Copy of this book from my my local library
Two Graves is the third book in the Helen trilogy and should not be read out of order. You will not need to have read any of the other Pendergast novels, save the two preceeding this (Helen #1and Helen #2).
It took me quite a while to read this book. I loved it but after the first few chapters, my heart was so badly broken that I almost couldn't continue reading. I don't know what it is about Pendergast but I love him more than I love any other literary characters ever invented. I'm fully invested in him, his life, his career, his successes and his failures (as few as they are). Maybe that's how good the authors are, maybe I was introduced to Pendergast at a strange time in my life, who knows. All I do know is that this book affected me in ways I can't illustrate and it's going to take a while for me to come to terms with what has happened in this book.
There's obviously a lot that I can't go into if I want to keep the element of surprise intact so let's focus just on Pendergast for now. I know that I've previously said that I had never seen him so crazed and distraught and on the edge (here). But that was before I read this book! He arrives to rescue Helen and he's almost too late but even after that, he's left wallowing in despair and misery. He's so unlike himself in this installment that I almost don't recognize him! Sure, he's dealing with really heavy issues but would you have thought that Pendergast would ever have been reduced to a drug induced stupor?! On purpose!?!?!? Bah! Yeah, right! Well, lemme tell ya, folks.... it's in here. After seeing him like this, I don't know that he'll ever be the same in my eyes. He's always been calm, cool, collected... having a plan, a masterful plan, and sticking to it. He's always the largest character in the room. He seems like a magician at times and performs feats that are unbelievable but because it's Pendergast, nothing is impossible. But now that I've seen him broken, can he ever be the implacable hero he once was? Honestly, I'm not sure. I guess that's an answer that will have to wait until White Fire.
In Two Graves, Pendergast is confronted with a serial killer in NYC (of course) that only he can catch. During his investigation, all of the curious threads of that past two books come together. The Nazi conspiracy, the mystery of Helen's past, the identity and location of this Der Bund group and the person Helen was talking about when she whispered, "He's coming..." One of the awesome things about Preston/Child books, is that they take you EVERYWHERE! And it all feels so real! I felt like I had SO much detail but it didn't feel bogged down or anything. Here, we go from NYC all the way to Brazil and back! As always, the story kept me on pins and needles! I had to stop myself from flipping to the last couple of pages to see what happened!!! Gah!! So much tension and it was such good fun!
I did have a couple of issues with some of the characters in this novel, though. As I stated above, Pendergast is breaking my heart. And there's another FBI agent on the scene: Special Agent Gibbs. He's assigned to this serial killer case with Pendergast's pal, D'Agosta. Now Pendergast is usually a little flippant with his fellow FBI agents but his insults are so cleverly hidden that the agent (and sometimes the reader!) aren't sure if they've been insulted. But here, I really didn't understand the interactions between Gibbs and Pendergast. Pendergast was almost a straight up dick to Gibbs. Sure, Gibbs' assessment of the serial killer was way off but Pendergast's behavior was so unlike him. Maybe it was the lingering effects of the drugs? Who knows. Later, Pendergast and D'Agosta have it out. I was thrilled! I am so tired of D'Agosta saying that he's Pendergast's pal one second and then the minute Pendergast does his "thing", D'Agosta starts hemming and hawing and "Oh dear, Pendergast, I..I..don't know if I like this. This isn't in the rule book." even though Pendergast gets results. Every. Single. Time. And D'Agosta never gets in seriously hot water. He's either Pendergast's friend or he isn't. And in this book, I think that he proves that he's not Pendergast's friend by seriously betraying a confidence. Pendergast calls him on it and D'Agosta tells him to Fuck Off. I wish it would stay that way (with them not being friends) but it doesn't look like it will.
As with any Pendergast novel, the story takes a lot of twists and turns. There are usually a lot of scientific ideas presented that are WAY out there. In this one, it's Copenhagen's Window, which is an interpretation of quantum mechanics. Wait, wait! DON'T PANIC! The authors have a way of explaining things that make you understand. Or maybe it's that they put this crazy little spin on a real scientific concept, which makes it easier to comprehend? Who knows!? My point is this: no matter how dumb you THINK you are or maybe you feel like you just never understand what has happened when there's a lot of action in a book, you should STILL give this book, this series a shot. There is ALWAYS a character who needs brought up to speed or who has to sum things up and by doing that, the authors are recapping what has happened so far in the book and they're explaining what's about to happen (and usually why). In Two Graves, I was really worried that I was starting to miss something with the serial killer aspect but Pendergast goes to talk with his ward, Constance, and she explains everything and I knew I could relax.
As much as I still hurt from reading this book, I would still recommend (insist that you read) this book. You need to read the previous two books first, but you'll be richly rewarded. I think that Pendergast is an amazing character and I think that anybody and everybody will love him. His unusual methods and dry sense of humor will really entertain. If you're still hesitant to get into a three-book series, let me again suggest The Cabinet of Curiosities. It's the book that got me hooked on Pendergast and started this ten year love affair that I've had with him. I hope if you do try this book, that you'll come back here and let me know what you thought or drop me a line!