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Literary Glance: City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

January 31, 2018

I have to admit, City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child has a pretty cool title.  I don’t often judge a book by its cover, but sometimes the title can be an indication of the quality of a book.  At least, it’s a better indication than the cover.

I’ve never read a Preston & Child book, but I know that their books are mysteries, so with the title City of Endless Night I expected something different, almost poetic in the prose.  Instead, I opened the book to discover a typical Law & Order episode where in the first scene a couple stupid kids unwittingly stumble onto a crime scene.

The second scene is the homicide detective getting a rundown of the victim with the ME, all in dialogue.  And then the reporters show up, and the detective inwardly complains about what a high profile case this will be.    Then we get the introduction of the familiar FBI agent who has been assigned to the case.  The only deviation is that there is hardly any conflict between the detective and agent because they know each other from previous books, and the pain-in-the-neck reporters are no longer important (at least not in this scene).

This isn’t exactly a bad start to a mystery.  It’s just a formulaic start.  If I hadn’t already read a bunch of other books that started this way, I’d probably keep going.  The victim is a decapitated college girl, and lots of readers will want to find out who killed and decapitated the college girl.  Maybe there’ll be some other lurid details.

I’m not sure how a seemingly pedestrian mystery is going to connect with a cool title like City of Endless Night.   If anything, this book is the opposite of another novel I started reading recently, Robicheaux by James Lee Burke.  The title Robicheaux itself is kind of boring (I’m not a fan of character name book titles), but Burke’s writing is very interesting.  I don’t know if it’s better to have a seemingly generic mystery with an interesting title or an interesting book with a boring title.

Anyway, City of Endless Night is the 17th(?) book in the Pendergast detective series (starting with Relic in 1995), and it presents me with a challenge.  I know these two authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are supposed to be very good writers.  I know they have written lots and lots of books together.  I haven’t read any of their novels before, but they have a good reputation.  City of Endless Night is their new book and current best seller, and I’ve just started it.

But this is a time constraint issue.  Authors who have written lots of novels usually have written novels much better than their current releases.  Should I read Preston and Child’s current book because that’s the best seller right now?

Or should I find their most critically acclaimed book and read that instead?

Maybe I could do both.  But I have a family and a full time job, so I can’t read everything that I want to read.  City of Endless Night is okay, but I’ve read a bunch of mysteries in my lifetime, and this one doesn’t seem to be unique, despite the relationship between the two protagonists.  If I’m going to read a novel by these authors, I’d rather read their best effort, which isn’t necessarily their latest effort.  In other words, I might read a book written by Preston & Child, but it probably won’t be City of Endless Night.

*****

What do you think?  Do you go for an author’s current best seller, or do you choose that author’s best book?  If you’re a fan of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, what is their best novel?

One Comment
  1. Renee in Oregon permalink

    The storyline is fairly straightforward and I am glad that this book does not include all of the dysfunctional characters in Aloysius’ family. However Constance Green and her moods and strangeness are becoming tiresome. I hope the authors don’t ruin a great character like Pendergast by plunging him into a physical relationship with her in the next book. It would ruin everything. Pendergast is better alone like Sherlock – more cerebral.

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