Douglas Preston
& Lincoln Child,
(Time Warner, 2004)

A happy day it was, when I found out that authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child had teamed up yet again with actor Rene Auberjonois to read one of their FBI Special Agent Pendergast novels. Those of you familiar with Pendergast know that he has a Louisiana background and the manners of a Southern aristocrat. His cases within the FBI are often of an X-Files nature, yet Pendergast has the ability to tie the seemingly supernatural to earthly phenomenon.

The title of the novel this time is Brimstone. The audiobook, on five CDs, takes about six-and-a-half hours to get through. The title comes from the smell found at the scene of a terrible murder. Jeremy Grove was an art critic with many enemies. When his burned remains are found inside a locked room, the smell of brimstone, a cross that has melted in to his chest and a singed hoof print in the floor suggests that his biggest enemy might have been Satan himself.

As with all his prior cases, Pendergast will follow a trail you might not expect in his chase to find the killer. Characters from previous novels make new appearances in Brimstone. Pendergast is definitely the main character, but there always has to be a sidekick. Police Officer Vincent D'Agosta might have a lower rank this time around, but his skills have not diminished. Officer Laura Hayward, once D'Agosta's underling, is now his superior. The trail ultimately leads to a discovery in Italy that four young college students performed an ancient ritual to raise something evil back in the '70s. At least one of the four is now dead. What about the other three?

If you suspend your disbelief and let this novel be the entertainment it is supposed to be, you can have an enjoyable experience as Rene Auberjonois takes you from New York to Italy in pursuit of the killer. The motives for the killings (yes, Grove was just the beginning) is as interesting as the way they are carried out. I personally figured out (at a high level) what the murder weapon was very early on. I did not have a clue as to who the murderer was nor the reasons for their actions until very late in the game.

Rene Auberjonois is my favorite audiobook reader to date. This man can project more voices than anyone else I've heard. It does not matter if the character is old or young, male or female, or even what country they are from. The characters are all very distinct. Rene is an accomplished actor whom I mostly remember from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Benson.

Preston and Child have written many novels together. Two that I have previously reviewed include the audiobooks for The Cabinet of Curiosities and Still Life with Crows. Both of these are Pendergast novels and both are read by Auberjonois. Preston's background includes writing for The New Yorker and working for the American Museum of Natural History. Child's background focused on book editing and being a systems analyst.

Brimstone is not the best Pendergast novel out there, but it is still entertaining. It does seem to run out of audiobook when, in fact, the story is not truly over. There is a set-up for conflict between Pendergast and his brother, Diogenes. I understand that Preston and Child are writing a new novel, Dance of Death, which picks up where Brimstone ends. It is nice to know that there is more of Pendergast to come. My only question is, why hasn't this series been transformed into movies yet? The stories are great and there is already a perfect actor to play Pendergast: Rene Auberjonois.

by Wil Owen
22 October 2005