Relic (Special Agent Pendergast Series #1)

Relic (Special Agent Pendergast Series #1)

by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - First Edition)

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Relic: The #1 New York Times bestselling thriller by Douglas Preston's and Lincoln Child, with more than one million copies sold to date

Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum's dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human...

But the museum's directors plan to go ahead with a big bash to celebrate the new exhibition, in spite of the murders.

Museum researcher Margo Green must find out who—or what—is doing the killing. But can she do it in time to stop the massacre?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812543261
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 01/15/1996
Series: Special Agent Pendergast Series , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 20,890
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 11.06(h) x 1.31(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are the co-authors of the Pendergast series of thrillers, including such bestselling titles as Fever Dream, The Book of the Dead, The Wheel of Darkness, and Relic, which became a number one box office hit movie.

Douglas Preston's solo novels include the New York Times bestsellers Impact, Blasphemy, The Codex, and Tyrannosaur Canyon. His nonfiction book The Monster of Florence is being made into a film starring George Clooney.

Lincoln Child is the author of Utopia, Death Match, Deep Storm, and Terminal Freeze.

Place of Birth:

Cambridge, Massachusetts


B.A., Pomona College, 1978

Read an Excerpt


The Amazon Basin, September 1987

At noon, the clouds clinging to the top of Cerro Gordo broke free and scattered. Far above, in the upper reaches of the forest canopy, Whittlesey could see golden tints of sunlight. Animals—probably spider monkeys—thrashed and hooted above his head and a macaw swooped low, squawking obscenely.

Whittlesey stopped next to a fallen jacaranda tree and watched Carlos, his sweating camp assistant, catch up.

“We will stop here,” he said in Spanish. “Baja la caja. Put down the box.”
Whittlesey sat down on the fallen tree and pulled off his right boot and sock. Lighting a cigarette, he applied its tip to the forest of ticks on his shin and ankle.
Carlos unshouldered an old army packboard, on which a wooden crate was awkwardly lashed.

“Open it, please,” said Whittlesey.

Carlos removed the ropes, unsnapped a series of small brass clasps, and pulled off the top.

The contents were packed tightly with the fibers of an indigenous plant. Whittlesey pulled aside the fibers, exposing some artifacts, a small wooden plant press, and a stained leather journal. He hesitated a moment, then drew a small but exquisitely carved figurine of a beast from the shirt pocket of his field jacket. He hefted the artifact in his hand, admiring again its workmanship, its unnatural heaviness. Then he placed it reluctantly in the crate, covered everything with the fibers, and reattached the lid.

From his rucksack, Whittlesey took out a folded sheet of blank paper, which he opened on his knee. He brought a battered gold pen out of his shirt pocket and began writing:

Upper Xingú
Sept. 17, 1987


I’ve decided to send Carlos back with the last crate and go on alone in search of Crocker. Carlos is trustworthy, and I can’t risk losing the crate should anything happen to me. Take note of the shaman’s rattle and other ritual objects. They seem unique. But the figurine I’ve enclosed, which we found in a deserted hut at this site, is the proof I’ve been looking for. Note the exaggerated claws, the reptilian attributes, the hints at bipedalia. The Kothoga exist, and the Mbwun legend is not mere fabrication.

All my field notes are in this notebook. It also contains a complete account of the breakup of the expedition, which you will of course know about by the time this reaches you.

Whittlesey shook his head, remembering the scene that had played itself out the day before. That idiotic bastard, Maxwell. All he’d cared about was getting those specimens he’d stumbled on back to the Museum undamaged. Whittlesey laughed silently to himself. Ancient eggs. As if they were anything more than worthless seed pods. Maxwell should have been a paleobiologist instead of a physical anthropologist. How ironic they’d packed up and left a mere thousand yards from his own discovery.

In any case, Maxwell was gone now, and the others with him. Only Carlos and Crocker, and two guides, had stayed. Now mere was just Carlos. Whittlesey returned to the note.

• *

Use my notebook and the artifacts, as you see fit, to help restore my good standing with the Museum. But above all else, take care of this figurine. I am convinced that its worth to anthropology is incalculable. We discovered it yesterday by accident. It seems to be the centerpiece of the Mbwun cult. However, there is no other trace of habitation nearby. This strikes me as odd.

• *

Whittlesey paused. He hadn’t described the discovery of the figurine in his field notes. Even now, his mind resisted the memory.

Crocker had wandered off the trail for a better look at a jacamar; otherwise they’d never have found the hidden path, slanting down steeply between moss-slick walls. Then, that crude hut, half-buried among ancient trees, in the wet vale where daylight barely penetrated…The two Botocudo guides, normally chattering nonstop to each other in Tupian, shut up immediately. When questioned by Carlos, one of them just muttered something about a guardian of the hut, and a curse on anybody who violated its secrets. Then, for the first time, Whittlesey had heard them speak the word Kothoga. Kothoga. The shadow people.
Whittlesey was skeptical. He’d heard talk of curses before—usually, right before a request for higher wages. But when he emerged from the hut, the guides were gone.

…Then that old woman, blundering out of the forest. She was probably Yanomamo, obviously not Kothoga. But she knew of them. She had seen them. The curses she’d hinted at…And the way she’d just melted back into the forest, more like a jaguar yearling than a septuagenarian.

Then, they turned their attention to the hut.

The hut…Gingerly, Whittlesey allowed himself to remember. It was flanked by two stone tablets with identical carvings of a beast sitting on its haunches. Its claw held something weathered and indistinguishable. Behind the hut lay an overgrown garden, a bizarre oasis of bright color amid the green fastness.

The floor of the hut was sunken several feet, and Crocker almost broke his neck on the way in. Whittlesey followed him more carefully, while Carlos simply knelt in the entranceway. The air inside was dark and cool and smelt of decaying earth. Switching on his flashlight, Whittlesey saw the figurine sitting on a tall earthen mound in the middle of the hut. Around its base lay a number of strangely carved discs. Then the flashlight reached the walls.

The hut had been lined with human skulls. Examining a few of the closest, Whittlesey noticed deep scratch marks he could not immediately understand. Ragged holes yawned through the tops. In many cases, the occipital bone at the base of the skull was also smashed and broken off, the heavy squamosal bones completely gone.

His hand shook, and the flashlight failed. Before he switched it on again, he saw dim light filtering through thousands of eye sockets, dust motes swimming sluggishly in the heavy air.

Afterward, Crocker decided he needed a short walk—to be alone for a while, he’d told Whittlesey. But he hadn’t come back.

• *

The vegetation here is very unusual. The cycads and ferns look almost primordial. Too bad there isn’t time for more careful study. We’ve used a particularly resilient variety as packing material for the crates; feel free to let Jorgensen take a look, if he’s interested.

I fully expect to be with you at the Explorer’s Club a month from now, celebrating our success with a brace of dry martinis and a good Macanudo. Until then, I know I can entrust this material and my reputation to you.

Your colleague,


• *

He inserted the letter beneath the lid of the crate.

“Carlos,” he said, “I want you to take this crate back to Pôrto de Mós, and wait for me there. If I’m not back in two weeks, talk to Colonel Soto. Tell him to ship it back with the rest of the crates by air to the Museum, as agreed. He will draw your wages.”

Carlos looked at him. “I do not understand,” he said. “You will stay here alone?”
Whittlesey smiled, lit a second cigarette, and resumed killing ticks. “Someone has to bring the crate out. You should be able to catch up with Maxwell before the river. I want a couple of days to search for Crocker.”

Carlos slapped his knee. “Es loco! I can’t leave you alone. Si te dejo atrás, te morirías. You will die here in the forest, Señor, and your bones will be left to the howler monkeys. We must go back together, that is best.”

Whittlesey shook his head impatiently. “Give me the Mercurochrome and the quinine, and the dried beef from your pack,” he said, pulling the filthy sock back on and lacing his boot.

Carlos started unpacking, still protesting. Whittlesey ignored him, absently scratching insect bites on the back of his neck and staring up toward Cerro Gordo.

“They will wonder, Señor. They will think I left you. It will be very bad for me,” Carlos said rapidly, placing the items in Whittlesey’s pack. “The cabouri flies will eat you alive,” he continued, moving over to the crate and lashing it shut. “You will catch malaria again, and die this time. I will stay with you.”

Whittlesey stared at the shock of snow-white hair plastered to Carlos’s sweaty forehead. That hair had been pure black yesterday, before Carlos looked into the hut. Carlos met his gaze for a moment, then lowered his eyes.

Whittlesey stood up. “Adiós,” he said, and disappeared into the bush.

• *

By late afternoon, Whittlesey noticed that the thick, low clouds had returned to shroud Cerro Gordo. For the last I several miles, he had been following an ancient trail of unknown origin, barely a narrow alley in the brush. The trail cleverly worked its way through the blackwater swamps surrounding the base of the tepui, the soggy, jungle-clotted plateau that lay ahead. The trail had the logic of a human trail, Whittlesey thought. It moved with obvious purpose; animal tracks often wandered. And it was heading for a steep ravine in the shoulder of the approaching tepui. Crocker must have come this way.

He stopped to consider, unconsciously fingering the talisman—a gold arrow overlaid by another of silver—that had hung around his neck since childhood. Besides the hut, they’d seen no sign of human habitation for the last several days except a long-deserted root-gatherer village. Only the Kothoga could have created this path.

As he approached the plateau, he could see a few braids of water cascading down its steep flanks. He would camp at the bottom tonight, and make the thousand-meter ascent in the morning. It would be steep, muddy, and possibly dangerous. If he met the Kothoga—well, he would be trapped.

But he had no reason to think the Kothoga tribe was savage. After all, it was this other creature, Mbwun, to which local myth cycles ascribed all the killing and savagery. Strange—an unknown creature, supposedly controlled by a tribe nobody had seen. Could Mbwun actually exist? he wondered. Conceivably, a small remnant could be alive in this vast rain forest; the area was virtually unexplored by biologists. Not for the first time, he wished that Crocker hadn’t taken his own Mannlicher .30 06 when he’d left camp.

But first, Whittlesey realized, he had to locate Crocker. Then he could search for the Kothoga, prove they hadn’t died out centuries before. He’d be famous—the discoverer of an ancient people, living in a kind of Stone Age purity deep in the Amazon, on a plateau that floated above the jungle like Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.

There was no reason to fear the Kothoga. Except that hut

Suddenly, a sharp sickly smell assailed his nostrils, and he stopped. There was no mistaking it—a dead animal, and a big one. He took a dozen steps as the smell intensified. His heart quickened with anticipation: perhaps the Kothoga had butchered an animal nearby. There might be artifacts left at the site—tools, weapons, perhaps even something ceremonial in nature.

He crept forward. The sweet nauseating reek grew stronger. He could see sunlight in a patch of canopy high above his head—the sure sign of a nearby clearing. He stopped and tightened his pack, not wanting to be hampered in case he had to move fast.

The narrow trail, walled in by brush, leveled off and took a sudden turn into the head of the small clearing. There, on the opposite side, was the carcass of the animal. The base of the tree it lay against had been ritually carved with a spiral, and a bundle of bright green parrot feathers lay on top of the gaping, greasy brown rib cage.

But as he walked closer, he saw that the carcass was wearing a khaki shirt.
A cloud of fat flies roared and swarmed about the open rib cage. Whittlesey noticed that a severed left arm was lashed to the tree trunk with a fibrous rope, the palm sliced open. A number of spent cartridge casings lay around the body. Then he saw the head. It lay face up under the corpse’s armpit, the back of the skull torn away, the cloudy eyes staring upward, the cheeks bulging.
Whittlesey had found Crocker.

Instinctively, Whittlesey began stumbling backward. He saw how rows of claws had flayed the body with obscene, inhuman strength. The corpse looked stiff. Perhaps—if God was merciful—the Kothoga had already departed.
Assuming it was the Kothoga.

Then he noticed that the rain forest, normally overflowing with the sounds of life, was silent. With a start, he turned to face the jungle. Something was moving in the towering brush at the edge of the clearing, and two slitted eyes the color of liquid fire took shape between the leaves. With a sob and a curse, he drew his sleeve across his face and looked again. The eyes had vanished.

There was no time to lose—he had to get back down the trail, away from this place. His path back into the forest lay directly ahead. He’d have to make a run for it.

Just then he saw something on the ground he hadn’t noticed before, and he heard movement, ponderous yet horrifyingly stealthy, through the brush in front of him.

Copyright © 1995 by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Table of Contents

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Relic 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 446 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a re-read for me. I read it years ago and decided to buy it again for my Nook and it was well worth the money all over again. It was my first introduction to Agent Pendergast who has since become one of my fav fictional detectives and the first but not the last Preston & Child book I read. Loved it! Great blend of mystery, horror and police procedural. I have read every Pendergast novel since and can't remember ever being disappointed. I would definitely recommend it.
PainFrame More than 1 year ago
Better than the movie. Hey, I LIKE the movie (Yikes - those special effects do not hold up!), but the book is much better. The quote on the cover says that this book is "Far above Crichton's Jurassic Park". Now, of course that's crazy nonsense, but there are similarities between how Crichton writes a thriller and this story. Namely, the plot unfolds at a good clip, and is interesting and suspenseful enough that I always roll right into the next chapter. Also thought the end was great, if I had book 2 handy, I would already be halfway through it. A great start to the series!
Peggy Schmidt More than 1 year ago
This book was a great mix of science, history, and fantasy. The action moved at a good pace and kept me interested enough that I finished it in just two days.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this was my first Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston book and i thought they did such a good job. it was such a different idea i had to read it and i was glad i did. i have found a new set of authors that i can't wait to read each and every book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Though I'm only on pg 98, I still felt compelled to stop & write this review. I suppose this story is good enough, but I am so distracted by the typographical errors which abound that I can hardly focus on the plot. I don't know how such a hot mess made it past any sort of editing standard. My 3rd grader could catch most of this! What a disappointment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first book in a very exciting series. I love that the New York City's American Museum of Natural History plays a starring role in the frist few books and love all the New York facts and fiction thrown in to spice and flavor the book. THe story itself was over the top but i fell in love with the characters, Pendergast, Smithback, Nora and dear sweet D'Agosta are a great team. I ordered the next 3 books in the series before i finished Relic, i have read the entire series to date and you can't go wrong. Lots of twists and turns in this book and just enough pages to get you hooked and running out to buy the next book. If you continue through the series you will find yourself worrying, laughing and loving the main characters. Enjoy this series is a winner.
VeronicaJR More than 1 year ago
I just recently discovered the Special Agent Pendergast series and am so glad that I happened upon it. The first two books I read were the most recent, and was thrilled with both of them. I decided to look for more by these two authors and started right at the beginning with "Relic". I enjoyed this book very much, but it didn't have as much Pendergast in it as I thought it would. I am now Reading "Reliquary", with the same cast of characters, for the most part, and I think this book will be just as good as the first one.
Prestonjunkie More than 1 year ago
This is my all time favorite book. The writing is exceptional and a real page turner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! Jaws and Jurassic Park have nothing on Relic. This book is the beginning of a love affair for these characters. Pendergast, D'agosta, Smithback, and of course Mbwum, are some of the greatest characters ever. And if you want a book full of twists right through the last page, this is the one for you!
Silverleaf More than 1 year ago
This book started out slow & gained momentem, once you get through the first part of the book it flys along at a furious pace. well written. I would read the book again.
CleanGene More than 1 year ago
If you like suspensful, character driven stories, this is a good one. The super agent is a little over the top, but not so much to be off-putting. The science was a tad fuzzy, but did not strain creduity. On the basis of this read, I purchased the following 5 books in the series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Could not put this book down. It was my first Preston-Child book but certainly not my last. A real page-turner. And a great shocker at the end. Any avid reader of thrillers MUST read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fast paced book with all the stops pulled out to create a masterpiece by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. If you enjoy mind twisting plots and non-stop action this is your book.
2013BookWorm More than 1 year ago
I love this series and am now on book 4. The main character is an enigma and I thoroughly him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a great, scaaaaarrrrrry story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book....hooked on another series of books!!! THANKS MICHAEL!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pendergast is such a character -- I'm addicted.
crazybatcow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The characters are fairly realistic and fleshed out but the story itself is pretty lame. I read sci-fi and thrillers/detective stories and thought this would be a blend of the two but it doesn't really hit the mark as either.You have to accept the existence of a monster, which is fine. But you also have to accept that a museum would not shut down as soon as there were a series of atrocious and unexplainable murders inside it. Then you have to accept that a graduate student would be the "detective" and the "real" detectives more interested in... I'm not sure what they were doing, but they weren't doing any detecting. Thr3e and any of the Harry Bosch stories are better thrillers. Altered Carbon is a better blend of sci-fi and detective. Artifact is a better "monster" story. In fact, I can't think of a book less interesting - and still finishable - than this one.
AuntieClio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
And into each life a little schlock strays. I had such high hopes for this, the first Pendergast book, after reading The Cabinet of Curiosities. Instead, I found something derivative of Michael Crichton, someone I read a lot of when I was younger and, I like to think, more discriminating.There¿s monster on the loose in the museum and it¿s up to the people the establishment don¿t like to rescue them and destroy the monster before more lives are lost. The body count in this book is pretty high, including children and dogs.Yet I have to admit that it¿s a fast read and since I¿ve already purchased the entire Pendergast series, I¿m stuck with reading them. (That¿s sort of a rule, if I buy it I have to read it unless it so extremely awful I¿d rather clean house.) I¿m hopeful they get better as we go along because I would hate to think Pendergast only shone in one book
ken1952 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been meaning to read this for years. Finally took the plunge and really enjoyed it. Nothing like a good monster story to keep the old heart tickin'. And now I have the sequel home from the library. Hope it's as good as the first.
marcejewels on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From my blogDouglas Preston and Lincoln Child did a great job of keeping you wondering what is next, you wanted to know what or who is killing in the museum. Everyone is thinking what the hell is going on. I don't enjoy pages of description so it was perfect how the authors gave me a visual chill with direct gruesome description and action. There is a ton of scientific language and conversation but I feel like it was needed, maybe only a touch to much. The science part added to the mystery of the story and the dynamic versatile personalities of all the museum staff. There was a great amount of characters that was developed well and they were all a part of the puzzle. The before, during, after and epilogue. And the police detectives were my favourites, especially Detecitve D'Agosta. There was an overall feel of i'm better than you, right from the Executives of the Museum, Scientists and Police Detectives.This book was executed very well, a little long for my preference but great stuff. It wasn't scary to me, I love and look forward to the 'scary' parts but I can tell you that the characters were scared out of their minds.
corlomoski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Relic is the first book in Preston & Child's series featuring Agent Pendergast of the FBI. It's not my favorite of the series (that would be The Cabinet of Curiosities), but Pendergast is one of my favorite characters in contemporary fiction. In Relic, Preston & Child create a mystery in the Museum of Natural History with just enough scientific justification that you ALMOST believe it could be true.
rocalisa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed about the first 2/3, then it turned into "monster rampages" and I got bored. I read the end to check how it finished, felt cheated by the fact the "answer" to the mystery got turned around right at the end and was glad I stopped reading.
chinquapin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Something is stalking the halls of the Museum of Natural History in New York City and leaving behind a wake of mutilated corpses. Museum officals, concerned about a spectacular exhibition that is about to open, try to stifle all rumors, speculation and discussion that there is a monster in the museum. However grad student Margo Green believes that there is a monster and she finds a clue connecting the murders with a failed expedition to the Amazon years earlier. An FBI Detective named Aloysius Pendergast from New Orleans arrives to help in the investigation because he believes the murders are connected to some similar murders in his part of the world. They begin to unravel the veil of secrecy that the museum's officials have laid over the disastrous Amazon expedition and discover the true origins of the monster that has made the museum its home. I found this to be a fast-paced, very exciting story full of action and edge-of-your-seat type suspense. The characters could have been a little more developed, especially Pendergast. The Museum of Natural History with its warrens of underground storage rooms and unmapped subterranean levels and rooms full of spooky artifacts was a perfect setting for this story. The plot was far-fetched and stretched believability at several points, but well developed anyway, and once you accept the premise, it was terrifying.
JennieLeigh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First off, if you haven't seen the movie, PLEASE don't! I, unfortunately have. I saw it at the insistence of my husband, who'd read the book and loved it. He was so aghast at the butcher job done to the story by the movie that to this day (9 years after it's release) he will begin a rant every time he sees it in a store. I didn't actually read the book myself until last year. After I did, I understood his point. The movie took a truly creative and engrossing thriller and turned it on its head. The fact that they entirely omitted the Perdergast (upon which an entire series of stories has been based, now) should be enough to warn you to stay far, far away from the movie.The book is very interesting, though somewhat dated now. It was written when DNA testing and mapping was in its very infancy. Still, the premise was interesting and the monster appropriately horrifying. (Honestly, I cannot imagine why the screen writer thought the movie ending was somehow better than the original!)If you enjoy sci fi/horror/thriller books, then by all means read this one. It is well worth your time.