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by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Warner Books, August 2004
512 pages
ISBN: 044653143X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The closest thing Preston and Child have to a series protagonist is enigmatic FBI special agent Aloysius F X Pendergast, who appears wearing an expensive, well-fitting black suit and looking as though he has never been out in the sunlight. BRIMSTONE is his fifth appearance in Preston/Child novels.

The book opens when Agnes Torres, a very religious woman and maid to Jeremy Grove, comes to work early in the morning at Grove's Southampton Estate. She thinks that there is something wrong, and she follows her nose to a generally unused nursery room on the third floor of the mansion, where she finds her employer burned to death, a strong smell of burning sulfur in the air, and a cloven hoof burned into the floor. She crosses herself and phones the police.

Vincent d'Agosta, once a lieutenant on the NYPD (see RELIC AND RELIQUARY) has returned from Canada and his unsuccessful career as a novelist, and is now a lowly sergeant on the Southampton Police Force. Pendergast appears at the site and asks the lieutenant for d'Agosta to act as FBI liaison on the case.

Jeremy Grove, an art critic who never saw a painting or collection he liked, had a small dinner party at his home the night of his death. His guests were an artist Vilnius, whom he had vilified in print, Lady Milbanke, once a lover of Grove, Count Fosco, and Jonathan Frederick, another art critic. Grove had insulted all of them at one time or another. Just before his guests left, Grove borrowed a crucifix from Fosco.

Another death occurs. The body is also found to have burned from the inside out, and this time, a shadowy devil face appears on the wall behind the bed. This time the death is within the jurisdiction of the NYPD. And then, of course, the media circus begins.

Although this book is not as spooky as CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, it has a reasonable scare factor, probably because the characters, except for Pendergast, are all so ordinary. The authors don't keep the action focussed on any of the main characters, but they do show us the ancillary problems caused by a belief in 'The Devil.' And the locations, New York and the countryside around Chianti, are very real. I wouldn't read this book on a dark and stormy night, but take it to the beach. You won't be sorry you did.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, July 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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