Crimson ShoreBook - 2015
A mysterious shipwreck.
A murder in the desolate salt marshes.
A seemingly straightforward private case turns out to be much more complicated-and sinister-than Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast ever could have anticipated.
Pendergast, together with his ward Constance Greene, travels to the quaint seaside village of Exmouth, Massachusetts, to investigate the theft of a priceless wine collection. But inside the wine cellar, they find something considerably more disturbing: a bricked-up niche that once held a crumbling skeleton.
Pendergast and Constance soon learn that Exmouth is a town with a very dark and troubled history, and this skeleton may be only the first hint of an ancient transgression, kept secret all these years. But they will discover that the sins of the past are still very much alive. Local legend holds that during the 1692 witch trials in Salem, the real witches escaped, fleeing north to Exmouth and settling deep in the surrounding salt marshes, where they continued to practice their wicked arts.
Then, a murdered corpse turns up in the marshes. The only clue is a series of mysterious carvings. Could these demonic symbols bear some relation to the ancient witches' colony, long believed to be abandoned?
A terrible evil lurks beneath the surface of this sleepy seaside town-one with deep roots in Exmouth's grim history. And it may be that Constance, with her own troubled past, is the only one who truly comprehends the awful danger that she, Pendergast, and the residents of Exmouth must face . . .
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The Crimson Shore:
The sun was just breaking over a blood horizon, throwing pallid light onto her face. She blinked her eyes groggily. All she could see were great crimson rollers coming in, one after another, crashing and thundering up the beach. ...
This was how it had been In Exmouth a hundred years ago, Bud thought, before electricity. It wasn’t so bad. Electricity had brought nothing but trouble, when you thought about it – glaring light, pollution, computers and iPads and all that nonsense that he saw every day, as everyone – and not just kids – walked around town staring like zombies into little bright rectangles instead of greeting one another, instead of smelling the salt air and observing the scarlet maples in their autumnal glory …
Constance recalled the last time someone had rung the doorbell at 891 Riverside Drive – the rarest of occurrences at the Pendergast mansion. The memory f that awful moment now hung in the room like a miasma.
“But a bottle of wine as payment? Next you’ll be offering your services in exchange for a Shake Shack hamburger.
“In a criminal investigation, there is an inverse relationship between the quality of evidence and the length of time it has been awaiting examination.”
“For the love of God, Montressor!” (quoting Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” )
“First you called me a ‘dick.’ Now you’ve called mw a ‘prick.’ I commend yo on your poesy. But you seem to forget that a lady is present. Perhaps your mother should have employed the soap treatment more frequently to your rather orotund mouth.”
She seemed eager to talk, and Constance, who normally would have shut her out as one shuts a door, recalled that she was supposed to be investigating, and that this was an opportunity.
“I’d try it if I didn’t hate licorice. Isn’t wormwood supposed to cause brain damage?” “The act of living causes brain damage.”
“Outpost, Minnesota. Quite a name, isn’t it? Just twenty miles south of International Falls. Population, one hundred and twenty. The winters were right out of Kafka. To cope, you either drank, went crazy, or learned to take life as it comes.”
“The food you eat and the water you drink get broken down and the carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen become incorporated into your bones. Those three elements have various stable isotope ratios, which differ from food to food – and from water sources. Based on the ratios of those isotopes, we can tell what a person was eating and drinking during, say the last twenty years of his or her life,
“Roads?” The chief was unable to keep up, almost silly with shock. “Yes roads. The first was road is the more traveled one, …”
”Indeed, Constance. All lawyers are fuilty. But this one, I think, is more guilty than most.”
“Why is there an addiction problem?” “’Addiction problem’ may be too strong. It’s just … you know, poverty, lack of education, no opportunities … Fishing’s been in decline for decades. And fishermen, well, they’re a rough bunch.” He paused. “Just saying.”
“The most crimes are banal. Moronic. The obvious explanation is almost always the right one. … “ “If most crimes are banal and moronic, it’s because most people are.”
“My dear Constance, I ‘believe’ nothing. And I hope you will resist that impulse, as well. Let us only go where the facts take us …”
Being a lickspittle was mortifying in the extreme, but …
“Of course. Well. I’ve always loved the sea and Moby Dick is my favorite book … ‘Call me Ishmael’ is the greatest first line in a novel ever written.”
“I, myself, am not fond of animal stories.” Lake rolled his eyes. Pendergast was such an odd duck. “That’s the first time I’ve heard Moby Dick dismissed as an animal story.”
“In any investigation, ninety-nine percent of the information gathered is irrelevant. In the search for that one percent, many offensive questions must be asked and many people aggravated. Nothing personal …”
As he slipped through the grass, he did not think. Stilling the interior voice, he was like an animal, existing in the moment only as collection of highly tuned sensory organs. Thinking would come later.
This was unusual. Audrey was probably the friendliest dog in town, who posed a danger to burglars only by virtue of tripping them in the dark. He would greet the grim reaper himself with a wagging tail.
A quincunx. Constance was aware of that peculiar arrangement, as in the array of pips on the number five on a set of dice.
“In concert with the lighthouse keeper. It’s a well-known trick. Extinguish the lighthouse and build a fire on the beach, in a location calculated to guide the ship onto the rocks. .. “
“I have observed,” she said in a low and even voice, “that there are some crimes for which the death penalty does not seem a sufficiently sever sentence.”
All was blackness. He had reached stong pa nyid --- The State of Pure Emptiness.
“ .. My grandfather liked to say: ‘If you throw out a big enough net, there is no telling what you might drag in.’ …”
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