Do You Believe in Aliens?: A Review of Diablo Mesa by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.
Y’all, I have a special review for you today! Today’s post is brought to you by Novel Suspect’s Insiders Club; they aren’t paying me for my review, they just sent me the book for free. Thank you so much to Grand Central Publishing and Novel Suspect’s Insiders Club for sending me an advanced copy of Diablo Mesa by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I know I always say this, but it truly does mean a lot to me that someone out there wants to send me new release titles early. Thank you once again.
As I said, today’s review is on the latest Preston and Child novel: Diablo Mesa. Diablo Mesa released just yesterday, February 15, 2022. Yes, I’m a day late on this one, but the latest Versus Match took precedent. Sorry not sorry.
Full disclosure, I really enjoyed this book. I’m a sucker for a good crime procedural. I may or may not have cried when it was announced CSI was returning. There is one thing I love more than a good crime procedural though. A good crime procedural with a twist! I just finished binge watching iZombie not too long ago, I’m currently making my way through Lucifer; I think you can see what I’m getting at here. I like it when crime dramas get a little something extra thrown into their DNA to spice them up. So what’s Diablo Mesa about then? Let me tell, ya.
As always a spoiler alert is in order. You’ve been warned.
Yes, that’s right, aliens. Diablo Mesa deals with aliens. Specifically the infamous Roswell incident. In the present day, billionaire Lucas Tappan wants to discover what exactly crashed in the desert all those years ago. Enter archaeologist Nora Kelly, she’s at the top of her career at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute. Tappan specifically wants Nora to be the lead archaeologist on this excavation because she is the best in the field. But she doesn’t want anything to do with the Roswell dig.
After a series of unfortunate events, Nora begrudgingly finds herself working for Tappan even though she knows she’s going to become the laughing stock of the archaeology community. And right out of the gate, things don’t go according to plan. Nora’s dig team discovers two murder victims, whose physical features were burned off with acid, on the first day of the dig which leads to FBI Agent Corrie Swanson visiting the site.
Agent Swanson works tirelessly to solve this horrific murder, but her investigation is plagued with death, destruction, and shady characters. Nora Kelly isn't dealing with much better at the dig site. The Roswell dig isn’t discovering much, and a high profile member of the team goes missing not long after the start. To top it off, the government is breathing down their necks and there’s totally nothing shady about that. Yep, the government is totally not trying to cover up proof of aliens.
This is the third book in the Nora Kelly/Agent Corrie Swanson series by Preston and Child. I have not read the first two books, nor did I need to in order to understand this entry, but I really want to now. I enjoyed this book a lot. I was invested in the plot and characters. Well, the plot and one character. Mainly the plot. I’m mainly here for the plot.
Nora Kelly was the only character I actually cared about. Corrie Swanson wasn’t very present in the story. Lucas Tappan may as well be named Elon Musk cause Tappan is pretty much a stand in for Musk. I could do without Skip Kelly, he’s Nora’s brother but he just annoyed me. Seriously, I only cared about Nora and her dog! The dog is the only character that matters! The dog is fine by the way. No danger or injury befalls the dog, and that’s all that matters.
So let’s talk about Nora Kelly. This woman is amazing! She's not a pushover. She’s incredible at her job, and she knows it! She knows she deserves the world cause she’s worth it! And she can sniff out bullshit from a mile away. I love this woman.
But, like I said, I’m not here for the characters. To me, this book is all about the plot. I wanna know what shady government secrets this US government has! I wanna know about aliens! What is the government in this book hiding? It’s a lot more than just aliens, I’ll tell you that one for free.
You can probably tell that I cared about the alien plotline more than the solving murder one. Honestly, the murder part got pushed to the backseat. And you wouldn’t think that at the start seeing as the victims had their features burned off with acid. The victims kinda get forgotten about. An accident at an FBI lab causes all the evidence to be lost in a fire and Agent Swanson’s mentor ultimately dies in a way that makes her think something more is going on within the FBI; between that and the aliens something had to be pushed to the back. Now I’m not necessarily upset by this, but Diablo Mesa is crime procedural first and foremost.
I guess this is a good time to remind everyone that I haven’t read any of the other books in the Nora Kelly series. Nor have I read any of Preston and Child’s books for that matter. So the crime procedural aspect being pushed to the back burner could be a thing that happens in this series that I just don’t know about. I’m just pointing this out though. In retrospect, it feels odd that there isn't a big focus on the murder investigation. But again, I’m not mad about it.
There was only one thing that I truly disliked within the pages of Diablo Mesa, and it has to deal with two of the main characters. Nora Kelly and our Elon Musk stand in begin a sexual relationship while working on the Roswell dig. I hear the fictional misogynists that live in this book’s world yelling, “she slept her way to the top,” or, “she slept with him to get the job.” I can tell this book was written by men because most women have a friend who tells them not to do what Nora did for the reason I just listed.
It gets worse though. By the end, these two are in a committed relationship. That’s fine. Good for them. Except for one big issue! On the surface, it looks like Nora is in this relationship for his money and connections, and Nora should know and recognize that. Lucas Tappan, our billionaire obsessed with aliens, has basically bought Nora a better job than what she had at the start of the book. He buys her a seat on Santa Fe’s Archeological Institute’s board! At the start of this book, Nora is worried that her reputation will be ruined by working the Roswell dig, but I think at the end she has bigger reputation issues to be worried about.
Nora is a character who takes pride in her work. That is one of the first things I as a reader learned about her. That aspect of her leaps off the page. I’ve never read any other book with this character, but I know who she is. Yet she’s, in a sense, completely destroyed on the last page. Like, I'm glad that she's no longer caring what people think of her, but in reality, this would be a major issue for her professional reputation that she would care about! I think the authors completely lost her character right at the end. If this series continues, which I imagine it will, I want this issue brought up and discussed if not fixed. Nora Kelly does not deserve to be done dirty like this.
I still really enjoyed this book though. Like I said, I love a good crime procedural with a little spice to it. And I’m not a big fan of science-fiction, but I did enjoy that aspect of this book. Is Diablo Mesa perfect? No, but that’s okay. I expect some things to be overhauled in the next entry of the series, but that’s an issue for book four. I would like to make it known to all publishing houses that I am available for edits if you’re looking for a feminist perspective. Or just in general. Please feel free to contact me through the Reading Has Ruined My Life gmail account.
And on that note, I must bid you all adieu. I shall see you all next with another new review. And thank you once again to Novel Suspect's Insiders Club and Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy of this book.
Until then, stay safe, wear a mask, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.