The Obsidian Chamber by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Wednesday, November 9, 2016 at 8:40AM
TChris in Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, Thriller

Published by Grand Central Publishing on October 18, 2016

The last Pendergast novel ended with another cliffhanger, as Pendergast was swept out to sea. Since the series didn’t end, it isn’t a spoiler to suggest that Pendergast might still be alive, perhaps held captive by smugglers who pursue an improbable scheme to trade Pendergast for a prisoner in FBI custody. Of course, the smugglers don’t realize just how formidable Pendergast might be.

Much of the story focuses not on Pendergast, but on other characters. The Obsidian Chamber begins with the kidnapping of Constance Greene from Pendergast’s home. Characters in a Pendergast novel seem to have trouble staying dead, as evidenced by the character, presumed dead, who takes Constance. In the absence of Pendergast, it falls to his loyal servant Proctor to give chase.

And give chase he does, first by plane and then by Land Rover, using wits and a bag full of cash to stay, it seems, on the heels of Constance’s captor as he travels between and across continents. The fun factor triggered my willingness to suspend disbelief of the events described in those chapters. They are, in fact, by far the best chapters in the book. Unfortunately, when the chase peters out, Proctor disappears, leaving Constance to carry the story. That was a disappointing choice.

Pendergast, Constance, and Proctor are apparently the smartest and toughest people in the world. To a degree, they are intriguing because they are so far removed from common experience, and their knowledge of history and science and unusual meditative practices adds intellectual interest to the story. At the same time, Proctor is the only character I care about, and his role in the novels is limited. For that reason, while I generally enjoy the series, I lack the emotional investment in the Pendergast novels that I have made in other crime novels with recurring characters.

There is more melodrama in The Obsidian Chamber than I expect from a Pendergast novel. By the time the predictable ending rolls around, melodrama has overwhelmed the story. While The Obsidian Chamber doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, it does leave an issue unresolved that might tempt the authors to continue a disappointing storyline at some point in the future. I’d be happier if they killed Constance, cut out the family melodrama entirely, and returned Pendergast to a crime fighting role with an able assist from Proctor. I liked some of The Obsidian Chamber, but not enough to give it an enthusiastic recommendation. Preston and Child do marvelous research and fill their novels with interesting factoids, so I will keep reading them, but with the fond hope that the authors have put silly storylines behind them and are preparing to venture into more gripping territory.


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