Thursday, October 13, 2011

Murder, Mayhem and Museums

Last weekend, an old friend's name came up unexpectedly; someone I haven't seen in over twenty years.  I had to laugh when he was then described as a stupid, arrogant asshole.  There was nothing stupid about him, as far as I knew, though I will admit that I thought his ego did get in his way occasionally.  It reminded me how bright arrogant men have always caught my eye.  These days, I find it better to seek them out in fiction…much easier on the psyche.

And I’ve found him in the character of FBI Special Agent Aloysius X.L. Pendergast, created by authors Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston.  

Not only is he extremely intelligent, he speaks several languages, has traveled the world, and is extraordinarily knowledgeable in many varied subjects, both high and low brow.  He is also a master of disguises and mental manipulation.  Oh, and did I mention he’s even had some special ops training?

All this comes in a cool, aloof and debonair package.  Does that make him arrogant?  Who knows but I do know I find him fascinating.  Of course, he does have his demons but that just makes him all the more interesting.  

Pendergast needs this supernatural competence to solve the very horrific and frequently atypical murders he encounters.  A number of storylines are centered on museums or artifacts, and many times those precious and unusual objects d’art can have sinister influences with hidden evil components that unleash malevolent forces on the world.

I first got hooked when I read Cabinet of Curiosities, the third book.  It turns out that a cabinet of curiosities is a collection of loosely defined items that could include various odd antiquities such as skeletal remains and religious or historical relics.  Essentially, an early version of a natural history museum.  I haven't been able to view museums quite the same since.  
I then decided to read the series from the beginning, starting with Relic, when Agent Pendergast first appears, followed by Reliquary, a semi-sequel.  The star location is a fictional version of the Museum of Natural History in NY.  I’ve only been an infrequent visitor to the real Museum of Natural History, but enough to know how clearly one can get lost among the maze of interconnecting rooms.  I can easily imagine how the characters feel as they look for a clear quick path out.  Trust me; they do want to get out of there quickly, too! 

I am now close to finishing the eighth book, Wheel of Darkness, and I’m still enthralled.  I’m glad that there are a few more Agent Pendergast books as I know I will be reading them.  This series is quite dark at times so they are not for everyone, more of an acquired taste.  There’s a little more violence than I’d want to actual see or experience but I do enjoy reading them.  I also enjoy seeing how my much regarded investigator makes the world right again. 

After all, don’t we all need a hero sometimes, even a slightly arrogant one?


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