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Literature / Agent Pendergast

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Catch-all tag for a series of novels by authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, most of which feature FBI Special Agent Aloysius X.L. Pendergast. The novels tend to feature a mix of the police procedural, horror, and thriller genres. More often than not, the stories involve events that seem supernatural, but are eventually show to have a rational (if somewhat far-fetched) explanation.note 

Note that the series has no official title. This entry is named for Agent Pendergast because he appears in it more than any other character.

The novels so far (in publication order) are:

Agent Pendergast Novels

Novels in the Same Universe

  • Mount Dragon - 1996
  • Thunderhead - 1999
  • The Ice Limit - 2000
  • The Gideon Crew Series:
    • Gideon's Sword - 2011
    • Gideon's Corpse - 2012
    • The Lost Island - 2014
    • Beyond the Ice Limit - 2016
    • The Pharaoh Key - 2017
  • The Nora Kelly and Corrie Swanson Series:
    • Old Bones - 2019
    • The Scorpion's Tail - 2021
    • Diablo Mesa - 2022
    • Dead Mountain - 2023
Other Novels

Now has a Character Sheet.

Provides Examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The authors like to provide extra information on the Pendergast character through email newsletters.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Several times.
  • Anyone Can Die
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: You'd think that after a mutant dinosaur attacks the Museum of Natural History in New York, and after an army of human-dino hybrids attack the New York subway system, the citizens of New York and especially the bureaucratic decision-makers would be more open-minded concerning some of the wilder, seemingly paranormal events occurring in the later books.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Pendergast, D'Agosta, Hayward, and even Nora.
  • The Big Easy: Where Pendergast comes from.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Pendergasts (who were French Blue Blood originally). The more we learn about them, the more horrifying they become. They all seem to have been brilliant, focused individuals, who were also some combination of crazy, criminal, and charismatic.
  • Break the Cutie: Never works out well for those who try it.
  • Break the Haughty: What seems to be happening to Pendergast from Fever Dream on.
  • Breakout Character: The main character in Relic and Reliquary was anthropology post-grad Margo Green, with FBI Agent Pendergast being a supporting character alongside Lt. D'Agosta. Indeed, in the movie version of Relic the Pendergast character was removed completely to focus on Green and D'Agosta instead. However, Pendergast proved so popular that the authors made him the focus of the following books in the series, so much so that the series of novels has become informally named after him.
  • Cain and Abel: Pendergast and his brother Diogenes. An inversion of the usual setup, since Diogenes is the younger of the pair.
  • Christmas Episode: White Fire.
  • Create Your Own Villain: While Diogenes's evil was always presented as heritable, in Book of the Dead it's revealed that he's the way he is because when they were children, Pendergast shoved Diogenes into a family antique which turned out to be a device designed to drive the occupant insane. Pendergast is quite distraught when he realizes he created Diogenes all along (he'd suppressed the memory up until that point).
  • Crossover: The short story "Gaslighted" pits Pendergast against Slappy the Dummy.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Several in this series. Still Life with Crows probably takes the cake with all the murders being done in the fashion of classic children's nursery rhymes.
  • Da Chief: Rocker.
  • Haunted House: The Beaux Arts mansion that Pendergast inherited.
  • Instant Mystery, Just Delete Scene: The authors commonly build suspense by switching back and forth between characters' story lines at critical moments.
  • Never Found the Body: Diogenes but come on, No One Could Survive That!.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: All over the place, with an especially thick concentration around the New York Museum of Natural History.
  • Odd Couple: Pendergast and D'Agosta.
  • Official Couple: Nora and Smithback, and D'Agosta and Hayward. Pendergast himself hasn't officially committed to anyone since his wife died.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted with dedicated, competent characters like Vincent D'Agosta and Laura Hayward. Just as often played straight with their superiors.
    • Appears to be the case with the Kansas Police in Still Life with Crows, but the habit gets subverted when the Obstructive Cop really just wanted a chance to solve something for himself, and helps Pendergast take down the killer.
    • The Italian police in Brimstone actually are quite helpful and forthcoming, at least until the end when D'Agosta fingers one of the country's most influential and prominent figures as the Big Bad, right up to convincing the police to storm the guy's fortress... then fails to produce any supporting evidence. Mortified and humiliated, the formerly helpful Italian police captain quickly turns on him.
  • Posthumous Character: Helen
    • And additionally Enoch Leng, aka Antoine Pendergast.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: While several of the novels do contain genuine supernatural or fantasy elements, the main threat always turns out to be a human villain masquerading as a more supernatural monster. Even first two novels, Relic and Reliquary, which do have horrific otherworldly monsters running around, have them just be transformed humans.
    • Brimstone and Cemetery Dance are the most notable, as the villains' schemes follow the formula of a Scooby Doo episode right down to the letter (other than multiple murders being involved, of course).
  • Self-Deprecation: Pendergast occasionally voices his disdain for modern popular fiction, particularly of the sort that Preston & Child write.
  • Shared Universe: All of the duo's non-Pendergast novels take place in the same universe as the main series (with the possible exception of Riptide). The Gideon Crew series takes place in it as well.
  • Story Arc: Relic and Reliquary.
    • Brimstone, Dance of Death, and Book of the Dead. Arguably, The Wheel of Darkness acts as a follow up to the arc.
    • Fever Dream, Cold Vengeance and Two Graves. Again, there is a follow up in Blue Labyrinth
  • Torches and Pitchforks: A mob burned down the Pendergast mansion in New Orleans.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: Inverted. The main plot of Brimstone is indeed largely unrelated with the main storyline of Dance of Death and Book of the Dead, but the Diogenes subplot is clearly presented and the novel ends in a definite cliffhanger that leads into the following books.
    • Fever Dream apparently resolves what happened to Pendergast's wife, even though it ends on a Cliffhanger. Cold Vengeance shows that the truth is much more complicated, and Two Graves is an Immediate Sequel.
  • Tsundere: Margo, somewhat, in the film and in Reliquary (in the latter, it's due to her experience with Mbwun). Susana Cabeza de Vaca in Mount Dragon, who even gets together with Carson.
  • The Watson: Anyone who works with Pendergast, but especially D'Agosta. Lampshaded in the way Pendergast talks with him. Pendergast even says "Elementary my dear Viola," at the end of Book of the Dead.