Review: Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Nora Kelly, a young archaeologist in Santa Fe, receives a letter written 16 years ago, yet mysteriously mailed only recently. In it, her father, long believed dead, hints at a fantastic discovery that will make him famous and rich – the lost city of an ancient civilization that suddenly vanished a thousand years ago. Now Nora is leading an expedition into a harsh, remote corner of Utah’s canyon country. Searching for her father and his glory, Nora begins to unravel the greatest riddle of American archeology, but what she unearths will be the newest of horrors.

Thunderhead by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Narrated by Scott Brick. 17 hours and 20 mins. Published by Hachette Audio in August 3, 2010. Text published in 1999.  Triggers: Animal deaths.

I have always loved archeology and unsolved mysteries. And nothing gets the gears in my head turning more then a lost civilization. I may not physically be there hunting for it, but my mind pours over the clues left behind, following right along with the explorers -new and old- who go off to uncharted lands searching for the lost cities. I love a good mystery and my brain loves putting the pieces of a puzzle together. And searching for a lost city / civilization is up there at the tippy top of the list. When I first came across Thunderhead, after reading the plot description on the back of the book, I knew this book checked of a lot of “Hell YEAH”s on my list. I couldn’t wait to read it.

Unfortunately, Thunderhead got lost in the shuffle of my ever growing TBR pile. It had been, what, I think at least 15 years since I bought the paperback…? Let’s just say it’s been sitting on the shelf for a long, long time. I had actually kinda forgotten about it. >.> It wasn’t until late 2018 when it popped back up on my radar. See, last year I deiced that I wanted to re-read the Agent Pendergast series by Preston and Child, but in audio format. In December, when I started listening to book 3, I realized that the character Nora Kelly was the same Nora Kelly from Thunderhead. When I originally read Cabinets of Curiosity (book 3 in the Pendergast series), I don’t think I knew about Thunderhead. Now that I knew about the connection between the books, I couldn’t let it go. I wanted to read the first book with Nora before starting book 3.

I had no idea where my paperback copy of Thunderhead was at. I’m re-vamping / organizing / remodeling my house and a majority of my books are packed up out of the way of the work being done. There are a LOT of boxes of books. Basically a needle in a haystack. Since I had an extra credit on Audible, I just went ahead and bought the audiobook. I love pretty much everything Preston and Child have done, so I knew I wouldn’t regret having an audio version of Thunderhead.

But… AGH! The audio is narrated by one of my least favorite narrators who has done a couple other books for Preston and Child- Scott Brick. I am really not a big fan of his work at all. It just doesn’t seem like he captures the characters very well. He lacks enthusiasm and it just always sounds like he’s out for a leisurely Sunday stroll 24/7. I don’t know how else to explain it… his characters just always sound so… droopy. Like… even when lots of action is going on, you want to take the characters pulse to see if they are even still alive. And I get that in Thunderhead you are dealing with a lot of academics, so maybe they are more reserved and quiet, right? But even the non-academics felt monotone and neutral. Occasionally a little bit of life shone through but not nearly enough to warrant a good performance. Also, several of his characters all sound too much alike. His narration didn’t ruin the book, though, so that is a good thing, but it was pretty distracting through a majority of the book. I was not impressed with his work on this book.

I have never had any burning desire to go off to Utah, but the authors really painted a beautiful picture of the landscape. The way they described the setting made it feel like you were right there with the characters. All of the talk of the land kinda made me want to go to Utah and dig around in the sand myself. 😮 Everything was it’s own kind of beautiful, from the small patches of clovers to the dry sand blowing through the canyon. Pretty blue skies and cold rain drops. Raging river and loose rocks along the path. I don’t like the heat or camping, but even I wanted to be out there with the characters. I don’t know if the authors had first hand experiences with the location, or if they just did a hell of a lot of research, but the setting felt extremely fresh and alive. They gave you enough details to “live” in the story without detailing you to death about it.

The story was very entertaining. You had a great mystery of not only this lost city, but also the mystery of what had happened to Nora’s father. Not to mention the mystery of who was stalking the expedition. Thunderhead was a very creative story about the lost city of gold and it kept you on your toes the whole time. Every time you thought things were starting to settle down, something else would happen to cause a fuss. The book had a great flow to it. Never too much of a down time. There were a few twists and turns here and there, some more surprising then others.

My only real complaint is that there was a lot of animal death in this book. Some of it happened off page, which is a little bit easier to get through, but there was plenty that wasn’t off page and pretty descriptive. Those poor horses! 😡 I did not like what happened to them at all.

There was a fun assortment of characters in this story. You wanted to cheer the good guys, you wanted to boo the bad guys. Everyone was fun to watch, even the super annoying characters. There was no real surprise on who turned out to be deceitful. It was pretty interesting watching the characters all try to get along through multiple arguments, power struggles, and the wheels falling off the expedition.

Thunderhead was very entertaining. I really enjoyed the themes of a treasure hunt and a lost civilization. The characters and the landscape really stand out and make the book come alive. I was not a fan of all the animal deaths though. For me, the audio performance was not so great. The narrator made everyone too monotone and it felt like there was a lack of excitement from the narrators performance. Even with the few problems I had with this book, I still really enjoyed the story.


3 thoughts on “Review: Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

  1. The original audio on cassette tape was narrated by Dana Delaney. She did a fabulous job and I remember that she really captured the characters well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s