The novel opens with a brutal murder. I was reading the book on the couch and, as ol' Smithback was assailed by a thoroughly unpleasant villain, I had to remark on it. "I can't believe I'm reading this!" I called to Jeanne. She shot me a quizzical look and I just dove back in. These authors hit the ground with track spikes, and there's a good lesson in it: set it on fire early!
This one features Obeah and Vodou rituals, a colorful cast of characters, a horrific secret society living in Manhatten (144 cultish males in robes--awesome!) and a historic, corpse-laden setting called the Ville. It's all very Edgar Allan Poe, if you took the master out of Baltimore. The writing is solid--clear and accessible:
"Bill!" Caitlyn said, shrinking back against the podium, her voice half lost in the rising cry of the crowd. "Wait! My God, no! Not me! NO--!"
The knife hand hesitated, shaking, in the air. Then it plunged down--into Caitlyn's chest, rose again, plunged, a sudden fountain of blood spraying across the scabby arm that slashed down, up, down. And then the figure turned and fled the stage, and Nora felt her knees give way and a blackness engulf her, blotting our everything, overwhelming her utterly.
Sure, I was on adverb alert in reading this, but the pacing and tension-building are top-notch.
The greatest strength of the novel is FBI Special Investigator Pendergast, a drawling, pale southerner from the swamps of Louisiana. His erudite manner, extensive knowledge and cool-ass panache make this crime fighter a delight to spend time with. Seriously, his is one of the better and more interesting central characters in crime fiction I've come across in a long while.
I'd like to see him and Alex Delaware get together on a case or two...
As you can see, I really liked this book. Highly recommended...