Monday, October 6, 2014

The Third Gate - Lincoln Child

   2012; 403 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Thriller.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Jeremy Logan is a full time history professor and a part-time enigmalogist.  That’s someone who investigates things like ghosts, the Loch Ness monster, Yetis, etc.  He’s just been offered a job on an archaeological expedition.  Which begs the odd question - why would an archaeologist want a ghost hunter in his group?

    The agent making an offer, Ethan Rush, is the head of an NDE center.  “NDE” stands for “Near Death Experience”.  Which begs another odd question – why would an archaeologist already have an NDE expert in his entourage?

     Oh well.  Jeremy’s job is simply to be a consultant, a counselor.  It's easy money, and what could possibly go wrong?

What’s To Like...
    Lincoln Child is one-half of the writing team “Preston and Child”, co-authors of the fabulous Aloysius Pendergast series.  A lot of the earmarks from that collaborative effort are here as well.  There’s lots of action, the pace is fast, and the storyline will keep you guessing.  Best of all, the P&C recurring motif “is it paranormal or just weird-but-natural” is employed here.  Even at the end, the answer is up in the air, although the odds tilt pretty far to one side.

    The storyline features some of my pet subjects: archaeology, mythology, and ancient history.  It's set in a fascinating, swampy expanse of the Upper Nile called The Sudd, which I had never heard of.  There is a mummy, but at least it doesn’t go shuffling down the halls with a zombie-like gait and shedding bits of masking tape.  The closest we get to any romance is one gratuitous underwear scene.

    All the characters are various shades of gray.  It may surprise you which ones are still alive at the end of the book.  The way Lincoln Child constructs a confined area for the thrills and spills (so as to not allow the victims to flee the terror) is downright clever.  Everything builds nicely to an exciting ending.  This is a standalone novel, and I’d be surprised if there ever was a sequel.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Psychomantetical (adj.) : relating to the use of a mirrored room, specially set up to communicate with the spiritual realm.
Others : Ostracon (n.); Peckish (adj.); Ushabti (n.); Bravura (n.)

    “The name’s Jeremy Logan.”
    “Logan.”  She frowned.
    “We have an appointment.”
    She brightened.  “Oh, of course.  You’re the ghost-“  She fell silent, but her green eyes twinkled with private amusement.
    The same old silliness.  Logan was used to it.  “I prefer the term ‘enigmalogist,’ myself.”
    “Enigmalogist.  Yes, that does lend an air of legitimacy.”  (pg. 94)

    Logan had encountered curses before, of course: in Gibraltar, Estonia, New Orleans.  In each case, there had been an anodyne, a counterspell: some method for deflecting or ameliorating the execration.  Not so with the tombs of ancient Egypt.  Despite all his reading, all his research, only one method for countering such curses seemed to exist: stay well away from them.  (pg. 228)

 “Isn’t there always a curse?” Stone asked quietly.  (pg. 50)
    As the protagonist, Jeremy Logan has a decent amount of scruples and likeability, but he’s no Indiana Jones or even a Special Agent Pendergast.  He’s also a bit slow on the uptake; I figured out the mystery of the two crowns long before he did.  Then again, I’m a scientist.  Being a chemist also means I grimaced at the smell of methane on page 369.   For the umpteenth time, methane is an odorless gas.  The gas companies deliberately add a small amount of mercaptans to it so that you can smell a potentially-lethal gas leak.  Mother Nature doesn’t.

    There’s only one major plot twist, and it doesn’t alter the storyline appreciably.  But that’s okay; The Third Gate is more about building the tension as our plucky band of grave-despoilers keep getting closer to the entrance to the innermost burial chamber, the "Third Gate".  The story may be linear, but it’s effective.

    8 Stars.  Like Lennon-&-McCartney, Preston and Child work better as a team than individually.  But this is the best singular effort by either of them that I’ve read thus far.

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