Itís been a few years since Iíve indulged in a Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child novel, but it wasnít long before I was drawn into the fascinating world of FBI agent A.X.L. Pendergast and his ward/ assistant, Constance Greene. The agent is an enigmatic investigator with a penchant for non-ostentatious black suits that contrast with his pale complexion and a method that eschews the sharing of information while a case is in process. Even Constance Greene is kept in the dark until Pendergast feels he has enough viable information to share, her remote beauty and choice of long dresses making Greene the perfect sartorial complement to Pendergast. Brilliant and beautiful, Constanceís past has shaped her unusual traits, as well as the detachment she has cultivated in dealing with the world at large.
Technically off duty, Pendergast unofficially accepts an unusual case in Exmoor, Massachusetts. Constance accompanies him, hoping to learn her mentorís interview skills, a technique that provides him with the details he seeks without much resistance. Constance realizes such successful methods are the result of practice, a willing student that she might be more helpful when called upon for interviews in the new case: a break-in and theft at the home of Percival Lake in coastal Exmoor. Not far from the infamous Salem and once a hub of the fishing industry, the town has been battered by time, economic forces, and the sea.
Some of the residents have lived in Exmoor for generations.
While Percival and Constance visit Lakeís home to assess the scene of the theft--hundreds of bottles in an extensive wine collection--they find a walled-in area where a body was long-imprisoned, adding an archeological element to the investigation. Only one small finger bone remains to tell the tale, just enough for Pendergast to begin a more extensive quest than the theft for which her was hired. Unexpectedly, the history of Exmoor seems more critical than first suspected, especially after the brutal murder of an historian Morris McCool, who was visiting the area in search of evidence of a shipwreck in 1884.
The authors construct a modern mystery with strong echoes of the past: the Salem witch trials, the shipwreck and the imprisonment of a man. The iconic Pendergast is a throwback to classic literary investigators of the 18th century, individuals with particular methods of researching crimes with a blend of intelligence and modern technology, as well as an instinctive understanding of the vagaries of human nature. The relationship between detective and ward has yet to be defined in Crimson Shore. Constance
is eager to please Pendergast, unsure of the emotional parameters of their relationship
(though he is rigorously proper), well-grounded in her instincts as an investigator, buoyed by her experiences in earlier days. The nature of this relationship and how it may evolve adds texture to the unfolding mystery as both Pendergast and Greene are challenged beyond expectations.
The multi-layered plot is fascinating, from the wine theft and McCoolís murder,
then another brutal slaying. Pendergast deals with an arrogant, lazy sheriff and enterprising deputy, the pursuit of the killer drawing them into Exmoorís salt marshes, where violence and a rising tide create a harrowing situation. Thereís more to come: another layer of deceit exposed in an escalating drama, Pendergast and Greene confronted by Exmoorís dark secrets and a shocking discovery putting them in great peril. The reader is left horrified--and worse yet, the future is unresolved.