Crimson Shore by Douglas Preston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pendergast is seldom wrong but when he is, the consequences are disastrous for an entire town.
Percival Lake ( a sculptor Pendergast admires) entices Pendergast to investigate the theft of his wine collection. Pendergast takes Constance Greene with him to Exmouth to investigate the strange crime. He quickly ascertains that the thieves were there to remove a skeleton from the cellar and whatever treasure was buried with it, and that the removal of the wine was merely to cover up the true theft.
When Historian Morris McCool is found murdered in the salt marsh with carvings on his back similar to the Tybane Inscriptions black magic is suspected by most, but Pendergast investigation takes him to the research McCool was doing on the disappearance of the SS Pembroke Castle. When Dana Dunwoody is murdered a short while later in a similar fashion Pendergast springs a trap on Dana's brother Joe. It turns out the Dunwoody's ancestors took part in luring the SS. Pembroke Castle onto Skullcrusher Rocks in order to steal the cargo. Unfortunately the cargo was fallen women and their children who were ruthlessly murdered and the caption of the SS. Pembroke Castle was walled up in the lighthouse keeper's cellar. From McCool's research the Dunwoody's learned of the rubies that were suppose to finance the fallen women's new start in America and surmised that they had been buried with the skeleton. The brother's staged the theft in order to get their hands on the rubies. When McCool showed back up Dana Dunwoody got his mentally slow brother Duncan who no one knows about and who lives in the salt marsh to kill him. Duncan became convinced that his brother was trying to cheat him and killed him in a fit of rage and then tried to make the murders look similar. When Pendergast tells Sergeant Gavin that he knows who killed Dana and that he knows where he is hiding in the salt marsh in Joe Dunwoody's hearing, Joe goes to warn Duncan and Pendergast (who surmised someone was hiding in the salt marsh due to food missing from the Inn) follows him. Duncan and Joe are caught and everyone breaths a sigh of relief that the investigation is over.
Constance investigated the rumors of witches who fled the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 and settled in Oldham, a nearby village that is now deserted. Pendergast dismisses the witch angel as superstitious nonsense, but Constance who spent years in the tunnels of the Riverside mansion reading Dr. Enoch Leng's (aka Antoine Pendergast) collection of books is convinced the rumors are true. After Pendergast rejects her romantic advances she sets out in the middle of the night to prove him wrong. She discovers tunnels beneath the ruins of the Oldham church and an altar, as well as a cell containing a Mother and Daughter. Unbeknownst to Constance someone helped Morax escape and he is attacking the people of Exmouth. Pendergast realizing Constance is missing and fearing for her safety surmises she went to Oldham to prove him wrong and sets out on the trail of the monster. Sergeant Gavin who is one of the witches sets off for Oldham in the confusion to try to fix things when he realizes that Morax's sacrifice was somehow bungled. Sergeant Gavin arrives and reveals to Constance that the Mother and Daughter carry a unique gene and that the are used to breed the demon Morax, who at times of peril is sacrificed to Lucifer. Sergeant Gavin tries to entice Constance to join the coven but when he realizes she doesn't plan to, attacks her. Constance uses Morax's arrival to escape from Sergeant Gavin. Pendergast finds her in the tunnels and together they escape from the tunnel. Just before they are attacked by Morax Pendergast warns Constance against making assumptions if he disappears and that the figure he saw on the dunes had something to do with Morax's escape. It seems that Pendergast's greatest enemy has returned from the dead. Pendergast defeats Morax with Constance's help but a badly wounded Pendergast disappears in the surf. Constance returns home and decides to live in the tunnels at Riverside again and someone subdues Proctor.
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