Literature: Two Graves

Two Graves is a novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child first published in 2012. It is part of their informal Agent Pendergast series, and the final novel in the Helen Trilogy story arc.

Special Agent Pendergast's attempts to get to the bottom of his investigation into the organization that ordered Helen's murder have ended in disaster and have left him a broken man. But when the organization unleashes a near-supernatural killer with ties to both Helen and Pendergast, the agent must rouse himself back into action.


This novel provides examples of:

  • Action Prologue: The entire first 60 or so pages is a high-speed chase sequence as Pendergast rushes to locate and rescue Helen.
  • Brazil Is Naziland
  • Boom, Headshot: Alban disposes of Fischer this way.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Becomes a plot point. When Pendergast is captured, Fischer and Alban leave Pendergast to his executioner (who had the right to vengence). Fischer then starts wondering if Alban left because he didn't want to see his father die.
  • Break the Haughty: Continues the trend of doing this to Pendergast from the previous novels of the Helen Trilogy, only it turns it Up to Eleven. Helen dies - for real this time - and later Pendergast learns that he is the biological father of two twin boys carried by Helen.
  • Cain and Abel: The Nazi eugenics experiments create twins, one with superior genetics and the other with all the bad genes that come from environmental mutation. The "bad" twins are kept as slaves and organ donors, while the "good" twins are indoctrinated as Nazi soldiers. In the end, it's averted; the "bad" twins start a slave uprising and most of their siblings can't bear to kill them.
  • Call Back: Dr. Ziewicz from The Relic reappears to point out a clue about Alban's first killing.
  • Clear Their Name: After going into hiding from Der Bund, Corrie reunites with her father and discovers that someone's framed him for trying to to blow the whistle at a car agency's scam that's been cheating people out of their money, so she sets out to find the real culprit.
  • Chekhov's Volcano: The Nazi base is built one. The volcano is supposed to be dead, but Pendergast finds signs that it isn't. He ultimately blows up the Nazi's ammo dump in order to trigger an eruption, utterly destroying the base.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: As it turns out, Jack had full intention of returning for Corrie, and repeatedly tried to get back in contact with her. However, Corrie's mom covered up every attempt he made and eventually went on to make him believe that Corrie wanted nothing to do with him any more.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Alban. So much that it turns out to be a plot point.
  • Designer Babies: The secret Nazi experiments.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Pendergast crosses it big time in the prologue.
  • Downer Beginning: Pendergast fails to prevent Helen from getting murdered for real at the end of the prologue.
  • Exact Words: At the very end of the story Alban says he will kill his father. Alban ultimately kills Fischer, the man who practically was his father in everything except blood.
  • Eye Scream: Jack gouges out one of Foote's eyes with a penknife when he threatens to kill his daughter.
  • Facial Horror: When Pendergast blows Nova Godoi up, Alban gets half his face mangled in the explosion, leaving it severely charred with several pieces of skin missing and some bits of his skull now exposed.
  • Heroic BSOD: Pendergast after the Action Prologue. His failure to save Helen breaks him and nearly drives him to suicide. He doesn't actually get better until Tristram appears.
  • He's Back: Horrifically subverted. When Pendergast discovers a connection between the killings he arrives at the crime scene once again dressed in his usual attire, but his severely emaciated figure from starving himself and his clear signs of exhibiting Sanity Slippage showcase that he's hardly back to normal.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Subverted. Given his how his brother's body was never recovered beyond Constance's report and the matching DNA, Pendergast starts assuming that the killer is Diogenes. He's wrong. It's Pendergast's son.
  • How Unscientific!: Like The Wheel of Darkness, the novel contains something supernatural, namely Alban's Psychic Powers that let him sense the future.
  • Karma Houdini: Aside from getting half his face burned, Alban still successfully escapes and gets away with his murders and other crimes due to the fact that Pendergast still can't bring himself to kill his own flesh and blood.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Despite the fact that Helen still being alive was a major twist in the previous book, the synopsis on the inside cover completely blabs it away, pretty much assuming that everyone has already read Cold Vengeance.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: When the usually collected Pendergast makes a Precision F-Strike you know things are looking grim.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Pendergast sets out to rescue Tristram when he is once again taken hostage by Der Bund, not willing to allow another family member's death after he was unable to prevent Helen's recapture and murder at the beginning of the novel.
  • Papa Wolf: Jack for Corrie and Pendergast for Tristram.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: With Pengergast's behavior still heavily erratic and Alban being able to stay one step ahead of everyone, D'Agosta reluctantly confesses to his bosses that Alban is Pendergast's son. This leads to the two of them having a falling out which isn't resolved until the very end.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Which literally involves shooting no less. Pendergast is finally able to locate Helen in Mexico, only for her captor to shoot her dead and escape.
  • Stunned Silence: Pendergast is so shocked by his son's appearance at his doorstep that it leaves him unable to think, let alone speak.
  • Tykebomb: Alban.
  • The Unfavorite: Tristram. Before Pendergast finds him, he was previously known only as "Forty-seven," as he was considered the "bad twin" to the "perfect" Alban.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Becomes a plot point. Both Fischer and Pendergast wonder if Alban is emotionally capable of killing his father. In the end it's left ambiguous. However, Pendergast can't bring himself to kill Alban.