Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child erupted into the publishing world in 1995 with Relic. The novel obviously followed in the footsteps of Michael Crighton, but Preston and Child brought a new dynamic to the action-SF-horror hybrid. Relic was an impressive and successful debut for the two writers. They followed suit with numerous books, many of them featuring characters introduced in Relic. Their most popular creation by far is Special Agent Pendergast, a rogue FBI agent with a mysterious past, near-supernatural powers of detection, and a droll wit. Now, twenty-six years later, the twentieth book featuring Pendergast has been released.

As with most any series, there are high points and low ones. Not everyone, after all, can be Bill Pronzini. The most effective and enjoyable Pendergast books include titles like The Cabinet of Curiosities, Still Life With Crows, Cemetery Dance (no relation to the horror publisher), White Fire, Cold Vengeance, and of course Relic. I wasn't as happy with the books about Pendergast's brother, or his wife. Still, none have been truly bad, and I have found much to enjoy in every Preston and Child publication.

Bloodless is the new Pendergast novel. It is a spiritual cousin to Relic in that the story deals with the possibility of a creature, with a scientific rather than supernatural explanation. For the first third of Bloodless, I was thinking it would be one of the lesser stories in the series. As I progressed to the end, my opinion changed.

There is plentiful action in Bloodless, and I was surprised at how some of the story unfolded. The Coldmoon character appears in a major way. I wasn't sure at first when he was introduced, in Verses of the Dead, but he has emerged as an important aspect of the books. These kind of things require fresh blood now and then. Thankfully, William Smithback's brother isn't present. And longtime character Constance Greene is pivotal in the novel.

Fans of the series remember that Cemetery Dance was shocking as it featured a controversial upheaval in the character dynamics of the Pendergast series. Bloodless has a similar situation. I won't go into any further details about it.

Suffice to say that I liked Bloodless a hell of a lot. The story is thrilling and thought-provoking, and the conclusion is emotionally potent. Despite my early misgivings, I rate Bloodless among the best Pendergast books.

I always look forward to a new entry in this series, but I am really intrigued about where Preston and Child go with the next one. In the meantime fans can look forward to Book 3 of the Nora Kelly series, Diablo Mesa. Look for it on February 15, 2022.

Written by Mark Sieber

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