The Obsidian Chamber, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

obsidianchamberTitle: The Obsidian Chamber

Author: Preston, Douglas, and Lincoln Child (Author’s Website)

Genre: Thriller

Bibliographic: Grand Central Publishing, 416 pages, Hardcover List Price $28.00, Mass Market Paperback List Price $9.99, Audiobook List Price $28.00, ISBNs 9781455536917, 9781455541676, 9781455536887

Publication Date: October 18, 2016

Rating: ★★★★☆/♥♥♥♥♥ (The rating scale is here).

Appeal Factors: Suspense, intricately plotted, plot-driven, fast-paced, suspenseful, compelling, gritty

Why I picked it up: I’ve read (and loved most of) the other fifteen books in the series.

S.I.A.S.: With Aloysius Pendergast missing, a figure from his past returns to the lives of the people he loves.

SPOILERS BELOW.

Summary: At the end of Crimson Shore, Agent Aloysius Pendergast was missing (presumed dead) and his friend/ward/amanuensis Constance Greene had returned to their home in New York City to await his return. She has retreated to solitude in the house’s subbasement, and Pendergast’s butler, Proctor is living in the rest of the house. One night, Proctor is surprised by someone from Pendergast’s past — the reader doesn’t know who — who injects him with sodium penthothal and leaves him unconscious.

The Obsidian Chamber picks up right where Crimson Shore ended, and immediately confirms what most fans of the series assumed: the mysterious figure is none other than Diogenes Pendergast (who is usually referred to by his first name), the brother of our missing hero (usually referred to by his surname). When Proctor comes to, he sees Diogenes forcing Constance into a car, so he does the only logical thing: he calls the police to report the crime and takes off in pursuit. He follows them to Teterboro Airport, then charters a plane and follows them in the air. Proctor flies from Teterboro to Canada to Ireland to Namibia, where he hears that the brunette woman on the plane he’s been following has died mid-flight, and that her male companion has rented an SUV and a refrigerated coffin and driven farther south. Proctor, not quite believing what he’s being told, rents an SUV and follows. He tracks Diogenes to a small town, then out into the Kalahari Desert. At promptly 6:00pm, local time, his car shuts down. Realizing that this has been planned for some reason, Proctor begins the trek back to civilization.

Meanwhile, Constance is alive and well and has no idea that anything is amiss in the rest of the house. While in her solitude, she begins finding gifts scattered around her living quarters and finds herself smitten with her mysterious benefactor (who she suspects is Agent Pendergast, although she’s confused about why he doesn’t reveal himself). It turns out that the gifts have actually been left by Diogenes, who she thought was dead (having personally thrown him into a volcano way back in book seven). He tells her that he has escaped the volcano, survived, tracked her movements for years, and come to realize that he is absolutely in love with her. He invites her to leave her life behind and come to live on his private island in the Florida Keys, as his intellectual, emotional, and spiritual equal. Furthermore, he reveals a complication with Constance’s unique medical history that only he can remedy — if she agrees to come with him.

While all this is going on, Agent Pendergast is, miraculously, still alive. He was pulled out of the ocean by a smuggling boat, which he successfully escapes using his Batman-like special powers. When he returns to New York, he realizes that something is amiss: his best friend, Lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta, saw Constance leaving the house with Diogenes, apparently of her own free will. He teams up with his supervisor in the FBI (and his former commanding officer) to track down Diogenes and recover Constance, for a variety of complicated reasons.

Evaluation:  I loved this book, but I would absolutely not recommend it to anyone who isn’t already a fan of the series. The entire premise is based on events that occurred earlier, often as far back as ten books ago, and an outsider would be utterly lost.

That said, for fans of the series, this is an excellent installment. It picks up where the Crimson Shore cliffhanger left off, and contains all of the elements we love about the series: Diogenes is ruthless in pursuit of the things he thinks are important, Pendergast has amazing skills and can kick just about anybody’s butt, and Constance continues to make bad decisions because she’s so ruled by her emotions. I would recommend the series to people who want thrillers or suspense novels, and people who like comic books but want to get into prose. But I wouldn’t tell people start with this book — in order to enjoy The Obsidian Chamber, you should have at least read The Cabinet of Curiosities, Brimstone, Dance of Death, and The Book of the Dead.

Significance: This is the sixteenth novel in the extremely popular Pendergast series. The preceding installment ended on a cliffhanger.

Readalikes: The Passage, by Justin Cronin. A Study in Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Was this a satisfying ending to the story arc created in Crimson Shore? Why or why not?
  2. Should Constance have gone with Diogenes? Did your opinion about this change as the book progressed, or after you finished reading?
  3. The Pendergast brothers have a long, complicated relationship, but at the end of the book Aloysius chooses to spare Diogenes’s life. Why does he do this? Was it the right decision? Was it worth the cost?
  4. Where do you think the series will go from here, especially given the events of the epilogue?
  5. How did you feel when you realized that Proctor had been misled? Would you have liked him to have a larger presence in the rest of the book?

Lists and Awards:  None.

Professional Reviews: Kirkus. Publishers Weekly. Washington Post/Associated Press.

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