---- Fans of this great series will find the Tibetan journey with its 'locked room' (actually niche) mystery and the subsequent lethal cruise trip a refreshing change from the previous terrific Pendergast paranormal sagas. Adding to the always well written supernatural suspense besides the trademark save the world from evil thriller prime story line is whether Constance still carries Diogenes¿ offspring that humanizes the hero. THE WHEEL OF DARKNESS is a fabulous frightening battle between good and evil with the bad spirits seeming to have the upper hand. ---- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2013

    good read just not my favorit

    good read just not my favorit

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  • Posted May 31, 2013

    Lives up to the standards of the Agent Pendergast series

    Another page turner by Preston and Child.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2012

    Fantastic page turner

    Pendergast at his best

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  • Posted September 14, 2012

    I tend to like the Pendergast novels set in NY better, this was

    I tend to like the Pendergast novels set in NY better, this was not. But the story , particularly the setting on an ocean liner, was still ok , if not as good as others in the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2012

    Whell Wheel of darkness

    Couldnt even read a whol page it was so boring

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2012

    Many twists...

    Action and many twists dominate this thriller. A good read but i couldn't put the last 100 pages down!

    On to the nedt in the series

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 30, 2010

    Awesome

    Keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Gotta love Preston & Child

    This one didn't start out with the intensity of the first 7, but it gradually got you there - intensity growing with each turn of the page. The "unusual" plots in the Pendergast series keeps me hooked. How DO they do it...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2010

    Love this duo of Preston and Child.

    This series is fantastic and the Pendergast family and friends will hook you in from the very first book in the series(Relic). I would suggest starting at the first book in the series as i have no doubt you will be looking forward to the next book before you finish the first. This book provided an exciting journey starting in Tibet where Pendergast and his charge Constance Greene are asked to retrieve an item stolen from the monastery. The clues and hunt for the item take them all the way home an and out to sea. Once on board a series of brutal murders interfere with their mission, throw dear brother Diogenes into the mix and you have yourself an exciting exotic chase to save the world. Exactly what i expect from these writers. This series is exciting, smart, and filled with sharp wit and sarcasm. I really enjoy the characters and their development in the course of this series each book stands on its own merrit and i look forward to many more. I do find that these books will take over your time, one more page, one more chapter, you won't put them down so be prepared to check out of relatiy for a while and enjoy the thrilling ride.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2010

    I am hooked

    Ever since I discovered this series I have enjoyed every one that I have bought.I only wish that they all could of been read by Rene Auberjonois.

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  • Posted September 14, 2009

    Unexpectedly Boring

    I've read all the Agent Pendergrast novels, this being the most boring and contrived. I think the authers are running out of steam or ideas with this character. There was not enough adventure, excitment or mystery. Nor was there a compelling villian like in previous novels such as Alosius Pendergrast.

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    Special Agent Pendergast is Awesome!

    I love Special Agent Pendergast. He is so good at what he does. I really love all the books featuring this character. The mystery is thrilling until the end and I was hooked. I found much enjoyment reading this series. For anyone who loves mystery, cleverness, and puzzling clues will love the Pendergast series of books. I hope the writers will continue to write Pendergast stories.

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  • Posted September 8, 2009

    Interesting and Thought Provoking

    This was a very interesting, well developed novel that explored mysticism, good vs. evil, and the many facets of human nature. I found it enjoyable, entertaining and thought provoking as well as just plain fun.

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