Archive for January 2009
The dead are everywhere, and Harper Connelly can sense them.
When she was 15 years old, she was struck by lightning but somehow survived it. She also survived growing up in a highly dysfunctional family, with parents living on the dregs of a death wish, and the disappearance of an older sister.
Today, she goes on road trips with her stepbrother-manager Tolliver, making a living as a corpse-finder. Apparently, the lightning strike allowed her a weird affinity with dead bodies and the final moments of the dead. She can locate missing people (as long as they’re dead), find out how they died, and help give closure to grieving families.
Harper knows she’s helping people, but her gift alienates as much as it is sought after. She and Tolliver have gotten used to being treated like monsters—but as long as they get paid, it’s not so bad, they reason.
But this double-edged sword almost proved fatal in Sarne, a small town in Arkansas. Hired to find the body of a missing teenage girl, they thought it was business as usual. Harper found the girl’s body but sensed that the teenager was running for her life before shot in the back.
Pretty soon, Harper gets entangled in a series of questionable deaths. Apparently, the town has deep dark secrets and is willing to murder to keep them hidden. Harper is shot at, Tolliver gets jailed, and dead bodies pile up.
Well, that’s about the gist of the first book in Charlaine Harris series of paranormal mystery—intriguing enough, but that wasn’t what got me hooked. What got me was the sense of waiting, a haunting that grips us through the deadpan style of conversation Harris used in this series.
This feeling is pretty ominous, in fact—maybe because of the prologue about Harper’s sister, Cameron, waiting to be found.
We have to remember that Harper can only find dead people, and she knows that it’s just a matter of time before she finds her sister. To me the book feels as if Harper and Tolliver are bidding time with small town mysteries until they can get enough courage or information to go looking for something that terrifies them.
The covers of my Gollancz Editions are that of a wistful light-haired girl. At first I thought the artist got the covers wrong as Harper has dark wavy hair. Then I realized, the girl must be Cameron.
So the story becomes creepier, more tragic, and less of a whodunit. Because she’s been there all this time, in every page, every line… And I’m not sure if she’s patiently waiting at all.
Pendergast takes a vacation.
Recovering—or trying to—from recent encounters with his diabolically intelligent brother, the FBI special agent surely deserves a break. And a vacation is surely the time to loosen up , switch off the energy, maintain a more relaxed pace.
Unfortunately, for us readers, this is exactly what we get from Pendergast.. and the book.
Here’s the story:
An object of power is stolen from a remote Tibetan monastery. FBI special agent Pendergast and ward Constance Greene follow its bloody trail to a luxury ocean liner on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic. But not only is a thief on board, a serial killer also is… and something else
People start dying in gruesome ways. Something goes wrong with the ship–and its captain. If the killer does not get them, the ocean will…
So again, we have the seemingly impregnable high-tech fortress; a menace that is as old as time; indifferent to modern technology and firepower; humanity’s panic and selfishness overwhelming all when terrified; and a few brave men who go down fighting no matter what.
On the surface, it promises the Pendergast fare we’ve come to love. But it delivered short. I felt bored a third into it.. and a little insulted. Is it just me? Or is the way the agent’s investigation going how he wants it to go a little too convenient for comfort?
Maybe, I’ve been spoiled by the almost unlimited servings of thrills and suspense in the previous books. Maybe the authors couldn’t help but run out of steam sometime. Maybe, I’d just been saturated with too much Pendergast—as I have been reading the series a book a day the past week.
Bottom-line is: I found this book dispirited, lacking Pendergast’s usual charm and sense of personal mystery. It lacks a certain snappiness in the way the characters are drawn out. It attempts to convince us of Pendergast’s persuasive prowess but just succeeds to make me think: how sloppy… how lazy everything all seems.
I know it’s about time we know more about the innermost vulnerabilities of the almost superhuman agent; I’m all for that. The latest installment in the series is like the intermission after the grand confrontation, an opportunity to tell the story of the man instead of his adventures. But there seemed to have been a cut thread somewhere—because I feel that the story-telling stumbled instead of taking up smoothly from where it last hung.
The feeling of disconnection between Pendergast of the previous volumes and that of the first half of WHEEL OF DARKNESS was too strong.
I’m a rather disappointed with this book. But I know that nothing is perfect. I also didn’t like BRIMSTONE that much. Overall, the Pendergast series is still a favorite.
The hunter becomes the hunted.
But before this happens, Pendergast is framed for the murders of his diabolical brother Diogenes. He is incarcerated in a federal prison. His friends plan to bust him out… so that they can prevent Diogenes from committing his perfect crime.
What that perfect crime is still anyone’s guess. But they need to find out quickly if they wish for any hope in saving loved ones—the world—from the brother’s murderous hatred. They need to know why Diogenes hates Pendergast so much! The answer is within Pendergast himself—and he can get it, only if he is willing to remember.
Meanwhile, NYC’s Natural Museum is again the setting to a series of gruesome crimes. Reeling from a diamond heist, perpetrated by Diogenes, the museum is banking on the success of an ancient Egyptian Tomb, said to be cursed, to lift it from its funk.
But even before the grand unveiling, two staff go berserk, one savagely mutilates a fellow technician and an Egyptologist tries to strangle a curator. Despite all this, the museum proceeds with the unveiling, a celebrity-studded New York gala—it can’t afford to cancel, after all.
The show must go on!… In the tradition of previous books, a massacre is again in the making.
Pendergast and his team, as well as other important characters, race to salvage what they can, before loved ones are killed… before Diogenes succeeds to scare half the city to death.
Again, I really enjoyed this book. I love the breakneck speed of the action, the chapter by chapter cliff-hangers, and the frightening efficiency of Pendergast himself at doing what must be done.
But I was left rather suspicious of the ending. There was no confrontation, no closure between brothers. It was all very neat and predictable… But was it?