Still Life With Crows by Preston & Child (Link to Amazon Books)
“Where are you from, Mr. Pendergast? Can't quite place the accent.”
“What a coincidence! I went there for Mardi Gras once."
“How nice for you. I myself have never attended.”
Ludwig paused, the smile frozen on his face, wondering how to steer the conversation onto a more pertinent topic.”
Still Life With Crows is my favorite book by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. On the back of one edition it says, "These guys are masters at scaring the hell out of people." And oh yes, they are.
The opening scene is absolutely gripping and intense. It's one of the most memorable descriptions of a cop's reaction to a crime scene, at least that I've ever read.
The main character, Aloysius Pendergast, is the albino love child of Sherlock Holmes intellect, Hannibal Lecter's appreciation for the finer things, and a great white shark with opposable thumbs. He is by far the most interesting detective character in all of fiction. Poirot and Marple were hacks compared to Pendergast. Holmes was a wimpy and obnoxious overgrown schoolboy by contrast.
The book has its flaws. The third act is not as strong as the first act. But that's like saying chocolate fudge cake is not as awesome as white birthday cake with buttercream icing. They're still both cake.
I can say very little about the story without spoilers, so I'll just say, serial killer, eccentric detective, quirky sidekick, small town mentality, and lots and lots of corn. Still Life With Crows is a must read.