Thriller Book Review: Crooked River by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Thriller Book Review

Crooked River
Author: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Publication Date: February 4th 2020
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Crime Thriller

A half-decent outing for Agent Pendergast (but a fantastic one for his ward, Constance), Crooked River starts out great before getting lost in too many side stories, ending in a climax that strains credibility.

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child get us hooked from the start as they develop a crime scene that truly had me baffled. Over a hundred single pairs of feet, each of them encased in the same cheap plastic shoes, begin washing upon on a picturesque beach in Florida.  It's a horrifying scene, but one lent an air of dark humor by the local police fighting off hungry seagulls and an excited dog.

As usual, there's an territorial battle between law enforcement agencies, with Pendergast playing the enigmatic rogue. That battle, especially between Coast Guard and FBI, gets more than a little preposterous, but it plays nicely into the overall paranoia. While some readers may find the excruciating detail of tidal currents and wave patterns just too much, I was fascinated by the clash between old-timers with their 50 year-old paper maps and the new kids on the block with their buoys, supercomputers, and chaos theory.

It's nice to see Roger Smithback again, chasing down a story for the Miami Herald, but his is one of those side-stories that only serves to eat up pages, informing but never really connecting with the main plot. I was excited to see Agent Coldmoon on the case again, and while it takes a while to move beyond the buddy-cop tension of the last book, his partnership with Pendergast does develop into something significant. As for Constance, she almost has too much to do, patiently investigating a haunted house mystery and watching over Pendergast, but she's such a fantastic character I'll never begrudge her space on the page - and, without getting into spoiler territory, she really does have a big hand in saving the day.

Where the story sort of fell apart for me was in the climax. It's just too much, too silly, too preposterous to take at face value, and there are holes in the story that you could drive one of those unmarked trucks through. The fact that a tornado is needed to sell the drama tells you just how thin the authors knew the story was getting. Great start and some fun moments, but overall a thing story padded out with too many side-stories and too many groans of disbelief.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2