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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Further Adventures of Pendergast
Preston and Child have come up with another winner in their Aloysius Pendergast series of books. Wheel of Darkness starts off almost like a classic British mystery with Aloysius and his ward Constance Green involved in a shipboard mystery aboard the largest ocean liner in the world, searching for the stolen Agozyen. The object is so mysterious that even the Tibetan monks...
Published on August 27, 2007 by Kurt Stefan

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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I've been an Preston/Child fan for many years, ever since I picked a copy of "The Relic" up off my mom's coffee table and started thumbing through it.

Since that time, the books have gotten better and better, and I was both thrilled and saddened when the series seemingly came to a resounding and satisfying ending in "The Book of the Dead".

Imagine my...
Published on October 11, 2007 by Christopher J. Cross


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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, October 11, 2007
By 
Christopher J. Cross "Byff" (St. Louis, MO United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I've been an Preston/Child fan for many years, ever since I picked a copy of "The Relic" up off my mom's coffee table and started thumbing through it.

Since that time, the books have gotten better and better, and I was both thrilled and saddened when the series seemingly came to a resounding and satisfying ending in "The Book of the Dead".

Imagine my joy when I came across "The Wheel of Darkness" while on vacation. I can't say it's a terrible book, it's not. It's just not as good as any of it's predecessors.

The plot feels rushed with minimal setup and little follow-through, and while there is a suspension of disbelief required in any work of fiction (especially fiction dealing with themes of the occult)"Wheel" asks too much of the reader.

While the majority of the Pendergast series deals with events and murders that seem supernatural but are ultimately revealed to be merely bizarre, "Wheel" asks us to believe in malevolent "thought forms" that can physically manifest and go out to do evil deeds. Scrolls that imbue those
who view them with inhuman abilities and avarice that drives them mad.

The story suffers from an anemic cast of characters, I miss police detective D'Agosta and many of the others I've come to know. Constance has always been, in my opinion, a relatively weak character, the authors don't seem to know what to do with her. Pendergast and Constance as a duo are less interesting than Pendergast by himself.

In the final analysis "Wheel" seems like weak tea, watered down and lacking the qualities that made previous books a bracing, refreshing read.
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78 of 84 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Smoke on the Water, September 8, 2007
By 
Gary Griffiths (Los Altos Hills, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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For pure escapist adventure fiction with serial cliffhangers, and enough science and history to add, if not feasibility, at least a touch of credibility, it doesn't get much better than Preston and Childs. And for a unique and engaging protagonist, it doesn't get much better than Aloysius Pendergast, the eclectic and urbane the FBI special agent who seems to do just about everything except work on cases for the FBI.

Notwithstanding, I found this talented duo a bit off their game in "The Wheel of Darkness", a mildly interesting but less inspiring mystery than some of the Preston/Child classics like "Relic" or "Cabinet of Curiosities". To retrieve the mysterious "Agozyen", an ancient Eastern version of Pandora's box, the globetrotting Pendergast treks from a remote Tibetan monastery to a trip across the ocean on the Britannia, a mammoth-sized luxury ocean liner on her maiden trans-Atlantic voyage. Tagging along while helping to drag "Darkness" to a substandard effort is Constance Greene, who adds little to the story besides a dose of tedium and a bridge to the sequel. As the Holmes/Watson team of Pendergast/Greene sleuth this titanic love boat in search of their prey, they quickly find themselves facing down a serial killer and a ship's officer bent of revenge and self-destruction.

"The Wheel of Darkness" had its share of suspense, and enough intelligence to keep the pages turning. But the pace was uneven, and while the "Agozyen" and the consequences it wrought was a fresh idea, the incarnation of the Agozyen's demon was bizarre to the point of nearly being funny. Further bogging down the story was a slight overdose of eastern asceticism vs. western decadence, and the authors' standard rap against anything corporate. But I quibble. All in all, while not the best of the series, this is a fast and mostly enjoyable read, and more than adequate way to pass a lazy few evenings or a long plane ride.
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60 of 71 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Short and Unremarkable, September 5, 2007
I've been eagerly awaiting the latest Preston/Child novel, but once again I was disappointed. Pendergast was at his best in "Cabinet of Curiosities" (perhaps my favorite Preston/Child book), but my interest in him has declined with each additional book.

This story breaks from past Preston/Child tales in that there is no gruesome and puzzling murder in the opening scene. Instead, Pendergast and his ward Constance travel to a Tibetan monestary for some meditation and study. The pacing is rather slow and I had to force myself to continue reading, which is unusual for a Preston/Child story. A mysterious artifact was recently stolen from the monestary, which provides a bit of intrigue and a mission for Pendergast.

But then the chase leads to an ocean liner at which point the story felt like an episode of "Murder She Wrote" and I couldn't help but picture Angela Lansbury as Pendergast. Pendergast breaks a card counting scheme in the casino, but not much else of interest occurs until the end of the book. The ship gets hijacked in order to ram it into some rocks and then I felt like I was reading the script to "Speed 2", which was a horrible movie not to be emulated in any fashion.

The monster was only briefly introduced and was not scary and created little tension or suspense. Constance was mostly a vehicle for Pendergast to explain his theories. She is very shallow and uninteresting now that we know her origin. Unfortunately, the authors are developing her to be Pendergast's crime solving assistant. I'm sorry, but I don't want another Batman and Robin. I wish Preston/Child would drop Pendergast and Constance, but the end of this book indicates they will be back.

Finally, the book seems short. There is a bit of description of the monestary, but most of the story takes place on the ship. The description of the ship and its workings was pretty thin-I learned more on my recent Disney cruise. Despite my disappointment, the book is still better than most of its ilk. I just think the authors can do better.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poseidon Adventure Pairs Pendergast and Constance as Holmes and Watson, September 26, 2007
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In "The Wheel of Darkness" authors Preston and Child attempt to please their multitude of fans with another Agent Pendergast / Constance Greene adventure pairing. Strange as this guardian/ward combination seems Preston and Child utilize the pair well allowing them to solve intricate crimes with a familiar Sherlock Holmes--Dr. Watson intensity but sadly without a requisite and believable human fallibility like Conan Doyle's concocted cocaine addiction. Delineating these characters from the norm remains this authoring duo's trademark; they imbue Aloysius and Constance with enough sideshow family baggage to open up a high-ticket luggage emporium and then allow them the clarity and presence of superior mind to practice intense Zen Buddhist exercises and Giordano Bruno memory palace techniques ala criminal genius Hannibal Lector. The question is---are Preston and Child grooming this crime-solving technically savvy union to rival their own obviously lucrative collaboration?

Possibly. But will this please or annoy their fans? Together Pendergast and Greene cast a freaky shadow that contains too many Addams family undertones for my taste. Preston and Child depict Pendergast as a mannerly well-dressed Southern gentleman of a pale albeit suave Billy Idol genre. Combine this image with your idea of some bizarrely eccentric old character caught in a melodramatic time warp straight out of Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes" or Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie." Then add the Constance sidekick---an oddly out-of-date flapper-bobbed pre-Raphaelite woman that intones stanzas from obscure poetry. Not a team with which one can easily relate. These characters work better with subplots depicting their emotional failings with regard to their own personal desires rather than foils for a dry detached mental calculus employed solely to reconstruct the criminal flavor of the month.

Plot-wise "Wheel of Darkness" contains a rather mundane disaster formula that may play like a rerun of the Poseidon Adventure, but offers little in terms of developing our two recurring players. After her ordeal with bad brother Diogenes (resulting in an unwanted pregnancy) and the evils of a world she barely knows, Constance sojourns with Pendergast to a Tibetan monastery for a well-deserved respite. After some spirit strengthening, the duo backs into a stand-alone crime that sadly excludes the usual Preston/Child suspects spilling in and out of New York's Museum of Natural History. I missed D'Agosta, Smithback and Co with their secondary stories that keep the subplots moving on a personal level. Although Preston and Child fashion an entire sub-community of additional characters, Pendergast and Greene deal with this standalone adventure set on a luxury ocean liner that puts Titanic to shame on their own.

As in this writing team's other offerings, "Wheel" revolves around some elements of the supernatural combined with technical wizardry that keeps the story grounded in some semblance of reality. However, the mystical element here wanes disappointingly due solely to a lack of explanation that which the authors could have nicely discussed in a factual afterward.

Bottom line? Preston and Child spotlight Pendergast and his ward Constance Greene in this standalone whodunit set on a world-class cruise ship. If this pairing meets with your approval most likely the story will provide some entertainment albeit of the mediocre variety. I am not sure that the Pendergast/Greene combination would entertain me a second time. In the next go around, authors please include some emotional release for both these characters. Recommended for die-hard Pendergast fans.
Diana Faillace Von Behren
"reneofc"
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Further Adventures of Pendergast, August 27, 2007
By 
Kurt Stefan (North Port, FL) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Preston and Child have come up with another winner in their Aloysius Pendergast series of books. Wheel of Darkness starts off almost like a classic British mystery with Aloysius and his ward Constance Green involved in a shipboard mystery aboard the largest ocean liner in the world, searching for the stolen Agozyen. The object is so mysterious that even the Tibetan monks from whom it was stolen do not know what it looks like or what it is capable of doing, only that it is extremely dangerous. As in the better Preston/Child collaborations, the mystery deepens and the danger grows as the voyage continues, with a supernatural element entering the mix.

I particularly enjoyed that in this novel, the authors did not feel the need to bring in any of the prior characters in the Pendergast universe, as they did in the Diogenes trilogy of books that preceded this one. They wisely chose to focus on the FBI agent and Constance, who finally comes into her own here, after a promising start at the end of the previous novel, Book of the Dead. Her character has been fascinating me for several of the past novels and it was great to really get to see her become a strong, active and clever participant in this storyline. With the streamlining of the characters, the story becomes far less cluttered and cumbersome, focusing on the central mystery and danger that arises on the ship as a result. While it helps to know what transpired in the previous novels, mostly due to some references to Pendergast's late brother Diogenes, it is not imperative for the casual reader to have knowledge of these books. This mystery stands alone quite nicely.

The book ends with a highly satisfying and thrilling conclusion that left me eagerly awaiting their next novel with Aloysius and Constance. 4 1/2 stars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring and not the Pendergast I know, September 27, 2007
This Wheel book does not portray the Pendergast I know and admire. Pendergast's watered down portrayal was a let down, and come on, how can Pendergast know that much? Like he just learned to count cards last week and knows how "everything" works. Constance Green(e) was a puzzle to me. We know she has knowledge and intelligence from her confined and solitary education, but how did she become so worldly? And I don't mean with Diogenes. The overall plot was thin and predictable. I too was dissapointed in the language and sex. Bring back the real Pendergast with all his wit and reasoning to solve thrilling crimes committed by calculating and cunning foes. I miss D'gosto and the other characters as other reviewers have mentioned and I finished this book feeling that Preston/Child must have had other projects to distract them during its writing process and a deadline make. Preston and Douglas are awesome writers together and individually. They are my favorites! I hope I can either get into the direction they are taking Pendergast et al, or they'll bring him back from his glory days.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little psychotic, November 24, 2007
By 
J. Norburn (Quesnel, BC, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Wheel of Darkness was my first foray into the Pendergast series, and while I wasn't overly impressed, I am encouraged by other reviews that suggest this may be one of the weaker entries in the series. In light of this, and the fact that I found Wheel of Darkness reasonably entertaining, I'd consider reading other novels in the series.

Wheel of Darkness is a bit of a mixed bag (you might say it's a little psychotic). The novel starts out in `Raiders of the Lost Ark' mode but strangely evolves into an Agatha Christie / Murder She Wrote style murder mystery on an ocean liner before morphing into an action thriller (think, Speed 3) when the ocean liner is hijacked. The supernatural element seemed a little silly to me and wasn't sinister enough to generate real thrills, but overall the authors do a good job of keeping the plot moving along through all it's multiple personalities.

While Wheel of Darkness isn't a great novel, I think the series has some potential. I plan to try one of the earlier entries in the series.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disappointing, September 10, 2007
By 
M. Cuykendall (Kirkland, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
As a big Preston/Childs (and Pendergast!)fan, I eagerly awaited this newest release. While still a page-turner, I thought it was nowhere near the caliber of some of their first collaborations like "Relic". I was literally rolling my eyes while reading about nefarious clouds of smoke and Tibetan paintings that make a person go insane upon viewing. Let's get back to some semblance of "reality", for example,a murderous man-beast prowling the NY Museum of Natural History! :p
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Indiana Jones Meets The Mandala Of Doom, July 14, 2008
Fairly early on in THE WHEEL OF DARKNESS authors Preston and Child make two major errors that leap off the page with a scream.

The two protagonists literally miss the boat--the ocean liner Britannica, which leaves the dock just as they arrive. Fortunately, they have enough influence to place a telephone call, have the ship back up, redock, and take them aboard. Somewhat later, the central character discovers card counters at work in the ship's casino. He reports this to the casino pit, which he describes as a closed room with television monitors that allow officers to watch the play at each table.

Now, ocean liners don't just back up and redock. It doesn't work that way, and in any case if you miss the boat but it is still in harbor you can always take a small boat to board the liner before it reaches open water. And no, the pit is actually a part of the gaming floor; what the book calls "the pit" is actually the survelliance room, and quite frankly any self-respecting survelliance officer would have spotted the card counters long, long before they took the bank.

There's lots more stuff like this in THE WHEEL OF DARKNESS, which might best described as Indiana Jones meets the Mandala of Doom: little things that are more distinctly fantasy than actual fact. And in truth when all is said and done, THE WHEEL OF DARKNESS has "premeditated bestseller" stamped all over it, very much as if the authors sat down with marketing gurus and came up with some basic rules, such as not using a lot of hard words and avoiding compound-complex sentences in the narrative.

The story is a bit slow to start, concerning special agent Pendergast and his ward Constance, who visit a Tibetan monastery only to be told that an artifact has been stolen: an item that has the capacity to put an end to humanity once and for all. Pendergast agrees to locate and return the item, which he ultimately discovers on an ocean liner bound for the United States. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, the mandala from hell, and before Pendergast and Constance manage to locate it quite a lot of that hell begins to break loose.

Although it really is too ify in terms of details and feels excessively premeditated, THE WHEEL OF DARKNESS really is a fun book, the sort of thing you scarf down in one or two sittings. But like many books of its kind, it doesn't linger. You read it, enjoy it, and when the book is over you never think twice about it again. Recommended as mindless entertainment.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Weaker Pendergast Novel, but Still Entertaining, January 8, 2008
By 
Thriller Lover (Las Vegas, Nevada) - See all my reviews
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I've read most of the "Agent Pendergast" novels by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, and find most of them to be great escapist entertainment. WHEEL OF DARKNESS is fun enough to finish, but I consider it one of the weakest entries in the series.

The plot of WHEEL OF DARKNESS is simple. For most of the story, Pendergast and his ward Constance are on a cruise ship, hunting for an ancient Tibetan artifact stolen by one of the passengers. The artifact contains a force of ancient evil, which may be responsible for a series of murders that are taking place on the ship.

This book is entertaining enough, and has some big plot twists that I didn't expect. Preston & Child are obviously two very intelligent men who do their research, and this book has a lot of interesting information about Tibetan culture, cruise ships, etc. I also found the action-paced finale to be quite exciting, if not particularly realistic.

However, this novel is too short and lacks depth in its characterization. There are way too many supporting characters in this book, many of them rich passengers on the cruise. Most of them are silly, cartoonish characters that bear little resemblance to real people. Reading about all these different characters was a chore, and added little to the storyline.

Pendergast is a great character, but he doesn't play as large a role in this novel as I would have wished. His ward Constance is something of a serious-minded bore, and I never warmed to her. Overall, I thought the duo's relationship was bland and lacked chemistry.

In the end, I found WHEEL OF DARKNESS enjoyable, but kind of minor. I wish Preston & Child had devoted more space and time to creating characters that I truly cared for. This is the type of novel you promptly forget about the day after you finish it. That being said, it's highly readable and better than most thrillers you will find on the market.

If you've never read Preston & Child before, my advice is to read RELIC, BRIMSTONE, CABINET OF CURIOSITIES or STILL LIFE WITH CROWS instead. Those novels are far superior, and will make you a fan of this series.
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The Wheel of Darkness
The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston (Mass Market Paperback - July 1, 2008)
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