Still Life With Crows (2003)

In a word, wow! Rarely have I read a book that is plotted as well as this, and reads so fluidly as Still Life With Crows by Preston and Child.

This novel is the sequel to Cabinet of Curiosities, also by the same writing duo. The common character is Agent Pendergrast, who works for the FBI "out of the New Orleans office" who specializes in bizarre cases, but we have yet to learn what his real story is, which is part of the intrigue of this series.

While the authors often use Western US locales (with the exception of the Museum of Natural History), this time the setting is Medicine Creek, Kansas. Before all of us NY snobs think that nothing could possibly be interesting among the cornfields, I will say that they succeed in making this prototypical, yet fictional, small town America town as real as any a place to visit. They portray it in a hot summer, with all of the fixin's from the sheriff, to the meat processing plant, to the meatloaf and potatoes on the plate of the local diner. The descriptions of all of these elements are very well done, and paint the imagery in fine detailed strokes.

The plot was a little bizarre mixed with horror which is the usual for this crew of writers. There is a string of killings of the local townsfolk of this Kansas town. The only pattern is that there is none, and local law enforcement, despite a good effort, makes little progress on the case. As time goes on, it gets more bizarre, and there is a mental trip back in time, similar to the previous novel in the series.

What is also intriguing is that randomly thrown in, there are two chapters that relate to the cataloging of the cabinet of curiosities from the previous novel. While not at all the focus of Still Life With Crows, it indicates that we haven't heard the last about this, and I look forward to hearing more.

The final verdict on Still Life With Crows is that it is excellent. I really can't think of any way to improve it. In an era of it's all been done before, somehow these authors mange to break new ground. Also, I often figure out the plot at least halfway through, and while I had a few suspicions, I was guessing about most of it all the way to the very end, through many twists and turns. Authors Preston and Childs make a great team, and I enjoyed this novel very much.

Overall Grade: A+

You can read an excerpt here.

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