DOUGLAS PRESTON & LINCOLN CHILD – The Cabinet of Dr. Leng. Agent Pendergast #21. Grand Central, hardcover, January 2023; paperback, September 2023.

   Previously in the Pendergast saga in Bloodless, volume twenty, FBI Special Agent Aloyious Pendergast had discovered that his apprentice and companion Constance was in fact immortal and had grown up in the madhouse and mansion of terror of serial killer and mad scientist Dr. Leng in the 19th Century.

   Now as volume twenty-one, The Cabinet of Dr. Leng, opens, Constance has discovered a one way ticket back to the 19th Century where she plans to destroy Leng and save the life of her brother and sister leaving Pendergast trying to find a way to save her while his friend Vincent D’Gosta of NYPD Homicide investigates the case of the frozen curator of the Museum of Natural History where his first adventure with Pendergast, Relic, took place twenty-two books earlier.

   Have to catch my breath after that.

   And if that hasn’t chased you off…

   The long running Pendergast saga of bestselling thrillers has been one of the great modern pulp sagas, half mystery/detective mixed with SF, horror, the Gothic tradition, monsters, immortal villains (Wilkie Collins’ Count Fosco showed up as the villain in Brimstone), and whatever else the two have chosen to throw in the mix. Pendergast is a Holmesian figure given to eccentricity and mysterious statements and perhaps the best of the series has been the two trilogies the Diogenes Trilogy and the Helen Trilogy (Diogenes is Pendergast’s dangerous and mad brother and Helen was his wife) while the work in question is the first volume in yet another trilogy so a cliffhanger is guaranteed.

   You can be certain Pendergast and D’Agosta will manage to travel back to 19th Century New York to match wits with Dr. Leng (shades of Berkeley Square and John Dickson Carr’s Fire Burn and The Devil in Velvet) and there will be thrills, melodrama, and twists enough for a French serial novel by Dumas, Sue, or, Feval (maybe all three) with a smattering of Universal Pictures Horror classics and Hammer Films.

   It is all done straight faced with absolute conviction, and whatever the flaws of the two writers, spinning a plot and creating interesting characters are not among their weaknesses. It’s all a bit like the theater of Grand Guignol where half the fun is how well they get away with all the theatrics. Mad men, serial killers, ancient monsters, mysterious Tibetian secret knowledge, and super villains haunt these pages all pitted against the eccentric and high-handed Pendergast and by now a small army of regulars who aide him.

   Pendergast is surely one of the great modern detectives however wild his detections get, modeled on Holmes, but more likely to face the kind of enemies Sexton Blake and Arsene Lupin did, and where else do you get dialogue like this bit addressed by Pendergast to D’Gosta:

   “I truly welcome your companionship here in the library as long as we speak of other things (than Constance’s disappearance). Reminiscences are either good or bad.” He reached for bottle of absinthe. “Strange as it seems, even the zombies you refer to seem almost a nostalgic interlude to me now, but first tell more about the frozen curator.”

   You just don’t get dialogue like that often these days. Frozen curators and nostalgic zombies just don’t haunt the pages of pulp fiction as the once did back in the good old days of The Spider, Operator # 5, and The Green Lama.

   This review is a bit tongue-in-cheek, as are the books, but the books are highly enjoyable and excellent time-killers that keep readers happily turning pages and coming back.