I’ve written before about how much I enjoy the Pendergast stories. Here are two more; one I liked and one I didn’t. The one I liked – Cemetery Dance – has our hero dealing with zombies in north-west Manhattan. The pale-skinned polymath is on fine form and it’s a lot of fun. A good read.
Wheel of Darkness isn’t. It starts out well, with Pendergast booking onto an Atlantic liner to track down a thief and killer who’s in possession of a soul-stealing hoodle-me-hoo, or some such other Deadly Threat to Humanity. What could be better? A sealed-off location? No outside aid? All those potential victims? It’s Dawn of the Dead, but in a ship and not a shopping mall.
Well, almost. Because what we get instead of bloodstained havoc is an awful lot – I mean, pages – of Pendergast going all Tibet and astral plane, summoning spirits, visions and inner beings, all of which have next to nothing to do with the increasing chaos on board. Except to waltz in at the end and wrap things up with the villain being banished to Eternal Darkness and a Ghastly Fate.
The main characters don’t really do anything, except go into the aforementioned trances. The realistic setting – ocean liner – is sidelined in favour of nebulous mysticism. Instead of finding real world ways to battle the supernatural – think Salem’s Lot – this book uses the supernatural to pull a rabbit out of the hat at the end and wrap things up. It’s a cheat, and a rather long-winded one at that.