Monday, March 22, 2010

Book: Cemetery Dance

A year or two ago I went through a big Preston/Child spree, and kind of burned myself out on them. However, a year has passed and I was totally ready for another. I just found out there are two more that I hadn't read yet! Yippee!

I suppose these are crime thrillers, but they always have a supernatural edge, and a fabulous FBI character: Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast, New Orleans gentleman, quirky, inscrutable, mysterious and a rule-bender. I'm really not that much into police thrillers but I love these.

It's really all about Pendergast. He is just a fabulous character. Always impeccably dressed in specially-made black suits, pale and blond with silvery eyes, he is a true man of mystery. He lives in a warren of luxurious rooms at The Dakota (and also is the owner of a run-down mansion in another part of New York, and also has the family estate in New Orleans, I think). His family past is full of criminally insane aristocrats, including the delightfully evil Aunt Cornelia, who must be in a full five-point restraint even as she offers you tea and sherry and calls for the "servants" (she lives in a home for the criminally insane but conveniently forgets that fact.) He is never without lock picks, flashlights, test tubes, all manner of small but deadly weapons. Speaks any number of obscure languages, well-read, has exquisite taste (when on location, ships in foodstuffs and wines from his private collection), rarely shows emotions (but clearly, still waters run deep with this one). He has a diabolical brother, Diogenes, whom may or may not have died in one of the last books. He's an extremely compelling character (even meriting his own entry in Wikipedia)

His partner-in-crime in many of the books is the classic Italian New York cop, Vincent D'Agosta. Vinnie is emotional, hard-boiled, smart, a skeptic. He comes to respect Pendergast's unusual ways throughout the series, and now the two are fast friends (as much as anyone can be friends with Pendergast).

There is a full range of other interesting characters which make their appearance throughout the series: Bill Smithback, annoying reporter; the elusive Wren, reclusive researcher; Constance Greene, a mystery unto herself... the list goes on. Half the fun of these books are the characters.

As I said, in each book there is a police angle and a supernatural (or seemingly supernatural) occurence. Cemetery Dance is about zombiis. At the very beginning of the book, one of our favorite characters is brutally murdered by what appears to be a zombii. The zombii then attacks a series of other people, and soon the police are called in. Clues start to surface: voodoo symbols drawn on the walls, gris-gris found placed on the murdered persons, links to a mysterious cult deep in the Inwood Hill Park forest (a primordial forest on the island of Manhattan, which does actually exist. Another reason to love this series is a very strong sense of place, no matter where they are set.)

More murders and another zombii later, D'Agosta and Pendergast are starting to wonder if there really are zombiis Italicroaming Manhattan, singling out individuals who have reason to pester the cult. Pendergast brings in an old tutor from New Orleans, who helps the two uncover more clues (another quirky side character). Is the cult really sacrificing animals to feed the zombiis? Are there actually zombiis terrorizing Manhattan? What the heck is going on here?

The conclusion of the story is very satisfying, although looking back, one must suspend disbelief at a number of points for it all to work, but all of the storylines are so entertaining and satisfying that I didn't mind at all.

These authors have hits and misses, and this was definitely a hit. Completely satisfying, mildly disturbing/scary (yet still funny and interesting), great characters, and a whole lot of Pendergast. I loved every minute of it. This is exactly what this sort of book should be: thrilling, entertaining, full of fun characters, addictive, lightweight and satisfying. The best part is that a clue to the next book is given at the very end of this book... and my library has the next book! Woohoo!


Stefanie said...

James loves (nearly) all things zombie and I know he has read Preston and Child but I don't think he has read this one. I'll have to tell him about it as it seems like one he will like!

Daphne said...

I think he'd like this for sure! After the last one (Wheel of Darkness) I thought these guys were washed up. But I really liked this one.

Tammie said...

this sounds like good fun. definitely adding it to the list. and ya gotta love a character named aloysius.

Daphne said...

T: It's very fun. If you want *real* fun, start at the very beginning, with Relic. The first two books (Relic and Reliquary) really aren't very good, so you could actually start with Cabinet of Curiosities, which was fantastic. Then go to Still Life With Crows and you'll be hooked. :)