At a remote Tibetan monastery, FBI Special Agent Pendergast must find a powerful and ancient artifact before it falls into the wrong hands.
A luxury ocean liner on its maiden voyage across the North Atlantic, awash in wealth and decadence...
An ancient Tibetan box, its contents unknown, sealed with a terrifying warning...
An FBI agent destined to confront what he fears most--himself...
About the Author
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.
Place of Birth:Cambridge, Massachusetts
Education:B.A., Pomona College, 1978
Read an Excerpt
The Wheel of Darkness
By Douglas Preston Lincoln Child
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2007 Splendide Mendax, Inc. and Lincoln Child
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE 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.
"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.
"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.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Agent Pendergast has got to be one of the best characters out there. What I love about these books on Pendergast is that they're stand alones. You do not have to read them in order (even though I have) but for someone that hasn't read any one book from this series will have no problem in picking up whichever book and start to read it..but be warned..you will end up reading all them. You can't help it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I enjoyed reading this stand alone tale of Agent Pendergast and Constance Greene more than any Preston - Child book since Relic.It moves fast and has an unexpected twist or two. I love that when it happens!
I just finished reading the eighth book in this series, and I thought rather than reviewing all eight individually, or reviewing the eighth without giving you any background, I would review the series as a whole instead. Aloysius Pendergast is an FBI agent with a decidedly unorthodox approach. The crimes he investigates tend to be not entirely of this world. Not that there are ghosties and ghoulies, but rather strange forces that cannot be entirely explained by logic.These books have that perfect balance of scary where they are definitely creepy, but they aren't going to give you nightmares. I love them! The action is fast paced and these books are total page-turners, guaranteed to keep you up all night reading. Pendergast himself has the potential to be one of the iconic sleuths. His eccentricities and strange methods make the books stand out from the crowd. Lincoln and Child, who each have books published solo, make a dynamic writing team! I abosolutely recommend this series. For the most part, the novels in this series are stand-alone and can be read out of order without too much trouble. However, I think they're better in sequence:1. Relic2. Reliquary3. The Cabinet of Curiosities4. Still Life With Crows5. Brimstone (Diogenes Trilogy Book One)6. Dance of Death (Diogenes Trilogy Book Two)7. The Book of the Dead (Diogenes Trilogy Book Three)8. The Wheel of Darkness9. Cemetary Dance
Nothing award-winning, but truly great fun. I love what Preston and Child do with a huge cast of minor characters. This book is a perfect example of what it should be--great vacation reading--fast-paced, interesting, grand in scale, and much, much better than more lauded thrillers like The DaVinci Code.
A comic book without pictures, like the rest of this series. This one is not quite up to par with the others, but it is still fun. Looking forward to Cemetery Dance.
The Pendergast series is by far the most intriguing and suspenseful series these days. However, this installment brimmed slightly above the low watermark. The novel at most instances felt like a Lucas Davenport novel(I love this series as well, so no disrespect intended). However, I wanted to read a Pendergast novel. The Wheel of Darkness just does not have the bona-fide feel of the preceding books of the series; which all I have read. Understandably, every book cannot be a winner. However, acquiescing to that fact does not lessen the disappointment.
About the same preference-wise as Reliquary ... perhaps a bit better. Not their best work though.
After I've read a book or watched a movie, sometimes, my original impressions give way to change. Wonder and excitement may wane because I'd had a chance to question and dissect motivations and reasonability. I wasn't familiar with Preston/Childs or their world of Pendergast. The story itself doesn't detail where Special Agent's James Bond/Bruce Wayne capabilities originated, so I took for granted he was(?) a S.A. to the F.B.I. His ward (or should I say 'sidekick') doesn't really add much to the situations, other than to gather info or serve as a sounding board so the reader knows where Pendergast is taking us. I appreciate the opportunity to try and figure out how to put the pieces together as a story unfolds; that's what made Nick Charles and Sherlock Holmes so popular. If you like a fast read via a process of elimination that's constantly explained to you, than this may fill your bill. I felt that there were one or two unneccesary victims, but the ones I liked were described with agonizing clarity. Still, the realism of an ocean liner, its entourage and it's destined course, kept me turning pages for the last third of the book. You've really got to be open to the 'dark side' to let this story do its thing. But just in case, the epilouge will set you straight.
Again, part of the Pendergast series of stories. Centered around a missing monastery object, an evil brother and the good FBI guy trying to catch him. Mystery, action, suspense, intrigue -- it's got a little bit of everything with some very accomplished and colorful characters. Don't try to analyze too much and just go for the ride.
Spooky, smart, mysterious, set on a boat, what could be bad?
Oh my! Well, I have been a totally faithful follower of the Agent Pendergast series from day one and so I rushed out and bought this one the day it started selling at the bookstores. It started out promisingly enough, then I began saying mentally to the authors "what happened? Where's the old Agent Pendergast? Did you guys just need the money for this one?" I have to say I was quite disappointed in this one. Here's a brief synopsis, no spoilers: Pendergast and Constance are in Tibet, off to study at a monastery because after their last adventures, they are tired of the world. While there, Constance is initiated into the ways of the dharma; Pendergast is summoned into the sanctum sanctorum. He discovers that a sacred artifact has of late been stolen, and that it must be recovered or the world may be in serious jeopardy. His search puts him on the maiden voyage of a new ocean liner, and from there, all is havoc, mayhem and murder.We do occasionally get a glimpse of the well-known Pendergast (the one that followers of this series have come to enjoy immensely), but I felt a lot of the time that I was reading a script for a high-seas horror flick. I love these authors, so PLEASE...bring back the real Agent Pendergast. If you want a thrill ride, read it, but if you were hoping for Preston & Child's usual awesome read, this one just didn't do it!
Well thankfully we didn¿t end up in the Museum of Natural History again. Now that the chase for Diogenes is over (at least in the physical world), Constance needs a break. P takes her to his favorite and almost unknown Tibetan monastery for some R&R. Well, sort of. If sleeping on the floor in only horsehair blankets, eating bark mulch and yogurt and meditating until your eyes no longer focus counts as R&R.While there, they learn of the theft of an ultra-secret (so secret even most of the monks living there don¿t know about it) spiritual artifact. How exactly something so secret could be stolen from an almost unknown monastery that is practically unreachable physically will of course be shown in due course. Of course they have to go and find it.So, the duo trace the thing to an ocean liner and through his usual semi-magical use of contacts, persuasion and illicit information, P gets them on board with luxury accommodations. Constance would rather stay at the monastery, but she of course follows him and pledges to help.The 1930s adventure serial flavor is still very much at work here. And it¿s good. The thing about those was that they hinted about a lot of things, but didn¿t give them up to you all at once. The point was to stretch things out. To make it last. To build suspense and anticipation in the audience. These two authors get that and have preserved it nicely through the series. There are things about Constance that are still maddeningly vague.This one isn¿t as world-stoppingly compelling as say, Cabinet of Curiosities, but it is a page-turner and has a nice blend of atmosphere and action. The very end is quite harrowing indeed. Interesting to see anti-terrorist measures be used against those whom it was intended to protect. It wasn¿t done in an accusatory way, just pointing out how such a measure could be turned.
The Wheel of Darkness is another thrilling installment in the Pendergast saga from Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Supernatural intrigue, suspense, murder, mayhem, and mystery abound as Pendergast and his ward, Constance Green, attempt to track the theft of an ancient Tibetan relic. From a secretive monastery to a magnificent ocean liner, the pair must find the ambiguous antiquity before it releases it's evil and brings about the world's end. Fans of the Preston and Child novels might miss popular characters like D'Agosta, Smithback and Nora Kelly, all of whom brought familiarity and charm to the previous books. However, Wheel of Darkness still spins with excitement and adventure and its darker tone may actually appeal to some readers even more. Overall, it was not my favorite Pendergast novel but was still a very worthwhile read.
This one was not as good as the previous books in the series. I missed D'Agosta and Constance was not quite as interesting a side-kick. Pendergast, too, was disappointing.
This is the latest in the Pendergast series, and it takes place primarily on a cruise ship, as Pendergast and Constance attempt to retrieve a stolen Tibetan relic.I thought this was a great addition to the Pendergast series. Several people have said that it wasn't the 'same old Pendergast', but that's sort of the point of this one - he's exploring the depths of himself and coming to terms with some of the darker parts of his psyche that we encountered earlier in the series. I thought the structure of this one was a lot more complex than a typical Preston/Child thriller, and it had more to offer than the typical read in this genre. If taken at surface value, I can see where some would be disappointed, so if you're not willing to invest yourself in a book, and to really study what the authors were trying to say, you might be best to pass on this one. It's definitely different from the typical drug store paperback these guys have produced before. While I'm a fan of their usual stuff for the fact that it's usually a quick read, this one really does demand more.
Interesting addition to the series. Pendergast and his ward Constance journey to a Buddhist monastery to renew themselves after the battle with Diogenes in the last book. While their, the monks enlist their aid in recovering an ancient artifact that has been stolen. The trail leads them to the maiden voyage of a luxury ocean liner, a la Titanic. Overall, it was an interesting story. I particularly liked the exploration of Buddhism and the relationship of Constance, Diogenes, and Pendergast.
I will forever be a fan of the Agent Pendergast Series! Unfortunately, I didn't feel like this one was quite as good as previous titles, but I still really enjoyed it. Hoping there will be another one...
The follow up to Dance of Death does not disappoint! There were some great suspenseful moments-the chapter where the nurse met her fate totally blew my mind. The mixture of fantasy and mystery is really different from other books I've read-unexpected in spots but the more I get used to it the more I like it! I really wasn't sure of the outcome until the very end, and it wrapped up in a pretty satisfying way. I was so glad to see that these guys are still writing great stuff, and continuing to surprise with beloved characters like Pendergast.
Yes¿another read in the Preston/Child Pendergast Novels (this makes eight in the series). The Wheel of Darkness follows directly on the heels of the events from the last novel (Book of the Dead) and as the story begins, we find Pendergast and his ward, Ms. Greene, on a treacherous climb to a remote Tibetan monastery¿alas, the monastery and all it¿s wonderful intricacies is not the primary setting for the novel; rather, it serves as a backdrop at the very beginning and the very end of the story and that in itself is a little disappointing. As with all Pendergast novels, nothing is quite what it seems and no trip or vacation (or retreat) can be had without a seriously world-threatening, cataclysmic event or killer looming large and threatening the main character(s) and all of humanity. Pendergast finds himself recruited by the monks to find and retrieve a stolen artifact that could spell the end of humankind for all time. His search takes him far from Tibet¿to Rome, London, and finally to a luxury ocean-liner (bound for New York) where he must narrow down the killer (from a passenger manifest of 3000+ cruise goers) and retrieve the artifact before it can spell certain doom for all of humanity. I find that as the books have progressed, I am enjoying each one just a tiny bit less than the last and that continues to be the pattern with The Wheel of Darkness. Much more slow paced and a great deal less action packed than previous books (and much, much, much shorter), the reader is presented with what I think wants to be a taut suspense/thriller that never really gets there and where I would classify the others as both mystery/thriller novels, I would also label them as horror as well¿and that is not the case with this one. It is way, way down on the horror, murder and mayhem scale (in comparison to the previous novels). To be fair, there are gruesome murders, a mystery, and the potential end of the world¿but even with all of that boiling in the author¿s cauldron of doom, The Wheel of Darkness manages to be slow to draw the reader in, it plods along and then it fizzles at the end. Additionally, Pendergast as a character really doesn¿t shine all that well as the focal character¿he¿s best served as a mysterious side dish to two or three other ¿normal¿ characters, as it is usually the juxtaposition of the story lines and intermingling of the characters as their stories and fates become more intertwined as the story builds that is what I enjoy about this series. I was pleased and impressed with Still Life with Crows, but I didn¿t think that the author¿s were going to continue using Pendergast as the focal character for all future novels. Further, his paring with Constance Green (as the focal duo in this book) was rather unfortunate and, well¿a tad creepy. Their dynamic just doesn¿t do much for me, or for the storyline. It might have played better if the second tier characters were more interesting or the story itself more intricate, as written the Pendergast/Constance dynamic left me unsatisfied and slightly miffed at the end of the book. I¿m rating this one at 3 stars, it¿s not a bad book, but I¿ve seen much better from these author¿s and I just can¿t justify 4 stars for a 3 star effort. Overall, the bones are good¿the storyline has a lot of potential¿but it lacks follow-through and oomph¿it just doesn¿t quite make it to the quality and intensity of the previous novels and that¿s a shame, because I feel that this could have been a much better novel had it been written to the standards of the first few books in the series. I¿ll read the next in the series (if one is written), but if the quality of writing (characters AND storyline) doesn¿t improve, I¿m nearing the end of my interest in this particular series.
The book arrived in great condition and in a timely fashion. I have not read the book yet as I purchased several books in this order.