Book Review: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s Relic

Posted August 22, 2014 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s Relic


in Paperback edition on August 1, 2005 and has 473 pages.

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First in the Pendergast horror-thriller series revolving, eventually, around a cheeky FBI agent.

My Take

I was surprised to discover this is a Pendergast-focused series. A good thing, as he was my favorite character. The surprise comes from his low visibility in this. The focus is primarily on Margo Green and Dr. Frock, followed by Kawakita, and then law enforcement.

Pendergast is a hoot. Quite the intellectual, he knows a lot about a lot and uses it as a conversational ploy to sidetrack people. I absolutely adore how he deals with pretentious twits. He certainly isn’t your typical FBI agent.

I do like the sound of this exhibition. What a fascinating concept, exploring superstitions.

Now that I’m going back over my notes, there are some little bits and pieces that make so much sense after having read the end. And, it’s terrifying!

Now. The niggles…sigh …it’s more of a case of where do I start with my niggles, as there are so many. The intermittent level of melodrama? How nuts Preston/Child go creating a few exaggeratedly bad characters? Why would someone go wandering off alone into the jungle? Why would one of the expedition’s leaders suddenly abandon the whole thing simply to ship discoveries home? Yes, yes, they gave excuses, spurious ones.

If Smithback’s book is focused on the exhibition that will open next week, why is he still writing it? And if he’s hired to write for the museum, doesn’t he pretty much have to toe the line? Couldn’t he write a side book with all the left-out bits later? Besides, wouldn’t it sell more books if there were some scandalous bits in it? Rickman can still edit out the bits that may make the museum look bad. Besides, I thought that’s why they wanted the book, to make money?

If Hamm’s dogs are trained, why aren’t they obeying? Why doesn’t someone tell Pendergast of the connection they suspect between the relic and the wounds? What is with all these cops being on their own? Why wouldn’t they already be stepping out as pairs? Why does Kawakita think Margo’s leaving the museum would be a mistake? I haven’t gotten the impression that he cares about anyone but himself and his project.

You can tell which of the cops and guards are going to die. They’re all thinking about what they’ll do in their off time. Would the FBI really ignore fire codes? Why don’t they test the security system if it’s so iffy? Coffey forbids heavy weapons for anyone, but then arms all his agents, leaving the cops to swing in the wind. WTF?

Why do Frock and Margo focus only on the olfactory sensitivity? They know the monster is light sensitive, why not find someone to rig up extra lights? At least talk to people. When did Moriarty disappear?

Okay, they’ve lost two people as they struggle to get through the subbasement, and they come across a ladder leading up to the surface, the water is rising too fast, but the bottom of the ladder is four-feet above them. Why, oh why, don’t they send people up by having them stand on others’ shoulders? Just because some will have to remain behind and wait while the water rises to allow them to climb the ladder, I see no reason to make everyone wait. No, no, how much more fun it would be to wait, possibly lose more people, and then have everyone crowd the ladder in a panic to get out …*eye roll* . . . Then Coffey learns of one of the guests washing out of the storm drains. Does he send anyone to check other storm drains? Maybe see if others have made it to a point where, perhaps, they need help? Hullloooooo.

“I’m afraid I must take Preston and Child to task. I respond sharply to sloppy writing. It’s a very bad habit, but one I find hard to break.”

The Story

Mysterious and vicious deaths are racking up at the museum, and just before a major exhibition is about to open. One that the museum desperately needs for the funds to help pay for everything.

And someone is mucking about with the relics and journals within the museum.

The Characters

The New York Museum of Natural History
Margo Green is working on her dissertation in plant genetics and ethnopharmacology. She’s carrying her own personal conflicts with her dad’s death and his failing business. Dr. Frock is her adviser. He is a physical anthropologist and has proposed a new evolutionary theory: the Callisto Effect. Dr. Gregory Kawakita is an assistant curator in the Evolutionary Biology Department who is developing the Genetic Sequence Extrapolator (G.S.E.), a machine that fills in the missing links between different DNA samples. He’s working under Frock.

Dr. George Moriarty is the man behind the Superstition exhibition. He’s in love with Margo, and it’s fated not to be. Charlie Prine is a new conservation expert in the Anthropology Department. Frank Freed is the Ichthyology curator. Bailey Smith is the curatorial assistant in the herbarium. Dr. Jost Von Oster runs the osteological preparation area, and back in the day, he had revolutionized the diorama. R.H. Montague disappeared years ago. Dr. Jörgenstern was in Botany back in the day; he still shows up to work.

Bill Smithback has been hired by the museum to write a book about the museum, focusing on the Superstition exhibition opening next week. Dr. Ian Cuthbert is the deputy director of the museum and in cahoots with Rickman and Wright. Lavinia Rickman is the chief of public relations for the museum who wants the most bland book written. Dr. Winston Wright is the museum director.

Ippolito is in charge of museum security; Tom Allen is also part of Security Command. Juan, Curly, Fred Jolley, and Martine are some of the guards. Roger Thrumcap is the shift supervisor in the Computer Room.

The police and FBI
Lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta is in charge of the police investigation. Police officers include Beauregard, Henley, Garcia, Waters, Walden, Sergeant John Bailey (he might be an officer, “Smithback” seems confused about this), McNitt, and Nesbitt. SWAT doesn’t survive.

Special Agent Pendergast is up from New Orleans due to the similarities with a series of murders down there a few years ago. Special Agent Spencer Coffey bulldozes in to take over from Pendergast; he’s willing to suck up to Wright and company. Obviously the better choice, *eye roll*. Special Agent Slade is next up.

Dr. Collins is a coroner’s investigator. Dr. Matilda Ziewicz is an expert on big cats; Dr. Fred Gross is her assistant. They’ll do the forensics on those first victims. Jonathan Hamm is a tracker who brings his hounds into the museum. Billy and his brother are the first acknowledged victims.

Lewis Turow works at GenLab, a genetics lab in New York.

A couple of guests at the opening include Mayor Harper, who appreciates the help, and Arthur Pound steps up with some first aid knowledge.

The Whittlesey expedition in 1987
Julian Whittlesey is an anthropologist and co-leader of the expedition with Maxwell, a physical anthropologist. Carlos is a camp assistant. Crocker is a missing guide.

In 1988, Ven Stevens seems to be a drug smuggler.

Mbwun is a “god” worshipped by the now-extinct Kothoga in South America.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a deep charcoal with a dim focus on a blue carving between the gold title and the green of the authors’ names. I’m guessing they were aiming to recreate the sense of the lighting in the exhibition.

The title is the focus of the story, the Relic.