The sequel to the 1995 thriller Relic, Preston & Child return to New York as their cast of characters investigates a new string of bizarre and grisly murders. The trail leads them to the truth about that the Mbwun plant and beast from Relic, a journey into the depths of subterranean Manhattan, and finally to uncover a madman’s plot that could devastate the entire planet.
In their sophomore effort, Preston & Child don’t hold back. They wisely return to the setting and characters that were such a hit for them before, developing them further and (understandably) bringing a particular focus to FBI Special Agent Pendergast, who has since headlined a successful series of 12 books and counting.
However, Preston & Child may have fallen prey to a bit of “sequelitis”. The stakes in Relic were the lives of a few dozen people; by contrast Reliquary ups the ante every few chapters until the entire world is at risk and it’s sometimes tough to keep taking it seriously. Also a good portion of the book focuses on the underground homeless population of New York City and the authors can’t seem to decide whether they feel sympathy or distaste for the topic, which sends a confusing mixed message as a result.
Finally, some of the new characters seem to heavily rely on clichés. One character is a stereotypical combination of lazy, cowardly, sycophantic, and sexist, so predictably he’s overweight and everything he does is described according to his size. Female characters are invariably described in terms of their beauty and petite frames with every male character being shocked at how smart and physically skilled they are.
Despite these quibbles, Reliquary is a tense, engaging story. It builds to a cinematic conclusion that significantly develops the exciting characters and world of Preston & Child’s works.
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