Verses For the Dead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Verses For the Dead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

In this #1 New York Times bestseller, FBI Agent Pendergast reluctantly teams up with a new partner to investigate a rash of Miami Beach murders . . . only to uncover a deadly conspiracy that spans decades.

After an overhaul of leadership at the FBI’s New York field office, A. X. L. Pendergast is abruptly forced to accept an unthinkable condition of continued employment: the famously rogue agent must now work with a partner.

Pendergast and his new colleague, junior agent Coldmoon, are assigned to investigate a rash of killings in Miami Beach, where a bloodthirsty psychopath is cutting out the hearts of his victims and leaving them with cryptic handwritten letters at local gravestones. The graves are unconnected save in one bizarre way: all belong to women who committed suicide.

But the seeming lack of connection between the old suicides and the new murders is soon the least of Pendergast’s worries. Because as he digs deeper, he realizes the brutal new crimes may be just the tip of the iceberg: a conspiracy of death that reaches back decades.

Agent Pendergast finds himself sent down to Miami, Florida in charge of an unusual case – where a young woman was brutally murdered and her heart removed, only to be placed on the gravesite of another young woman who committed suicide more than a decade ago. The letter indicates the heart is a gift, but clearly a lot more than meets the eye is going on. Can Pendergast and his new partner, Agent Coldmoon discover what’s really going on?

I’ve been a long-time fan of Preston and Child’s and followed along the many ups and downs of their Agent Pendergast series. I’ve been particularly enjoying their more recent work – both City of Endless Night (the story directly preceding this) and this book. In many ways I feel it is Preston and Child returning to their roots with Pendergast – in that the main focus of the story is on the central the mystery and the complications that arise with Pendergast’s unusual but highly effective investigative mannerisms. I really enjoyed this addition to the series.

Indeed, this and the previous book (more than many others in the series) could perhaps even be read as a stand alone. While for sure a reader having read the numerous previous installments will have a far greater understanding of Pendergast and his foibles – unlike a number of the previous books in this series, the plot and majority of aspects to this story can be read just by themselves as the plot is contained within the story and not linked directly either to previous books nor left open-ended in a trilogy or sequenced manner.

I also admit to greatly enjoying seeing Pendergast do what he does best – solve murders, piece together complicated parts to a plot and forge his own path. Even more exciting for me was seeing a really great partner for Pendergast (though no one can outside D’Agosta, of course) in Agent Coldmoon. Left of center, I feel this character was an excellent support character for Pendergast. Highly intelligent, stable and not prone to leaping before carefully looking I felt in many ways Agent Coldmoon was a suitable and indeed worthy match to work with Pendergast. The two men also thaw to each other as they work and I believe come to respect and enjoy working together – something I would love to read more of.

This story was at last a really good, interesting and complicated murder mystery, but I feel a lot of the flair comes from Pendergast and Coldmoon’s characters in particular. Working with the new dynamic growing between these two men and having Pendergast taken out of his usual element of New York was lovely to read and while I didn’t initially have high hopes for Coldmoon (all too often there are significant flaws and/or failings in newly introduced FBI or police characters in this series) I was really impressed and, in the end, thrilled with his character and I really hope to see more of him again someday.

With the vibrant backdrop of Miami and the Florida surrounds, a really interesting and complicated murder case spanning the past and present day and a number of strongly written and intelligent characters this was a great book and an excellent addition to the series. I feel readers could certainly pick this up as a stand alone novel (though admit they might not find it quite as exceptional as I did) this is a fast-paced and excellent mystery/suspenseful read. Recommended.

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