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Extraction - Douglas Preston,  Lincoln Child

Note: This review contains minor spoilers.


I feel bad saying that I didn't like this one, because normally I love a Pendergast tale, but I found Extraction quite disappointing. For one thing, it's very short; the total page count is inflated by the preview for Two Graves. I don't feel it was worth 99 cents of my time.

It bothered me that the story isn't internally consistent. Agent Pendergast tells Constance of an incident that occurred when he was nine years old. His six-year-old brother, Diogenes, overheard the household staff talking about the Tooth Fairy, a local man named Maurus Dufour who lived in a decrepit house nearby. The elderly recluse's reputation frightened the children of the French Quarter into offering the tribute of teeth they'd lost by depositing them in a receptacle on his front porch by the time of the full moon. Should a child fail to deliver the tooth by that time, the local lore claimed that Dufour would come and extract a tooth to claim his due.

The young Pendergast scoffs at Diogenes for believing such nonsense, however, as the story progresses, we find that Dufour must indeed be "appeased," as one character puts it. It's implied that this traumatic event is part of what altered Diogenes' path in later life, though we don't get any real details on that.

I'm sorry, but this just doesn't stand up to any sort of scrutiny whatsoever. Aloysius obviously never paid his due in teeth and wasn't harmed. If children of the French Quarter were being attacked in such a fashion as to cause the origin of the tale, isn't it reasonable to think that the New Orleans police would do something about it? And the vague hand-wave of an ending in which we never see Uncle Everett again seems both improbable and lazy.

When Preston and Child are at the top of their game, they are among the best in their genre, but this just isn't up to their usual quality. Frankly, it feels like their publisher might have pressed them to come up with a bone to throw their fans while we await the next novel ... if this had been a freebie offered on their web site, I might feel a little differently. I wouldn't think it was good work, but I'd shrug, think it was a nice little bit of filler for them to post on their site, and move on.

I look forward to Two Graves, as I know these authors can do better than this seemingly dashed-off effort.