Special Agent Pendergast and Constance Greene have been called to Exmouth, a small town on the wild Atlantic coast of Massachusetts, to investigate a seemingly innocuous theft. But what they discover at the crime scene changes the course of their investigation: a sealed burial chamber, complete with rusted leg irons, fragments of bone and claw marks on the inside-face of its bricks.
Then a historian is found murdered in the desolate salt marshes that surround the town, his face mutilated, his body carved with arcane symbols.
Exmouth has a grim history dating back to the aftermath of the Salem witch trials. And now a dark secret, centuries old, is rising to the surface.
At the start of Preston and Child's solid 15th thriller featuring FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast (after 2014's Blue Labyrinth), Pendergast, unusually for him, agrees to accept a private case. Someone broke into the lighthouse where sculptor Percival Lake lives in Exmouth, Mass., and cleared out his wine cellar, except for one case of a very rare vintage. For reasons that are unclear to Pendergast's ward, Constance Greene, Pendergast agrees to travel from his Manhattan home to Exmouth, where his inquiries reveal that Lake's wine cellar contained a hidden chamber and human remains. The truth behind the crime may be connected to local legends regarding a witch colony and a demonic figure known as the Grey Reaper. Meanwhile, Pendergast looks into the stabbing murders of a local attorney and a historian researching Exmouth's past, whose bodies were marked with the so-called Tybane Inscriptions. The genuine scares take a while to come, but when they do, readers will be reminded of the violent horror of Relic, Pendergast's debut.