Review: (4.5 / 5) Relic is a 1995 horror/thriller novel written by authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, and the first in the Special Agent Pendergast series. I was first introduced to Preston and Child by my MFA program mentor who recommended I read Cabinets and Curiosities as part of my research for my thesis. From there I went on to read Reliquary, and now Relic—yeah I went backwards.
The story begins in the Amazon Basin where a research crew is studying one of the lost tribes, and their god, the Mbwun. The book then jumps ahead several years and the rest of the story is set in New York City at the American Museum of Natural History. Preston and Child get straight to work with the murder of two young boys, and it’s here where the investigation begins. Lieutenant D’Agosta of the NYPD takes on the case, and shortly thereafter, FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergrast of the New Orleans Field Office is introduced. The two get along fine as they try to determine who killed the children.
The story goes on for a total of 480 pages, and early evidence suggests the killings took place at the hands of a large cat, however DNA later proves to be from some unknown origin—part man, part reptile. Timing couldn’t be worse for the museum as they prepare for the Grand Gala, and the opening of the new Superstition Exhibition. Agent Pendergast makes the decision to suspend the event, however the museum director goes around the agent, and the case is soon handed over to the local field office in New York City. It is here that Special Agent Coffey assumes the lead and the kickoff for the exhibition goes on as planned, but not without a sleuth of conflict.
The book is filled with twists and turns, and almost anything I say will come across as a spoiler. The Grand Gala is the beginning of Part Two of the novel, and is about one third of the way through. I found it difficult to put down at this point because the pacing never really seemed to offer a breather. Preston and Child keep the momentum propelling forward with constant scene breaks, jumping to another part of the story equally engaging. I found the only lull to be during the scenes with Margo Green and Dr. Frock hiding in the offices.
Relic is a great example for any writer looking for reading material on how an investigation unfolds. It’s loaded with conflict as the characters argue as to the best way to confront the beast. Speaking of characters, the cast in Relic is well-developed, giving the reader a three-dimensional view or each and making them come to life. We get a sense of each person’s origin, habits, and physical limitations.
If I had to choose something I didn’t like, I’d say it’s the epilogue. I rarely ready them, but since I enjoyed the book so much, it sort of left me craving more. I should have walked away at the end, because the epilogue was nothing more than telling of the origination of the beast, and a precursor to the second book in the installment, Reliquary.