Book review: Preston and Child craft compelling thriller in 'Crooked River'

  • "Crooked River" by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

    "Crooked River" by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child Associated Press/Grand Central

By Jeff Ayers
Associated Press
Posted2/1/2020 7:27 AM

"Crooked River" by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child; Grand Central; 416 pages

A bizarre discovery on a beach tears FBI Special Agent Pendergast away from a vacation to try and find answers in "Crooked River," the latest thriller from Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.


Dozens and dozens of shoes with severed human feet inside wash up on an island off the southwestern coast of Florida. Then more shoes wash up. Pendergast is asked to investigate, and he soon invokes the ire of local law enforcement and even his superiors when he decides to work with a student with controversial theories involving how currents and tides in the ocean work in the region. Then more and more shoes begin to wash up on the shore, indicating something truly nefarious is at work.

Pendergast's partner, agent Coldmoon, works on the case from a different angle that sends him to Central America, and a persistent reporter named Smithback puts himself directly in harm's way by pursuing answers from the wrong people. The case peels like a onion where one possible clue leads to an impossible answer and a bigger puzzle.

Pendergast is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes who pokes and prods in unorthodox ways until he finds resolution. But what if the villain he's facing is straight out of a James Bond novel with a sadistic agenda and an intellectual mind that rivals his own? Has he met his match?

Preston and Child know how to craft compelling stories that are both baffling and surprising. The cast of characters feels authentic and moves the story forward in unexpected ways. While the opening is a bit gruesome, the mystery itself and the steps Pendergast and his allies take to find answers prove the authors are masters of the procedural with a gothic flair.

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