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Best Books of 2017 – Chapter 4

And explore I did! No sooner had I read my first in the series of Agent Pendergast books that I bought another book. The first book, Relic, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child introduces us to this gifted agent and is interestingly set in the same museum, the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

This book opens with a series of grisly murders in the museum. The murders occur not long before a major exhibition is to open at the museum on superstition. One of the relics being displayed came from a sanctioned museum exhibition in which all of the party either disappeared never to be heard from again or died before returning to the US.

This relic, depicts a freak-of-nature creature, not known to exist but as the murders continue to mount, is suspected of, in fact, actually being the gruesome murderer. Agent Pendergast arrives from New Orleans where a number of years ago, similar unsolved murders had occurred. Pendergast, working with local and FBI authorities, tries to secure the museum for the opening night. But a series of “perfect-storm-like” events unleashes the creature’s fury on the attendees in what is a rapid pager-turner of a climax.

What had been speculation about the existence of the creature becomes reality as the creature feeds his appetite. But as to how the “pre-historic” creature came into existence is revealed in a clever twist at the end that clears up all of the mysteries of the lost expedition.

With that as the finish to the first book and having thoroughly enjoyed the third book in the Pendergast series, I immediately purchased the second book by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Reliquary. And I was rewarded with a sequel like none that I had read.

This book opens 18 months after the first book with the chance discovery of two skeletal remains, one a high society debutante and the other a deformed skeleton somewhat reminiscent of the museum monster from Relic. Then within a few short pages and I was greeted by many of the familiar characters from the first book.

The mystery revealed at the end of the first book continues to unfold with even darker mysteries of fellow museum researchers. And throughout this second book, direct explanations of events from the first book made me glad I had read them in this order as reading the second book first would have revealed multiple spoilers in the first book.

What started out, as a single museum monster, appears to have morphed into a population of like murderous creatures inhabiting abandoned tunnels beneath Manhattan. To end the violence and destroy the creatures, the climax of the book unfolds during another fast-paced chase featuring the now very familiar characters but with another surprise reveal at the end of the book.

Having read three Agent Pendergast books so far, I find that I am drawn to them by the blend of murder mystery, intrigue, and just enough real science to make the science fiction portion almost believable, a quality I thoroughly enjoy. As I have done in the past upon discovering for the first time a series of previously published books, I suspect next year I will binge on some of the other Agent Pendergast books.

With my interest in science, I have read several books about the electrification and lighting of America. In these books, it was fascinating to learn the parts Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla each played along with the controversy and adversity that existed between these inventors. So last year when I heard an NPR podcast with author Graham Moore about his latest novel, The Last Days of Night, I immediately added it to my wish list.

Unlike the other books that I read which were non-fictions, this was a historical novel. It was based on real characters and real events and accurately portrayed the fight over the light bulb and the electrification of America, the choice between alternating current (AC) supported by Westinghouse and Tesla and direct current (DC) supported by Edison.

Although it was a fictional tale, it added a most enjoyable flavor to the controversy that I had not gained in reading the previous books. In addition to providing some of the actual backstory of the part that investor J.P. Morgan played in this history, it introduced two additional real-life characters that I had never heard of before but that added interest and romantic intrigue, some of which could actually have occurred since there is no documentation to support or refute the events. I also appreciated the author’s notes at the end of the book that highlighted chapter by chapter, the factual events included in the story. And it was validating for me that two of the books he cited as being excellent sources from which he drew that information, were two of the non-fiction books that I had also read.

To be continued…

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