Friday, March 03, 2023




By Preston & Child

Grand Central Publishing

401 pgs


This is the second thriller in the Special Agent Pendergast spin-off series starring two of his best supporting characters. The first being Archeologist Nora Kelly who was around from the first Pendergast adventure teaming up with his young protégé, newly minted FBI Agent Corrie Swanson. Though why the publisher opts to label this the “Nora Kelly” series is beyond my logic. It really should be the “Kelly – Swanson” series. Oh well, the eccentricities of publishers.  

Like the first, this one also focuses on historical mysteries with these set in the western state of New Mexico. A young, extremely likeable town Sheriff named Homer Watts encounters a would-be looter at work in a high mountain ghost town. When he confronts the fellow, the perp tries to shoot him. Much to his dismay as Watts is a fast draw crack shot and wounds the varmint. But that isn’t what sets alarms off. Rather it is the fact that the two-bit artifact thief was in process of uncovering a dead body; a dead body buried on government land. Enter the FBI and Agent Corrine Swanson.  

Realizing the excavation of a body is beyond her considerable expertise, Corrie recruits Nora Kelly to assist her and pretty soon the trained archeologist finds herself pulled into the mystery. Not only is the corpse weirdly mummified, but in his possession is an ornate, bejeweled cross that dates back to the days of the Spanish conquistadores. Could the dead man have been hunting lost Spanish gold mines rumored to be hidden in those mountains? And what connection does the dead man have to the White Plains Desert Military base; home to the first atom bomb test? 

Once again, Preston and Child weave an intricate, pretzel twisty plot that mushrooms multiple new questions whenever one is answered. Enough to keep both Nora and Corrie hopping back and forth from one end of the state to the other looking to solve not one, but several historical puzzles all seemingly intertwined. And along the way they encounter some truly colorful western characters ala Sheriff Watts and a descendant of Geronimo. In the end, “The Scorpion’s Tale” is another grand Preston & Child outing and one we heartily recommend. Kelly and Swanson may not be Pendergast, but they sure are the next best thing