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The Scorpion's Tail (Nora Kelly, 2) Hardcover – January 12, 2021
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Following the acclaimed debut of Old Bones, this second "happily anticipated" new thriller in Preston & Child's series features Nora Kelly, archaeologist at the Santa Fe Archeological Institute, and rookie FBI Agent Corrie Swanson, as they team up to solve a mystery that quickly escalates into nightmare (Booklist).
A mummified corpse, over half a century old, is found in the cellar of an abandoned building in a remote New Mexico ghost town. Corrie is assigned what seems to her a throwaway case: to ID the body and determine cause of death. She brings archaeologist Nora Kelly to excavate the body and lend her expertise to the investigation, and together they uncover something unexpected and shocking: the deceased apparently died in agony, in a fetal position, skin coming off in sheets, with a rictus of horror frozen on his face.
Hidden on the corpse lies a 16th century Spanish gold cross of immense value.
When they at last identify the body -- and the bizarre cause of death -- Corrie and Nora open a door into a terrifying, secret world of ancient treasure and modern obsession: a world centered on arguably the most defining, frightening, and transformative moment in American history.
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PRAISE FOR THE SCORPION’S TAIL
"Expect nice twists, hairy danger, and good old-fashioned gunplay. This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy."―Kirkus
“[An] enjoyable sequel [. . .] The authors do their usual solid job of maintaining suspense throughout. Their two capable female leads are well-suited to sustain a long series.”―Publishers Weekly
“Preston and Child have designed an intricate thriller that takes several twists and turns, but never totally diverts from the crux of the story. This is a series that demands attention.”―New York Journal of Books
“The authors bring the same rigorous plotting and deft characterizations to this novel as they do with their Special Agent Pendergast books (happily, Pendergast makes an appearance here), and the Kelly and Swanson pairing is certainly engaging. It seems the duo might be settling in for a good, long run.”―Booklist
“The future looks promising for Nora and Corrie.”―The Big Thrill
PRAISE FOR OLD BONES
"Long-time readers of Preston and Child will love to see the beloved characters of Nora Kelly and Corrie Swanson take center stage in what is a terrific start to a new series. Their writing talent shines as this mix of history, exploration of nature and crime will without a doubt land on the top of the best-seller lists. Though some of the historical facts have been tweaked a bit for the story to work, a note to the reader from the authors at the end reveals what is true and what they made up, and is sure to lead to a surge in attention for non-fiction accounts of what really happened that horrible winter."―Associated Press
"The two strong female protagonists [Nora Kelly and Corrie Swanson] share a dynamic reminiscent of that between Pendergast and his friend on the NYPD, Vincent D'Agosta. An intriguing series launch."―Publishers Weekly
"Old Bones exceeds expectations at every juncture, a thriller extraordinaire that turns history upside down in forming the basis of a riveting and relentless tale."―Providence Sunday Journal
"A smart, satisfying read."―Kirkus
"This outing belongs to two dedicated women, whose future adventures will be happily anticipated."―Booklist
"Preston & Child is one of those "names" on a book that make you want to set everything else aside in order to read what amazing words they've written [. . .] From the best writing team out there, you do not want to miss this book."―Suspense Magazine
"From the thriller world's dynamic duo comes a new work of archeology, murder, and the Donner Party. This one should please longtime fans of Preston and Child, as well as new devotees drawn in by that ever-appealing set up of a past crime coming back to haunt the present."―CrimeReads
"Preston and Child have created a fine mix of fiction and historical fact. The story is peopled by complex and engaging characters with sometimes murky ambitions. . . The ending, which seems far-fetched, is definitely, disturbingly possible."―Booktrib
"Old Bones has it all: chills, thrills and a blend of history, along with archaeological expertise you can only get from a Preston & Child novel. I loved spending time with Nora Kelly and Corrie Swanson, and look forward to seeing them in future adventures. Longtime readers will be rewarded not only by this pairing but by some other surprises leading up to the conclusion of this exciting read."―Bookreporter
"Though the story of the Donner Party and its gruesome cannibalism has been told and retold, this masterful examination of the perplexing events offers a fresh take that carries meaning for contemporary readers. The launch of the Nora Kelly series is to be applauded.”―Washington Independent Review of Books
"Preston and Child's cast of characters spin off in their latest, starring Nora Kelly and ex-distinguished youth-turned-FBI agent Corrie Swanson. Kelly leads an expedition to excavate the Donner Party camp, while Swanson investigates a series of grave robberies. The longtime writing team yet again seamlessly merges science and suspense.”―Newsweek
"Preston & Child can write like no others. They have well-written and defined characters and easy to read stories. You are never disappointed by one of their books."―Red Carpet Crash
About the Author
In addition to his novels, Douglas Preston writes about archaeology for The New Yorker and National Geographic magazines. Lincoln Child is a Florida resident and former book editor who has published seven novels of his own, including bestsellers such as Full Wolf Moon and Deep Storm.
Readers can sign up for The Pendergast File, a monthly "strangely entertaining note" from the authors, at their website, www.PrestonChild.com. The authors welcome visitors to their alarmingly active Facebook page, where they post regularly.
- Publisher : Grand Central Publishing; First Edition (January 12, 2021)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1538747278
- ISBN-13 : 978-1538747278
- Item Weight : 1.3 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.45 x 1.65 x 9.3 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #164,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on January 15, 2021
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I write in praise not only of their most recent work (The Scorpion’s Tail), but in awe overall of the literary universe created by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (aka The Gents). Their individual works, separately, are excellent....but their combined efforts with regards to the expanding “PenderVerse” are amazing. It’s tough to think of any other fiction world which is at once so capable of drawing me into it, and so immediately relatable to the “real” world.
Every single work is readable, entertaining. More importantly they are ENGAGING. The obvious research, the attention to continuity and detail (even in ‘crossover’ or ‘spinoff’ tales) is consistently impressive. I know, since I am an unrepentant dick and exacting consumer. My first contact with The Gents was an email, offering my services, having caught some minor (nigh negligible) technical errors. (Their response was polite and gracious; having read Relic and Reliquary a few years after their initial publication, they’d already added technical-consulting expertise.)
Working further backwards, The Gents themselves. In correspondence, they elevated themselves by even friggin’ REPLYING to a reader who was gleefully poking holes in their work. Beyond that, they were not adversarial or distant at all in doing so. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting both authors three times now, at book signings/releases in NYC, Coral Gables and Orlando. Every single time, both were funny, forthcoming, engaging and polite. For any author to be so accessible, AND pleasant, consistently, would be remarkable. Over such a period of time, for both to be so, well that’s just plain unusual in my experience.
The first time I got to meet them, it was Mr. Preston I saw initially. Dressed and behaving unassumedly, he walked up and said “nice lid”, gesturing to my cowboy hat. (He’s done this each time I’ve met him.....I doubt very seriously he remembers me, which in my mind suggests a worthy consistency and genuineness). I was starstruck, probably saying something dumb in return. As that evening, and all subsequent meetings with both authors, progressed I was amazed that persons so justifiably famous were that easy-going, and that eager to converse with fans in a small, informal group.
I take this moment to encourage anyone reading this to join our small, varied band of superfans, the Penderpeeps (or whatever we are calling ourselves at present). The access to and engagement with both the authors and fellow fans (especially at the “PenderCons”) has been outstanding, and well worth the zero-cost informal “membership”. Mr. Elyse Salpeter, a talented and humble author herself, is as good a point of contact as any.
Moving to the work at hand...........The Scorpion’s Tail is, as expected, twisty, involved, and crescendo-paced. I’ve made a lot of notes, questions and comments, which I’ll probably dump at a later time. The novel will no doubt have you looking up words, places, events, and tech, like most of The Gents’ works. It’ll also keep you eager to turn the page; no dull bits in my opinion, and a signature tidal-wave of confluences, reveals, and exposition. The characters grow, continually both within this novel and in their larger arcs...which leads to my next and final point.
I’m very heavily invested in many technical aspects of the work of several recurring characters, both as a reader and as an active professional. I’m a court-vetted, career SME in several areas that the gents return to repeatedly for plot devices, references, etc. Each time I meet them I make an effort to shake their hands and thank them for writing me and my kind in interesting, detailed, compelling. authentic, and usually positive ways. Increasingly, in many works, across various media, it is not so. The Scorpion’s Tail is no exception. If you’re interested not just in sleuth/mystery/action tales, but the real-world tricks/tools of the trade(s), you’ll get a real kick out of this book.
In closing, I wish you, the reader, the very best. These works are among the most complex, surprisingly shocking, and safest respites you’re likely to find from the “real world”. They may also illuminate your understanding of certain parts of it.
I like the pairing of Nora and Corrie with the brief appearance of Prendergast.
The book is classified as a “historical mystery” on Amazon, although the whodunit element seems to fade about halfway through as the villain begins to tip his hand. Why this foe would be committing all the crimes that occur during the story, however, remains a mystery and the authors work this question into what might be considered a twist. To me, however, it felt more like a dividing of the storyline and by the end, Corrie and Nora are leading almost independent investigations into the case. But because one of these threads lacks suspense and the other feels out-of-the-blue, the ending lacked impact. Two weak endings put together does not equal one strong one.
Besides the end, there were a couple of other aspects of the book that I found disappointing. For one, attention is paid to the sexist environment in which Corrie and Nora find themselves—the male-dominated world of the FBI in the former case and competition for promotion in the latter. Unfortunately, Preston and Child’s treatment of the issue is heavy-handed in places. But to make the matter worse, Agent Pendergast makes an appearance at the end to solve the crime as if the two women aren’t capable of doing it themselves. Second, Corrie takes every opportunity to characterize this case as penance for her mistake on a previous domestic disturbance incident to the point where it is affecting her job performance. Even her boss says, “I’m going to give you an assignment, and you might find it a difficult one. I can summarize it in two words: don’t brood.” But what makes her feelings even less understandable is the fact that she is doing exactly what a forensic anthropologist is trained to do in criminal cases—determine identity and cause of death from skeletal remains. How did she specialize in this area during her FBI training and not realize that many of the cases would be exactly like this?
But despite these limitations, I greatly enjoyed the book; I like Preston and Child’s storytelling style. However, in future novels, I hope Corrie will shed some of her self-doubt and embrace her career path. Hopefully, Nora will recognize she enjoys the riddles of crime almost as much as the mystery of archeology. And hopefully, in future books, neither of them will need a man to solve the crime.
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So she calls Nora Kelly, who is willing if busy, but able to rearrange her schedule, despite issues at the university she works for. However: the man, it turns out, has suffered a unique cause of death relating to being found near White Sands military base. The kind of unique that creates questions which MUST be answered.
Which leads them onto the trail of a vastly different ancient mystery, which may answer a question most think is part of the mythology of the area. But they are not the only one's looking...
The authors do an excellent job of showing how the work and research done leads Corrie and Nora along the trail to answers. They also have fun with a cowboy Sheriff who, it turns out, doesn't need the most modern firearms to do his job. They manage to portray infighting within the FBI as well as Corrie's boss Orders her to find a way to get along with people as a representative of the FBI. She does-excepting with an Evidence Response Team from the FBI itself where the senior officer is both sexist and incompetent. She verbally slaps him so hard steam nearly comes out of his ears and he comes close to punching her-but doesn't dare. I suspect she learned that one from Pendergast, who has long since developed a flawless method of insulting and dealing with anyone who gets in his way in such a way they can do nothing but be angry with him.
Oh-and Pendergast shows up in person to nearly steal the whole show, of course. Completely in keeping with his personality, he works out what's been going on before even Corrie. He even refers to Corrie as his protege.
In all honesty, I think I am starting to enjoy this series as much as the early Pendergast novels. The complicated relationship between the two women reminds me of Pendergast and D'Agosta-they click, but it's hard to see how for a while. Nora and Corrie are sliding into a friendship based on mutual respect, I believe-but neither of them seems to have realised that yet...
If you like the authors work? Read this, it's well worth the couple of days you'll loose once you get started.