2,5 of 5 stars.
Okay, this was a tough one.
From what I’ve read so far and in my own personal opinion, within Preston/Child’s series about FBI agent extraordinaire Aloysius Pendergast the books are either very good (like, for example, Still Life With Crows) or not good at all (Relic).
Interestingly enough, “The Wheel of Darkness” was a bit in between.
Maybe I should mention that I haven’t read “Brimstone”, “Dance of Death” or “The Book of the Dead” up until now, so Constance was a new character for me, but I liked her well enough, even though I didn’t know much of her background.
Pendergast was his usual smart and witty self – and sometimes he wasn’t, which I liked a lot. It added a nice twist to things and showed that even Aloysius Pendergast isn’t all that perfect and can be thrown off track or maybe even turned. (Then again, of course he saved the day once more – with a bit of help from Constance – so, yeah, maybe still a bit too perfect.)
The story largely took place on the “Britannia”, a huge cruise ship which is like a swimming city, and because of that the reader is introduced to a lot of supporting characters. Some of which were actually likeable.
Also: even if the story progressed slowly, it managed to get quite thrilling on the last 100 or so pages.
So far, so good.
Unfortunately there were a lot of downsides, too.
I think the setting was both a blessing and a curse. By being on a cruise ship, they had nowhere to “go”. They couldn’t involve any police at all (only the ship’s security staff), they couldn’t involve the usual and well-known characters like D’Agosta and Hayward and – because of that – they had to introduce A LOT of new supporting characters.
Which took time. A LOT of time.
And due to the fact that – to me – most of those characters were completely unlikable or just killed off after just having been introduced, the book got incredibly boring in parts. There were two or three characters I really liked and would’ve loved to read more about, but since there were so many others, those were neglected up until about the last quarter – and it really was a drag sometimes to actually get there.
The case itself progressed so slowly that I almost lost interest. Plus, there were too many side stories that had nothing to do with the actual case. (Especially Pendergast catching the card counters. I’m sorry, but that was just showing off and an unnecessary digression.)
And then there was the “spiritual” part.
For some reason I seem to attract storylines like that lately. “River Marked” and now “The Wheel of Darkness”.
I know that Pendergast spent a lot of time in a Tibetan monastery, learned some super-secret meditation-exercises, and ways to strengthen the body through the mind, ways to actually touch something with his mind, and whatnot. Fine. Either you deal with Aloysius Pendergast being a modern-day Sherlock Holmes with slight supernatural abilities and money to burn, or you don’t.
I did. I always do when reading Pendergast novels. But this case and its end were so… obscure, confusing and generally absurd that I just couldn’t buy the comparatively simple solution.
So… yeah. Not completely unreadable, but still boring in parts and very convoluted.
2,5 stars – by the skin of its teeth.