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The Wheel of Darkness    by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child order for
Wheel of Darkness
by Douglas Preston
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

As the eighth installment starring the brilliant and erudite FBI agent, Aloysius Pendergast, opens, he and his ward, Constance Greene, are on horseback in one of the most remote regions of Tibet, wending their way along the treacherous mountain paths leading to the secluded Gsalrig Chongg monastery. Here both hope to find some peace of mind after their final deadly confrontation with Pendergast's maniacal brother Diogenes. (Book of the Dead).

Once they've settled in, the Abbot reveals that an ancient relic has been stolen from deep within the secretive bowels of their retreat. If delivered into the wrong hands, the Agozyen could potentially destroy all of humanity. While Constance remains at the monastery to ferret out more information about the relic's origins and why it is so dangerous, Pendergast follows the thief's cryptic trail, but arrives to late - the man's been murdered and the relic is nowhere to be found.

The trail moves on to the luxury ocean liner Brittania, about to set out on her maiden voyage from London to New York. Pendergast has already narrowed down to a short list of suspects among her wealthy and elite passengers. Now he must enlist the aid of the suspicious crew to help him locate the stolen relic. But the Agozyen already wields its dark influence. Before the ship even reaches the Grand Banks, passengers are dying, each murder more gruesome than its predecessor. Mistrust and fear become the order of the day, and terror escalates as the ship is set on a collision course with an even greater maritime disaster than the sinking of the Titanic.

The plot of The Wheel of Darkness is not as convoluted as in past installments and unfolds slowly as the authors introduce various characters and potential victims. They spend far too much time explaining the intricate workings of the mammoth, terrorist-proof ocean liner. But once it becomes clear that the Agozyen's supernatural influence is at work, and that only a miracle can save passengers and crew from horrific deaths, the action surges ahead at a breakneck pace and careens to a marvelously satisfying conclusion.

Pendergast never reaches his crime solving potential though, despite the modern day Sherlock Holmes ultimately having a hand in saving the day. I found the actions of the senior crew much more riveting as they desperately worked to avert certain disaster. The fascinatingly aloof Constance Greene (first introduced in Cabinet of Curiosities) also has another meaty role which eventually reveals a surprising twist, one that most certainly foreshadows what's ahead in the next installment of Preston and Child's always-entertaining series.

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