The Obsidian Chamber – Preston & Child
After the shocking cliffhanger ending of Crimson Shore I was expecting quite a bit from The Obsidian Chamber. Crimson Shore ended with (spoilers) the indomitable Special Agent Aloysius X.L. Pendergast missing and presumed dead. Constance had returned to the mansion on Riverside Drive and retreated to the labyrinthine sub-basement to work through her grief in piece and solitude. However just as she decided to do so a figure from the past, long presumed dead, reappears to wreak havoc.
If you are a series reader through Crimson Shore you can guess quickly who the mysterious figure is. The book dances around the reveal for a while, mainly because its utterly preposterous, snapping the already frayed hold this series has on reality.
If you guessed the mysterious figure is Diogenes Pendergast, returned after being thrown in to a volcano several books ago, give yourself a chocolate or whatever little treat you reserve for minor accomplishments in your home. Yes, Diogenes has returned and is taking advantage of Aloysius’s absence to exact a horrible revenge on Constance for throwing him in to a volcano at the end of Book of the Dead. It is truly dispicable and heart wrenching. Are you ready for it? He’s…WOOING HER. No, not to death. Just your standard everyday wooing. Albeit enormously, ridiculously, stupidly complicated wooing. The kind of wooing that requires a homicidal accomplice, a preposterously complicated scheme to get man servant Proctor out of the picture, and a few murders to accomplish.
Which is kind of standard fare for the Pendergast series, which is the problem. Would you be surprised to learn that Aloysius is alive? Of course you are not. How about if I told you he was rescued from drowning by some opportunistic drug runners that decide to ransom the federal agent in exchange for an informant in federal custody? Its inventive but doesn’t come within kissing distance of plausible. Same with the lucky clues Aloysius gets while on the search for Diogenes, including tracking down and breaking several of Diogenes many identities. His leaps in logic are nearly supernatural in this one. The only series crutch that wasn’t relied on this time was a trip to the memory temple of Chongg Ran and I have to admit I was kind of shocked they didn’t whip out that old chestnut.
The finale of course has a twist or two, one of which left me muttering “You have got to be shitting me…” as I read what incredibly foolish decision our heroes were about to make. Constance figures in to the other primary twist and I won’t spoil it here other than to say after everything that has been leading up to this it was incredibly disappointing and short changes the character in favor of an action packed ending that wraps things up in a neat little bow.
I’m starting to wonder why I’m still reading this series. Most of the installments lately have left me thoroughly whelmed. The curve ball ending in Crimson Shore gave me hope that the series was returning to the inventiveness of the earlier capers. Now that Preston & Child are cranking out 2 to 3 books a year, either as a duo or individually, this series is becoming more and more by the numbers. Will I keep reading? Yeah, probably. They are modestly enjoyable thrillers that can be read in a handful of days providing a few hours of entertainment. I just wish the damn things were better.
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