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City of Endless Night: A Pendergast Novel


City of Endless Night: A Pendergast Novel

One thing I love about recurring series like the terrific Pendergast novels is that a year may have passed in the publication dates, but the events of the latest volume, CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT, take place a mere month after the action of the previous installment, THE OBSIDIAN CHAMBER.

I also love the fact that the title is an allusion to a classic poem by William Blake, which states, “Some are born to sweet delight, some are born to endless night.” The evil force in this book is seeking to bring endless night to the city of New York. Another thing that thrilled me about CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT --- and there are many things --- is the fantastic and nerve-wracking finale set in my native Long Island.

FBI Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast is still reeling from both the events of THE OBSIDIAN CHAMBER and the departure of his ward, Constance Green, who moved out of his uptown New York City mansion with her son. He needs a really good case to sink his teeth into and get back on the good side of his superiors, who presently have him relegated to the doghouse.

CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT is not for those who do not possess a strong stomach. It is probably the most horrifically graphic and brutal novel that Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have put together since their debut, RELIC. Needless to say, this thrilled me to no end as they did not pull any punches when putting together this top-notch thriller. The action opens on the streets of Queens when two young boys make a grisly discovery --- a female corpse with no head. Detective Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta is put on the case, and is tasked not only with identifying the murdered woman but also with locating her missing head.

"Just when you think you've seen everything with the Pendergast series, [Preston & Child] pull the rug out from under you with a thriller so chilling and dark that you will be looking over your shoulder the entire time right through the stunning finale."

D'Agosta is not at all surprised when the FBI, in the persona of Pendergast, arrive at the scene. The reason for the FBI involvement is later revealed due to the fact that there may be multiple states and cases all tied to the killer of the body found in Kew Gardens, Queens. D'Agosta notes that his old friend and colleague did not look well, and he was concerned about his ability to throw himself into a case involving an apparently highly dangerous killer.

The corpse is identified as Grace Ozmian, the daughter of well-known billionaire and megalomaniac Anton Ozmian. Ozmian made his billions via many hostile takeovers, and the list of those who might wish him harm, or worse, is a lengthy one. Almost immediately after Ozmian is notified of his daughter's death, another body turns up. This new crime bears some striking similarities: the victim was another extremely wealthy businessman who was beheaded by his killer, and his head was not found at the crime scene.

The bodies begin to pile up, each bearing the same horrid MO as the prior slayings. Pendergast and D'Agosta look in several directions attempting to find a link. They consider the security company that failed to protect a few of the victims but cannot find any concrete evidence. The problem here is that Pendergast may not be at the top of his game. Another issue is that they are not asking the right questions, possibly because they realize they are up against an evil opponent unlike any they have ever faced before. Also, they subconsciously may not want the answers to the questions that have been left unsaid.

New York City quickly begins to spiral with these slayings, and there are many players involved who see an opportunity to forward their own agenda at the expense of the victims. The first is Bryce Harriman, a former New York Times writer now working for the lesser publication, the New York Post. Harriman has penned his articles during the Christmas season and garnered much sensation from his headlining stories that dub the killer the Decapitator. Another character who takes advantage of the situation is a former Jesuit priest, Marsden Swope, who is labeling these killings as a modern-day bonfire of the vanities where the one percent are being taken to task by the other 99 percent. He calls for a physical bonfire of items deemed to be superficial and products of vanity and sin, causing a near riot in the Big Apple.

One thing that Harriman does get right is his acknowledgement that decapitation was not only an ancient form of punishment but also one where the Decapitator is operating symbolically as a sword of righteousness wielding the scythe of God's wrath and sending the souls of the victims to perdition. Pendergast realizes that all of this was the intent of an evil killer who is consistently staying several steps ahead of his investigation.

The last third of the novel takes place in one of the most chilling settings Preston & Child have ever come up with. What makes it that much more frightening is the fact that it is an actual place and not the product of their fertile imaginations. The abandoned Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Suffolk County, Long Island's Kings Park is a location few are brave enough to enter. Not only are the abandoned buildings extremely dangerous to be around, but the property is rumored to be haunted due to the numerous individuals who were tortured and killed there. A deeply disturbing psychological horror film, Session 9, is loosely based on the alleged haunted and abandoned Psychiatric Center, and I highly recommend it to fans of this genre.

Pendergast gets involved in a literal cat-and-mouse game, to the death, which pits him against the evil person responsible for the brutal killings --- an individual who even the recently reinvigorated Pendergast admits is more than his match and an adversary unlike any he has faced before. CITY OF ENDLESS NIGHT is a triumph for Preston & Child. Just when you think you've seen everything with the Pendergast series, they pull the rug out from under you with a thriller so chilling and dark that you will be looking over your shoulder the entire time right through the stunning finale.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 19, 2018

City of Endless Night: A Pendergast Novel
by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

  • Publication Date: July 24, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1538731851
  • ISBN-13: 9781538731857