Squawk Radio

Saturday, June 17, 2006


I love gothic novels. The enigmatic hero, cobwebs, secret tunnels, family curses, ancient evil reaching out from the past to threaten the present... For years now I have been lamenting the dearth of good gothics and wondering why this well-loved and venerable genre hasn’t enjoyed more of a resurgence of popularity. Luckily, I’ve been able to feed my anorexic gothic habit about once a year with the excellent novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs.

Their first collaboration together, a book entitled RELIC, gill-hooked me (Minnesotanism for really, really captivated) into this continuing series of mysteries set in or about New York City (with the exception of STILL LIFE WITH CROWS ) and a recurring cast of characters that features the supremely mysterious, preternaturally self-c0ntained and ultra-sophisticated FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast. I’ve been a fan ever since.

THE BOOK OF THE DEAD is the conclusion of a trilogy pitting Pendergast against his brilliant sociopath brother Diogenes, who is planning to use the re-opening of an Egyptian tomb exhibit (buried intact for fifty years deep in the bowels of the New York Museum of Natural History) to wreak his vengeance against humanity for the horrors visited on him as a young child. That’s right, I said “horrors visited upon him” and “vengeance against humanity.” I’m telling you, when I said “gothic,” I meant GOTHIC.

"Ooooo. This is scary stuff, kids!" (extra points for attribution of that quote)

In the meantime, Aloysius is in a maximum, maximum security prison awaiting trial for murder and must be sprung from it by his band of odd and never-to-be merry but oh-man-are-they-smart men, so he can stop his whack job brother BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!! And, of course, only Aloysius can do so.

TECHNO-GOTHIC! I'm in heaven!

Shamelessly convoluted, with more sub-plots than a soap, operatic with hints of supernatural (or at least extremely disturbing UNnatural goings-ons), and filled with the sort of arcana , historical nuggets, and insider info (particularly about the New York Museum of Natural History) that shot THE DA VINCI CODE to the top of the lists, THE BOOK OF THE DEAD offers a really intense, action-packed, page-turning atmospheric adventure.—think I got enough modifiers in there? And the best part of all? While you get all those little juicy morsels of cabalistic esoteria, ala Dan Brown, you also get tantalizing and ingeniously crafted, three-dimensional characters. As in, "character development," as in I remember who everyone is and why they did what they did after I closed the books. Hell, I remember it months later! I can barely wait for the next episode starring the uber-refined and uber-deadly Pendergast.

So, what about you? What modern gothic gems have I missed that you have recently read and loved? I need my fix!
Connie Brockway, 9:23 AM