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The Wheel of Darkness
An Aloysius Pendergast mystery
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Warner Books 2007
388 pages

The Wheel of Darkness is the latest (2007) thriller mystery novel featuring multi-talented  special agent Aloysius Pendergast. This time around, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have Pendergast's protégé Constance Greene more than tagging along for the rather strange, well-written, interesting ride. The Pendergast series and The Wheel of Darkness are a bit off the beaten path mystery novel or thriller wise but well worth looking into if you are not familiar with the series.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child probably had a lot of fun putting The Wheel of Darkness together. There is a nod to just about every type of mystery novel out there: the locked room from which something was stolen, an ocean liner version of Murder on the Orient Express, an obvious nod to the Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes series when Pendergast actually says, "The game is afoot!", a reference to James Bond and his Walther PPK, and a bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark as Pendergast and Greene are trying to find a Buddhist Arch of the Covenant style box. Last, but not least, there is a surreal horror novel aspect here. In many other hands all this and a few more elements that would spoil the surprise if revealed would be a mess but Preston and Child make it work and convincingly so.

I am normally quite allergic to a mystery novel that features more than a dozen secondary characters you have to keep track of and The Wheel Of Darkness is one of those. In this case, however, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child manage to keep everybody fairly distinctive and knock off a few as the novel moves along so keeping track of who's who is not that much of a chore.

One thing though about The Wheel of Darkness that annoys this reader is the book is plain old ugly. This, and the fact there is nothing on the fly leaves or the back of the book that really indicates what this mystery is all about -well, there is a bit of a blurb on one of the fly leaves but nothing enticing, really-makes me suspect someone browsing through a mystery book store looking for a good read will probably end up passing on an otherwise excellent mystery and series.

Just to be really difficult: there is a continuity mistake in the first chapter. The two characters are said to dismount and lead their horses by the bridle because the path is too narrow but they dismount, again, when they arrive at the temple.