Blue Labyrinth [BOOK REVIEW]

Blue Labyrinth CoverAuthors: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group
Genre: Noir/Suspense Mystery
Unique Elements: Independently wealthy FBI agent with a compulsion to solve brutal psychotic killings due to family skeletons.
Series: Agent Pendergast
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Number of Page: 416 pages
MSRP: $27.00 (Hard cover); $23.99 (Audible)
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Free Kindle Preview (11 Chapters): Click Here
Reviewed by: J.T. Hanke
Final Score: 5 (out of 5 Moons)

When a lethal relative shows up dead on FBI Agent A.X.L. Pendergast’s doorstep in New York City, our favorite Gothic detective is prompted to explore places he never wanted to go.

Brilliant Moon Award

Struggling to figure out who could have killed a man whose genetically enhanced abilities should have made him unkillable, Pendergast is provoked to look still deeper into the deadly secrets that enfold his family tree. He quickly discovers that, if he has any chance of surviving the chain of events this death kicks off, he’ll have to rely most on the very people he’s tried desperately to keep out of the line of fire over the years.

Story

Folks who’ve read DGM for any length of time know that I find the Agent Pendergast novels by Preston & Child to be incredibly gothic and darkly wonderful.

There is something about the chemistry of dealing with the Pendergast family tree that brings the MOST Pendergast out in Preston & Child’s writing–almost as though the character is so interested to be involved in things involving his bloodline that he starts actively throwing in his own twists and turns to the story. (This is probably why most of the best books in the Pendergast series are the ones that focus on the mysteries surrounding the special agent’s own family.)

After a bit of a misfire in the last book, Pendergast is back in the driver’s seat of one of these wonderful inside-out mysteries of the deadly Pendergast clan.

The story arch works really well throughout and Preston and Child find ways to make Pendergast fight from areas of weakness that he’s never really had to do before.

Limitations always force a more creative story to emerge and, in this case, it forced characters who hadn’t been explored as much to become major players.

The climax of the book is epic and the ending is strong–so I wouldn’t dream of telling you anything about either ahead of time!

Dynamics

The Pendergast novels have an amazing capacity for using social dynamics, because Pendergast is so often doing some form of social engineering. (Often against other law enforcers, or even his own team, as much as against criminals or, synonymously, his family member.) On top of that, the novels usually have a variety of psycho-spiritual dynamics as Pendergast uses his “Memory Palace” to find things that are just outside the realm of the normal, while struggling with his own demons of depression and despair, as well as the voices of his deceased brother, Diogenes. This book incorporates all of these, as well as the dynamics of Pendergast vs. his own physical limitations when his own body is as much of a traitor as any other character.

One of the criticisms I have had in the past with the authors is that they’ve had some difficulty with realistic female characters. While not noticeable for bit characters, some the major roles have often stumbled into stereotypes like the impetuous teenage girl, the over-protective love interest with a chip on her shoulder, or the helpless scientist who makes really impulsive decisions. However, Blue Labyrinth represents a major step in the right direction as we see much more fleshed-out female characters than we’ve seen in the series to date.

The return of early protagonist, Margo Green, allows us to really see how much the authors have grown in this department since the first two books. However, the place where it shows most brilliantly is in the evolution of Pendergast’s ward, Constance Greene! She is finally painted fully in the light of a woman who can not only keep up with Pendergast, but who can bail him out when things get dicey. (In fact, after this book, I want a series of films starring Ms. Greene as a protagonist!)

Gothic Fit

This book is full of the things we love: dark questions about reality, secrets that the rest of society would like to avoid, alchemy, deadly characters, and strong heroines who don’t mind killing would-be rapists with acid bombs. (Now, I yearn for a Pendergast trilogy where he and Constance explore a strange family secret in Greenland, taking turns killing bad guys and throwing out witty bon mots!)

For those of you who’ve been inhaling these books in audio format, Rene Auborjonois reprises his role as narrator to everyone’s delight. And, having listened to it, there are literally some sections of dialogue in this audio book that will make your life better just hearing it from Auborjonois’ lips! (I’m not exaggerating, but I won’t tell you where they are. When you hear them, you’ll know–and may want to replay them a few times!)

Closing Thoughts

Everything about this novel embodies the best of the Pendergast books, which, combined with the all “grown-up” Constance Greene, steps this book up into a whole new level and makes Blue Labyrinth arguably the best book in the series. I hope the authors will find a way to use major Pendergast family components in ALL of their future books, as there’s something so dynamic that flows out of this every time they go to that well.

If you’re a Pendergast fan, stop what you’re doing and order Blue Labyrinth right NOW! (If you’ve never read a Pendergast book before and want to know where to start, start on Cabinet of Curiosities and read your way through! )

Story: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Dynamics: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Gothic Fit: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Final Score (not an average): 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)

Score: Five Moons

Author: JT Hanke

J.T. Hanke is the editor-in-chief of DarkestGoth Magazine. A filmmaker who explores dark concepts, he's also the founder of World of Depleted Creative Community, the postapocalyptic creative project that shares credit and profits throughout the Gothic creative community.

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