Intrigue, Suspense, and History Abound in Preston and Child’s ‘The Scorpion’s Tail’ [REVIEW]

Archaeologist Nora Kelly helps the FBI with a mysterious case in Preston & Childs The Scorpion’s Tail. (Photo courtesy Canva)

A creepy ghost town. A mysterious mummy. A case that is much more than it seems. When a junior FBI agent and an archaeologist join forces to crack a case in the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico, they come face to face with history, obsession, and death in Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s second Nora Kelly thriller, The Scorpion’s Tail.

Grand Central Publishing

When Junior FBI agent Corrie Swanson is assigned to identify the mummified remains discovered in the cellar of a remote New Mexico town, she thinks she’s just been handed a throwaway case. She brings archaeologist Nora Kelly in to help her out, and together they discover the ghastly cause of death and a 16th-century artifact hidden on the corpse. When the duo uncovers the deceased’s identity, they are plunged into a secret world of greed, treasure, and terrifying American history.

This is my first encounter with Swanson, and while I enjoy watching her investigation unfold, I particularly like the interplay between her and her boss, Special Agent Hale Morwood. Throughout The Scorpion’s Tail, it was interesting to see how they draw on one another’s strengths, and the mutual respect they share for one another makes for a fascinating, complex and nuanced story.

Fan favorite Aloysius X.L. Pendergast makes an appearance here as well, but the character who truly wins my heart in this story is Senior Curator Nora Kelly from the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute. Her inquisitive mind and tenacity to learn the truth is tempered by the way she enjoys the simple pleasures in life, such as drinking an adult beverage around a camp fire. Nora has it all.

As much as rich characterization is used here to lure readers in, this is a Preston and Child book after all, and the dynamic duo deftly employs loads of intrigue, suspense, and history as Nora and Connie team up to find out why a man would be mummified and hidden inside the legendary ghost town of High Lonesome. The authors’ descriptions of place and rich facts only builds the mystery, which in turn keeps us turning page after page, eager to see what happens next.

However, there is a scene (spoiler alert!) that really compelled me as a reader, and felt totally authentic. It is where Nora is told by her boss that she will not receive the promotion she wants. This scene touches my heart in so many ways, particularly because her emotions are so universal, many readers will undoubtedly be able to place themselves in Nora’s shoes and relate to her mindset as the scene unravels. My favorite quote from the book is from this point in the novel.

Life was indeed unfair—but sometimes when least expected, it stacked the deck in your favor.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, The Scorpion’s Tail

I love this because it is so accurate. It may take time and constant effort from you, but in the end, humble, honest and hardworking traits are noticed by those looking for authenticity.

There’s a reason Preston and Child are constantly on the bestseller lists. Their books are insightful, thoughtful, riveting and complex. The Scorpion’s Tail is no different. Not only does it delve deep into old lore, but it ensures that we are powerless to resist its hypnotic effect on the reader. This is a thinking man’s thriller. Don’t miss it!

Add to Goodreads badge
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
(Photo by Deborah Feingold)


The thrillers of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child “stand head and shoulders above their rivals” (Publishers Weekly). Preston and Child’s Relic and The Cabinet of Curiosities were chosen by readers in a National Public Radio poll as being among the one hundred greatest thrillers ever written, and Relic was made into a number-one box office hit movie.

They are coauthors of the famed Pendergast series, and their recent novels include Crooked River, Old Bones, Verses for the Dead, City of Endless Night, The Obsidian Chamber, and Blue Labyrinth.

In addition to his novels, Preston writes about archaeology for the New Yorker and National Geographic magazines. Lincoln Child is a Florida resident and former book editor who has published seven novels of his own, including such bestsellers as Full Wolf Moon and Deep Storm.

Readers can sign up for The Pendergast File, a monthly “strangely entertaining note” from the authors, at their website, The authors welcome visitors to their alarmingly active Facebook page, where they post regularly.

By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
401 pp. Grand Central Publishing. $29.

Purchase The Scorpion’s Tail direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, Target, or Walmart.

Here’s the captivating trailer for the book!

(Video courtesy Grand Central Publishing, YouTube)

Want to find out more about how the authors came up with the idea for this book? Enjoy the following video.

(Video courtesy Grand Central Publishing, YouTube)

About Heather Fink
Heather Fink is a writer, bibliophile and award-winning librarian who loves to introduce the next generation of readers to the wonderful world of books. She currently resides in Texas.

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: