Italy or Minnesota: Destination Is Your Choice

Starting out the summer reads in May this year with a theme that probably world have been more appropriate for October…Good vs. Evil.

Normally I would not have selected Brimstone (2004) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child based on the title alone.  But, the authors of this series were recommended by a trusted avid reader.  Turns out this is the fifth title in the Special Agent Pendergast series.  For starters, I had no problem catching up with reoccurring characters and their past histories.

The opening chapter ended with this sentence, “The devil had finally come for Jeremy Grove.”  I almost put the book down.  Horror stories are not my thing.  This thriller/crime drama turned out to be much more than what it first appeared.

Grove, an art critic whose reviews did little to endear himself to others, was found dead.  Cause of death?  According to reports it appears he was burned from the inside out.  Could it be human spontaneous combustion?  His bizarre death was not the only one to die in this manner.  Just the first.

The investigation these murders brings together the proper, yet sometimes mysterious, FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast and the very likeable Vincent D’Agosta, former NYPD detective who is currently working through some personal problems.  Details unearthed lead the two to Italy searching for one very wealthy man, Count Fosco, and along the way Stradivarius violins, opera, and castles become part of the adventure.

While Pendergast and D’Agosta are doing their thing, the news of the gruesome deaths has spread.  Wayne Buck, a man with a criminal past, feels sure he is being called by God to head to NYC.  Using his self-labeled title of Reverend, his presence in the Big Apple causes tensions to rise even more.  Rumors spread with the talk of end times.

Many other characters are woven throughout this page turner.  A few of the standouts include Laura Hayward, NYPD homicide captain, Proctor, who is Pendergast’s chauffeur, Constance Greene, Pendergast’s niece, and Luke Bullard, a wealthy industrial giant with ties to China.  Of course, one cannot overlook Diogenes, Pendergast’s insane brother.

Once I read past the first creepy incident, I was pleasantly surprised at how I kept turning the pages.  Brimstone is well written, full of suspense, a very fast read since it is action packed with very short chapters.  It is almost like putting together a puzzle.  Each chapter adds another piece.  Just keep turning that piece around and around and you will finally find it fits just right.

NB:  For the avid mystery readers out there, you will surely see connections of sorts to many famous authors of the genre.

Continuing with the Good vs. Evil theme, you may want to try Destroyer Angel (2014) by Nevada Barr.  The reader will find Anna Pigeon on vacation from her usual duties as a ranger with U. S. Park Service.

Anna is with friends in a National Forest in Minnesota’s Iron Range.  They have plans of hiking, campfires, canoeing along with trying out some new adaptive camping equipment.

The equipment was designed by Leah to enable those with disabilities to take part in outdoor activities.  Leah and her bratty 13-year-old daughter Katie are joined on the trip by Anna’s friend Heath.  Heath is a paraplegic whose 15-year-old daughter Elizabeth, plus their dog Wily, have joined the adventure in the woods.

All has gone along smoothly.  Anna heads out on her own for an evening canoe ride.  While Anna is paddling down the stream, four armed men happen upon the campers and end up taking Leah, Heath and the girls hostage.

These four men are not ordinary hunters.  They could be described as the underbellies of city life.  They know nothing of camping or nature…just killing.  Only the leader of the pack, known only as Dude, seems to have some feel of his destination, a rendezvous of some sort in a field.   The other three may have some street smarts but are more than uneasy in the wooded setting.

The only thing the mothers and daughters have going for them is one thing.  The men are totally unaware that Anna exists.  Anna becomes the hunter, using all her outdoor experience.  She keeps hidden as she follows their movements.  No food, no blankest, no jackets, no weapons.  But, she has Wily, the dog.  Anna does not give up.

Neither do the other four women.  Heath hangs on to life just for the sake of Elizabeth.  Leah just thinks about the mechanics of getting Heath and others moving.  As long as they can keep moving they stand a chance.  The women know that Anna is out their doing her best to save them.

Those of you who are familiar with Anna Pigeon know she is confident and has the skills to stay alive.  She is strong and will do whatever it takes to save her friends.

If you have never read and of Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon books, I recommend you read at least one of her other titles in the series first.  Destroyer Angel is so different from what takes place with Anna in the National Parks.  This story will be more meaningful if you get to know Anna first.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email