Release Date: November 10th, 2015
Synopsis: A secret chamber. A mysterious shipwreck. A murder in the desolate salt marshes. A seemingly straightforward private case turns out to be much more complicated-and-sinister-than Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast ever could have anticipated.
Pendergast, together with his ward Constance Greene, travels to the quaint seaside village of Exmouth, Massachusetts, to investigate the theft of a priceless wine collection. But inside the wine cellar, they find something considerably more disturbing: a bricked-up niche that once held a crumbling skeleton.
Pendergast and Constance soon learn that Exmouth is a town with a very dark and troubled history, and this skeleton may be only the first hint of an ancient transgression, kept secret all these years. But they will discover that the sins of the past are still very much alive.
I’ve been fascinated with Aloysius X. L. Pendergast since he first appeared as a secondary character in Relic (1995). Fifteen books later, his story still has the power to mesmerize me. Except for a rather strange segue into the supernatural near the end of the book, Crimson Shore is an enjoyable mystery which kept me reading well into the night.
Having fully recovered from the events in Blue Labyrinth, Pendergast’s Holmesian talents of deduction are on full display here, as are his eccentricities. While there aren’t any new revelations as have been in previous books, his relationship with his ward Constance, does move forward, albeit awkwardly at times. Theirs is a curious dance which manages to be both sad and amusing. These are two people whose I.Q.s are off the charts, yet when it comes to relationships they’re incredibly naive.
Constance continues to grow in this story and it’s becoming evident that she will ultimately become a worthy partner for Pendergast both in their investigative endeavors as well as their personal lives. I do wish she was a little more empathetic towards other people as this would provide some balance towards Pendergast’s aloofness, but given her background and the traumas she’s suffered it’s understandable why her personality mirrors that of her mentor’s.
While supernatural themes have appeared more than once in this series, this time it seemed to be tacked on near the end of the book, almost as an afterthought. Even worse, it actually could have worked if Preston and Child had integrated it more fully with the rest of the story. Instead it’s tacked on near the end and frankly left me wondering why.
The book ends with an explosive cliffhanger which has left me frustrated as it will most likely be another year before the next book comes out. Personally, I’m not a fan of endings like these, as they tend to make me feel as though I’m being manipulated.
Despite it’s flaws, Crimson Shore is still an intriguing mystery which combines many elements including: Massachusett’ s maritime history, the Salem Witchcraft Trials, and even a nod to Poe. While it’s not my favorite Pendergast novel, it’s still has left me anxiously awaiting the next installment.