203 of 211 people found the following review helpful
Preston and Child are so much more than the sum of their individual parts when they collaborate. This is so evident yet again in Book of the Dead. This novel finishes with a bang what is an informal trilogy revolving around Aloysius Pendergast and his brother Diogenes. This trilogy is populated with many of their previous characters and protagonists serving in supporting roles to the brothers, and is a very satisfying novel and a truly enjoyable read. How do I know this was a trilogy? One of the best things about this book is a brief two page note from the authors at the very end where they explain in which order to read their works and why.
I have to give one warning though about what is otherwise a terrific book. I'm not a professional reviewer, as are the writers of the two reviews which have already appeared here, but I have to say I disagree with them that this can be truly appreciated as a stand alone novel. If you have not read any of the previous works then do yourself a tremendous favor and take the recommendation of both the authors and myself: go back and start with Relic and work your way forward from there. There is so much pleasurable reading you have missed and there is simply too much going on in this book which, without the knowledge of the previous stories, you will not fully appreciate. So, with that one warning, on to my verdict.
I loved this book. It was everything I could hope for in a denouement and so much more. I, like so many others, have been waiting impatiently for a year for the answers and resolutions to the many apparently insoluble issues and problems created by the authors in their foregoing works. Finally, to my great relief, the book was released yesterday and with all apologies to Amazon, this was not a book I was willing to wait a day or longer for someone to deliver to me so I let myself off work early and went and bought a copy locally. I mentally steeled myself to be slightly disappointed because I simply could not see how the authors could convincingly solve the myriad of problems they had created previously. Yet, with a kernel of hope in my core, I started reading around 3 in the afternoon. I finished after midnight. Yes, as is typical of Preston and Child, this is one of those books that you will want to finish in one go and will find very hard to put down. I am happy to report that the authors, with grace, style, and panache, provided answers that are believable, convincing and reasonable and which resolve all the complex issues previously created. There was so much to like about this book! The Cain and Abel brothers (or Holmes and Moriarty if you prefer) have been locked in their dance of death for their entire lives. But what caused this to be? What is the unimaginably horrible crime that Diogenes is working feverishly to perpetrate? How can Aloysius escape from a maximum security federal penitentiary that has never suffered an escapee? And when will there finally be a point to Constance Green? All these loose ends are tied up for us finally in a deeply satisfying way.
This novel delivers excitement, thrills, scares, mysteries, tension as fine as any you can read, and delivers them in sinfully addictive prose that drags you from one page to the next without remorse or relent. The best thing about the book is its relentless intelligence and the competence of the two siblilngs as they work to thwart and foil each other. The prison break was so intelligently crafted, the diabolical crime really was diabolical and also so personal it just dripped with hate, revenge, and misguided retribution. One final bit of praise. The authors finish the book with one of the most satisfying closing sentences I've ever read. It nailed the last niggling reservation I had and I unreservedly admire how they set me up for it, stringing out my reservation to the very last sentence of the very last page and then just crushing it. Do not skip forward to the last sentence. Restrain yourself, don't do it. You can't appreciate it fully unless you have been through the other novels and force yourself slowly through this one, but my hat is off to Preston and Child for crafting this enormously enjoyable conclusion that ties up all the loose ends and sets the stage for what may come yet in the future,
80 of 91 people found the following review helpful
The board members of the New York Museum of Natural History just don't seem to learn. After experiencing the terrors of THE RELIC and THE RELIQUARY, one would think they would be concerned about reopening the Tomb of Senef, particularly since two men have experienced unexplained neurological damage while working on the project. However, the board is determined to pursue the project to deflect attention from their attempts to cover up the return of their entire stolen diamond collection- returned as diamond grit, that is.
Diogenes Pendergast has put into motion the perfectly orchestrated crime. This crime is an attempt to recreate the work of his ancestor, Comstock Pendergast, and will affect all who enter the Tomb. Nora Kelly, William Smithback, Viola Maskelene, Margo Green, and Constance Greene are all returning characters from previous Preston and Child books and they too are part of Diogenes' diabolic plan.
Meanwhile, former Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast is incarcerated at Herkmoor Penitentiary, as part of Diogenes' twisted plan (see DANCE OF DEATH for details). Herkmoor Penitentiary is considered impossible to escape but that is before Eli Glinn employs his agency's technical expertise. Pendergast, Vincent D'Agosta, and Captain Laura Hayward will have to work together yet again to stop Diogenes from wreaking destruction on their friends and the entire city of New York.
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child demonstrate once again why they are the masters of this genre. THE BOOK OF THE DEAD is a cleverly crafted thriller with enough twists and turns to keep the reader turning the pages well into the night. While the returning characters provide a sense of familiarity, Preston and Child do not sacrifice the plot by any means. THE BOOK OF THE DEAD draws the reader in from the first sentence and doesn't let go until the very end. This is not a novel you will want to put down as Lincoln and Child continually keep you guessing as to how the characters will thwart Diogenes.
THE BOOK OF THE DEAD can be read as a stand alone novel as the authors provide the necessary background to understand the basic plot. However, readers will miss the intricate details that make this series so successful if they do not read the earlier novels. At a minimum, this reviewer recommends reading DANCE OF DEATH prior to THE BOOK OF THE DEAD if only to provide the full complexity of Diogenes' deviousness. Part of what makes the Preston and Child novels so addictive is the authors' innate ability to weave together numerous plotlines from various books into a cohesive format. Readers familiar to the series will recognize details and characters from previous books and will be impressed at the sheer brilliance of Preston and Child at combining all of these elements into one book. THE BOOK OF THE DEAD is one thriller you do not want to miss reading!!
COURTESY OF CK2S KWIPS AND KRITIQUES
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2006
As usual, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child confirm their great ability in writing cool, well-conceived page turners.
In this book in particular, a lot of details about some of the characters are unveiled, and the "Pendergast Trilogy" featuring Aloysius vs. Diogenes finally comes to an end... and what an end!
Apart from the praises for the writing style and action scenes, for the characters and the mood, another point I found particularly strong in this book was the obvious amount of research the authors did. I am Italian, and the small details, for example the streets of Florence, or the cuss exclamation of a Carabiniere, or even the cell number of a bus driver (which uses a correct prefix for an Italian cell phone, no fake "555" number) all prove that they really went into research for the book.
Also, the frequent sentences in Italian are correct and do make sense this time (unlike some of their previous books where the sentences were dictionary-translated and light-years from what a "real" Italian would say).
The only quirk I found was with the audio book itself - while the guy who reads the book has a fantastic voice and a clear, perfect tone, it's also very clear he is not at ease with the Italian language.
Some accents he uses while reading Italian words range from mildly amusing to utterly ludicrous, but then I guess it's something only a native Italian speaker would notice.
All in all, a fantastic book, definitely well worth it!
If you appreciate Preston and Child's novels, don't miss this one, with a single caveat: for maximum enjoyment you will need previous knowledge of facts and characters, so reading the other books (at the very least Brimstone and Dance of Death, ideally quite a few others) is *strongly* advised.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Book of the Dead is the third book in what Preston & Child call their "Pendergast Trilogy," which began two years ago with Brimstone.
Secrets are revealed, including "the Event" which transformed Pendergast's brother Diogenes into a sociopathic killer.
Characters from previous novels, inlcuding The Ice Limit, Relic, Thunderhead, and Cabinet of Curiosities make notable appearances. Pendergast's mysterious ward, Constance (who has done very little in the earlier books,) takes a lead role with spectacular results.
There's action, violence, a scheme to murder millions, some twists, and the best prison scene since Silence of the Lambs.
If you've been waiting for this book, you won't be disappointed. If you're new to the series, you might miss out on a lot of the references to previous stories, and you'll enjoy this more if you read those earlier books first.
I read it in one sitting, staying up all night, and I'm tired but happy.
Congrats on another winner, Mr. Preston and Mr. Child.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2007
"The Book of the Dead" is everything a thriller fan could hope for - a page-turning, unputdownable, thrilling, decadently readable, thoroughly entertaining, slam bang finale to a colourful, imaginative trilogy!
The basic plot premise is simplicity itself! FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast's younger brother Diogenes has announced his plan to execute a mysteriously undefined perfect crime. As a result of intense psychological examination, Pendergast has determined that this crime is to be Diogenes' revenge for a childhood sin perpetrated against his younger brother, the nature of which has been completely suppressed in Pendergast's unconscious memories! The dastardly crime must be prevented at all costs despite Pendergast not knowing even the tiniest detail of Diogenes' actual intentions! The story gallops at breakneck speed from crisis to crisis as the life or death clash between Pendergast and his psychopathic megalomaniacal brother escalates to a thrilling climax but we are privileged to watch it being played out with masterful attention to character building, dialogue, detail, pacing and clever ratcheting or release of tension!
As we have come to expect from their previous work, Preston and Child have once again packed their tale with a dazzling myriad of mini-plots that have afforded them a number of stages from which they could also deliver a series of wildly entertaining and informative lectures - the politics and history of Egyptian archeology; the religious beliefs and burial practices of the ancient Egyptians; the nature of security in a modern maximum security prison built for incorrigible offenders; the logistical details of mounting a world class exhibit in a modern museum; the potential for neurological damage caused by intense light and high volume sound bombardment; the trivia of diamond classification, colour, cut and value; and, arcane details of forensic evidence examination such as the study of knots or cloth; to name only a few examples.
Readers who have observed Pendergast's growing resemblance to Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes in the novels which preceded "The Book of the Dead" will shiver with a frisson of delight at the tumultuous Reichenbach Falls style climax which takes place on the very flanks of Mount Stromboli in Sicily. When Pendergast announced his intentions to retire to a period of solitude and contemplation at a Tibetan monastery, I quietly sent up a short prayer to the writing gods with the fervent hope that Lincoln and Child bring Pendergast back for a 21st century version of "The Final Problem"! Quiet retirement or beekeeping would not suit Pendergast any better than it did Holmes.
And, by the way, be very, very sure that you read this novel right to the very last sentence ... and what a last sentence it is!
Oh yeah ... did I say that I enjoyed the novel?
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Once upon a time there was a strange monster running around the basement of the New York Museum of Natural History and an eccentric FBI agent... And so went the tale of the first book in which special agent Prendergast made his appearance. There are now seven books in this series and, despite the authors' protests, it wouldn't surprise me to see number eight coming along at some time. They have always been better than merely readable and have occasionally shown flashes of brilliant. Unfortunately they don't make the transition to film very well.
Preston and Child pull out all the stops in this latest volume, the third to pit Prendergast against his evil brother Diogenes. The setting has returned to the New York Museum of Natural History once again, where a desperate leadership is attempting to counteract the bad press coming from Diogenes spectacular jewel theft. This, as you may remember, left Prendergast imprisoned for evils he did not commit and one of the world's most valuable collections stripped of it's treasures. When the jewels are returned as powder the museum hatches the idea of reopening an ancient Egyptian tomb buried in its cellars, complete with a multimedia light show, as a way of distracting the public.
In the mean time a group of Prendergast's friends plot to break him free from the Herkmoor Federal Correctional and Holding Facility. This clumsily named prison is a foreboding institute that is more than the equal if its Victorian equivalents - dark, menacing, and full of FBI agents who are bent on breaking Prendergast's will. No one has ever escaped, but no prison has ever encountered this new version of the Mission Impossible team before. Of course, locked away in prison, Prendergast himself doesn't play much of a part in the early going - something of a mixed blessing.
Regulars to this series will recognize that Prendergast, with his overstated Southern gentleman style, austere looks, and brilliant mind, is a spitting image for Sherlock Holmes. Diogenes outdoes Moriarty as archfiend, and Mycroft as the brilliant older brother. The resemblances are uncanny, and no doubt intentional. Prendergast's personality has that same coldness to it as Holmes, and the same irritating habit of always being right. One can quite understand why Diogenes is dedicated to eradicating him.
This time the situation is even more desperate as Diogenes devious plot unfolds quickly, and we discover a multitude of falsehoods and betrayals. Prendergast's brother is intent on getting even with everyone who has stood in his way, not just his brother. New York is again to be the site of a disaster. In the mean time you will find yourself delighted by Preston and Child's amazing facility with the details of a prison break, an unending supply of Egyptianalia, and the methods of a no-holds-barred museum exhibition. Book of the Dead is really the best of a long series. You probably should start with an earlier volume, probably Brimstone, but going all the way back to Relic wouldn't be a disappointment.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2006
Read the other books first. That is sound advice repeated through these reviews. This story is interesting and brings a lot of old friends from previous books together for a jolly romp through the dark recesses of a supposedly cursed tomb. Are there any that aren't? You will enjoy it much more if you are familiar with the characters. I have grown fond of them and enjoyed, for the most part, seeing them in action again.
One of the joys of Lincoln and Child's earlier books is that you always came away with knowledge of some arcane subject. They are educational and more readable as a result. This one was not so edifying, but rounded out the series nicely.
There were some plot holes. The 'Event' a life changing childhood experience of cosmic proportions, is pretty lame when you finally find out the circumstances. This 'Event' is pivotal in the development of the two main protagonists, one an almost saintly cross between Sherlock Holmes and 007. And his evil brother, brilliant monster, part Hannibal Lecter, part Moriarty. As children they discover a box that someone thoughtfully stored in the cellar, 'fully loaded' as it were. Not wishing to spoil anything, suffice to say that it is a stretch to think that anyone would want to keep their mad old uncle Comstock's, gaudily painted, suicide machine in the cellar. But parents who name their children Diogenes and Aloysius are probably questionable anyway.
As with previous works, the Museum of natural history in NYC is the backdrop for most of the story.
The Museum and a grand gathering of glittering celebrities has been worked to death in this series. There must be a fresher vehicle for the action than retreading the dusty halls of this fine old institution.
Hopefully the series will continue, these books are always welcome diversions and the few suspensions of disbelief are worth it for the overall adventure. Read the earlier works, then enjoy the Book of the Dead.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2006
(NO MAJOR SPOILERS)
One way or the other, I have to agree with some previous reviewers: this novel doesn't quite live up to the other fantastic Pendergast sagas, which have the best combination of action, suspense and mystery I've read to date, along with great characterization. I'd say this one focused more on characters than being "gripping" based on plot alone as might be expected.
It's a well-written and carefully constructed book, a must-read for all Pendergast fans, but doesn't have the blazing rushes of adrenaline the previous ones had, all things considered. This may bore new-comers more than Dance of Death and should definitely not be read alone. Book of the Dead simmers more than boils, with certain parts to be slowly savored, mostly thanks to previous knowledge of the characters. I'm glad this novel is supported and fed by a larger plotline from the previous Pendergast books, because as a standalone, you'll miss the powerful characterizational kicks and might be disappointed to find few nail-biting twists, which are in fact slightly redundant when compared to what happens in, say, Reliquary or Brimstone.
This 'conclusion' to the Pendergast trilogy wraps up details well, though a trifle bit transparently. The New York Museum problems are similar to previous ones mentioned in at least two other novels, and it's almost getting old. Or at least predictable. Same setting is fine, but it's almost exactly the same situation too, albeit with a different source of trouble. Also, a major flight at the end seems a bit forced, and a certain brave character's sudden competence and fury, though gratifying, came out of thin air and seemed almost too convenient.
The diabolicalness of Diogenes is explained in this novel and while he's rather not as rounded out as I would've liked, he nevertheless is given a reason why he is how he is. I thought it was a relatively far-fetched explanation and didn't mesh with the plot quite as well as other explanations for past events in past Pendergast novels. I also thought his series of actions leading up to a 'master plan' as told in in Dance of Death made more sense than his ultimate goal here, which progresses to somewhat of a vague cliche.
What Book of the Dead does best is continue to focus on the human side of Pendergast's world, which makes up for the lack of an independent plotline. The best part of this book for me was Pendergast and his facility experiences, the final stage of which indeed reminded me much of Hannibal Lector's, as mentioned previously. That and his behavior and interaction with certain people was absolutely priceless.
I expected the final sentence of this book to come at one point or another; don't be surprised if your mind discovers it, even if just briefly, when you're still far from the end, as this is a kind of plot development sure to complicate the issues and keep at least one end loose for the future. No complaints, but it was coming.
All in all, I honestly felt Book of the Dead lost steam and some of my attention at the end, which is why I regretfully give it a 4/5, which is not bad for it being the lowest opinion I've had for any Pendergast novel so far. This novel is definitely worthwhile just to see Pendergast deal with various awkward situations. I would have to disagree about the level of tension and adrenaline being high; rather, I found this laid-back and familiar due to its emphasis being on characters and motives and decisions, none of which originate from this book.
At the end of the day, I will always be looking forward to more Aloysius...
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Book of The Dead finishes up the storyline started in "Brimstone", and it does so in a powerful way. After the rather disappointing ending of "Dance of Death" (a cliffhanger doesn't work when it takes you a year to put out your next book), TBOTD actually brings things together rather nicely. It's not a perfect story though, so be prepared. While Pendergast has taken the starring role in the last few novels, the book is well over half finished before he becomes a major player. I was getting a little anxious and thinking Preston and Child were going to leave us with another cliffhanger here, but Pendergast does become a central part of the story and his battle with Diogenes takes on a powerful life of its own.
That being said, you WILL need to have read the previous two books to fully understand what's going on. And it was nice to see Constance getting to do something besides sit in the library and read all the time. She's a character that deserves to be explored (and that's almost guaranteed for the next book). The major disappointment of this book is that it includes yet ANOTHER disasterous opening at the New York Museum (for those keeping score, that's three big openings in the Preston/Child series and three big disasters). Can those museum people not take a hint? And who are the idiots who actually buy tickets to these things thinking "Oh, the other times were just flukes"? People die when they open exhibits there! Don't go!
While this story doesn't end on a cliffhanger per se, it definitely leaves you wanting to know what happens next (a few of the characters futures are in question). I love the characters Preston and Child have created. Each has an individual personality and depth. All in all, this is another incredible story by the team and it ends the trilogy with a bang. Grab this one and you'll be looking for their other novels, guaranteed!
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2006
Ok, so I was afraid...you know the kind of fear from wanting a book to be as good as you want it to be...but fearing you'll be disappointed? I have waited since the day I finished Dance of Death to find out how the heck Pendergast was going to break out of prison, what exactly Diogenes was now plotting since his previous plan had been ruined, and most important of all...what is the EVENT that happened between these two brothers that caused Diogenes to hate Aloysius so much that he spent twenty years of his life plotting the "perfect crime" against him???
Well these, and many other plot lines, are all gratifyingly tied up in the Book of the Dead (and there's even a little twist at the end - even though I have to admit I guessed that one).
The story starts out solidly setting up the plot about the museum needing an exhibit to save itself from the bad publicity resounding from the diamond heist in DoD. Because I don't wish to include spoilers- all I'll say is that it just becomes more and more engrossing, until frankly I was rocketing through the story at a million miles an hour. I had no reason in the world to be afraid of disappointment as the book was everything I had hoped it would be and much, much more! This book is definitely now my favorite of the Pendergast series (especially because of the background story of the EVENT, which further clues readers in on what makes Pendergast tick)...and all I can say is "Man, can these guys write!" and that now I can't wait until the next one!