Review: “The Third Gate,” Lincoln Child

Pros: Interesting story
Cons: Some mild confusions; not stunning
Rating: 3 out of 5

Explorer Porter Stone is putting together one of his famed, secretive expeditions. This time, he plans to find the tomb of Narmer, a near-mythical Egyptian pharaoh from five thousand years ago. Said tomb is unusually well-hidden, buried in the depths of a near-impassable swamp, the Sudd. Logan, a parnormal investigator, is brought in to look into some unexplained happenings that seem to haunt the area. Sometimes he debunks supposed paranormal events and sometimes he proves them–he has yet to see which this will be. And if he doesn’t figure it out soon, many people may die.

 

It could be said that it is the job of a reader to be both skeptic and believer. We must be skeptical in order to push authors to prove their stories real to us, and yet we must also be willing to suspend disbelief when that burden of proof is provided. I say this because the main character of Lincoln Child’s The Third Gate, Logan, represents that duality for us. He’s an enigmalogist–someone who deals in the unexplained. He must remain skeptical enough to avoid being taken in by fakes, while keeping enough of an open mind to be receptive to real events. He also has only the thinnest of personalities as presented, and I wonder if that’s because he’s meant to be almost a blank space in which the reader can insert himself. Because he works well that way, I can’t bring myself to fault Child for his lack of depth. The other characters vary a bit in depth; few are great, but they’re all better than those in, for example, Robin Cook’s Abduction (shudder).

The setup is well-detailed, bringing life to the little floating ‘city’ in the swamp. The buildup is slow, punctuated by occasional moments of tension. I found the reveals regarding the tomb to be a little disappointing, and the tension never built up as high as I felt it should. My responses were more along the lines of “huh, that’s kind of clever” rather than “wow.”

There were a few bits and pieces that I found a little confusing. On several occasions too-similar threads went on in parallel and I’d get confused from one page to the next as to which of the two I was in the middle of. There are also some character decisions made that I didn’t entirely understand.

It’s a halfway-decent book, with some interesting plot points and juicy bits of tension, but it never becomes outstanding. Some of the reveals underwhelm, and it’s hard to care much about most of the characters.

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