DOUGLAS PRESTON & LINCOLN CHILD – The Last Island. Gideon Crew #3. Grand Central, hardcover, August 2014; paperback, March 2015.

   Preston and Child are the mega-selling authors of the popular Pendergast series about an eccentric Sherlockian FBI agent in wildly over the top thrillers (ironically the only film based on a Pendergast novel, Relic, left him out) who have a legion of fans including me. They have also written numerous standalone novels together and separately, thrillers with more than a touch of horror and/or science fiction, and more recently ventured out into yet another series featuring former master thief and nuclear physicist Gideon Crew who, as the series opens, has been presented with a death sentence, a rare deformity in his brain that will kill him in two years.

   Approached by Eli Glinn, the wheelchair bound CEO of Effective Engineering Solutions (EES) (who debuted in The Ice Limit, a standalone novel in which Glinn was crippled after recovering a strange meteorite that turned out to be something else entirely), Crew is offered a rare chance for adventure and for reasons of his own, teams up with Glinn and Glinn’s number top operations man Manuel Garza.

   The first two books in the series sold well, but didn’t light any fires, but with The Lost Island, the third book in the five book series, the boys found their voice with their new protagonist, who even with this criminal history and fatal brain deformity is far more normal than Pendergast or his Watson NYC cop Lt. Vincent D’Acosta.

   Lost Island opens with Crew summoned by Glinn almost as soon as the last adventure ends to a rare tour featuring the Book of Kells, and with an assignment to steal a page from that rare book, a particular page know as the Chi Ro page. About the first third of the book is taken up with Crew’s plan to steal the almost impossible to access page from the Morgan Library (Preston worked at the Museum of Natural History and has more than a passing understanding of museum’s in general), where Ireland’s national treasure is on display.

   The details of the heist are interesting, if not particularly riveting, but things get considerably more so when Glinn, once in possession of the page, proceeds to bleach the intricate and priceless designs from the vellum.

   Under the vellum (which plays more of a role later in the book when we discover what it is made from) is an ancient Greek map once found in an Irish monastery where the monks lived to unusual age and were healed of terrible injuries and deformities, apparently by something brought back by the ancient Greeks and rediscovered by the monks that can heal.

   Glinn hopes to heal himself, and offers the same hope to Crew, as well as a promise to use the healing element to help mankind.

   Using experts and EES powerful computers and testing facilities, they determine the island where the healing power comes from is somewhere in the Caribbean and dispatch Crew in a state of the art yacht along with Amy (Amiko) a half Japanese licensed ship’s captain with doctorates in sociology and language.

   Of course Crew and Amy can’t stand each other but have to pretend to be husband and wife to avoid being spotted as treasure hunters, and of course right off the bat they are nailed as treasure hunters by a sadistic pair of the same and involved in a running battle that leaves them shipwrecked near one of the map’s markers.

   And it is here where the book takes off into Clive Cussler/James Rollins country as Amy makes a wild, but correct, leap of logic as to the origin of the map, and they find themselves mixing with dangerous natives on an unexplored island and prisoner of a virtually immortal and tragic hominid straight out of Greek mythology.

   To be fair, I found almost all a bit too slick and simple, as if it was being tossed off rather than truly integrated as in the best of these books. I didn’t buy into it even for the brief length of the novel, and I never felt Preston and Child did either, a problem I noted with the first two Crew books.

   The finale finds Gideon and Amy trying to save the hominid from an obsessed Glinn as the entire island goes up in flames.

   The Gideon Crew series recently ended with book five, The Pharaoh Key (2018), leaving Crew with only a few weeks to live and his fate up in the air, and truthfully I’m not surprised. While the books are entertaining, and like the Pendergast books weave in and out of the various worlds created by the pair in their other books in a shared universe, the central character Gideon Crew just never really clicks. He’s not as eccentric, brilliant, or driven as Pendergast, and since the five books take place in a two year period there isn’t much time for him to be much of a romantic brooder.

   His history is far more interesting than the man himself.

   He doesn’t seem particularly bothered by his doom, and it bothers him physically even less than Ben Gazzara’s similar disease impaired his adventures in the days of Run For Your Life. He references his condition at the beginning and end of every book and once or twice along the way, but honestly he might as well be suffering a bad sinus infection.

   The books are slickly written, well researched, and entertaining, but no real competition for Pendergast much less Cussler and Rollins, despite the fact Preston and Child have written some of the best adventure thrillers of the last couple of decades.

   Of note though for any fans of the team’s standalone novel The Ice Limit (2000), which ended with an unintended cliffhanger, the boys finally tie the loose ends they didn’t think they left up in the fourth Gideon Crew adventure Beyond the Ice Limit (2016), which is a rarity, a series book tying up the plot line of a non-series book that wasn’t supposed to have needed a sequel in the first place, a bit as if Conan Doyle had chosen for Holmes or Challenger to tie up events in Sir Nigel.

   Fans of The Ice Limit, of which I am one, will always appreciate Gideon Crew if only for that.