Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The break is over…

Fever Dream
by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

While I have been a fan of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, individually and collectively, for nearly two decades now, I’m the rare fan that feels a little Agent Pendergast goes a long way. A few years ago, I began to feel, well, Pendergasted-out. I needed a break from the series and I took it.

As the old saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Knowing that there was a new Pendergast novel about to be released, I decided to get back up to speed and reenter the series. And reading Fever Dream at this time worked out perfectly. It’s the first novel in the so-called Helen Pendergast Trilogy, and it feeds straight into their latest release, Cold Vengeance.

The novel opens with a flashback to 12 years earlier. It returns us to the African hunting trip that cost Helen her life. Hers is a gruesome death, mauled by a lion. In the present day, FBI Special Agent Pendergast makes a shocking discovery. It’s a tiny detail out of place, never noticed before, but it leads Pendergast to the inescapable conclusion that his wife was murdered all those years prior. From that point on, the usually cool and collected agent is a man possessed. His only goal is to find out why Helen was killed and to see her murderer dead.

To that end, he conscripts Lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta of the NYPD as his partner in this cold case. Soon enough, Pendergast realizes that his beloved wife had kept secrets from him. I won’t summarize further, except to mention that Preston and Child manage to again integrate speculative science most entertainingly into their convoluted plot. This plot, being only the first in the trilogy, is perhaps a bit more convoluted than most. The first book completes a satisfying arc of the story, but the larger picture is not yet filled in.

Revisiting with these old friends, I remembered why I sometimes feel frustration with this principle character, with his quirky behavior and situational ethics. Intriguingly, Mssrs. Preston and Child have a significant character in the series, Laura Hayward, who seems to share my opinion. Despite this, there was great joy in returning to their tales. I’ve known these characters for so long, and they do find themselves embroiled in some interesting conundrums. Preston and Child have their formula down to a science. The books move at a lightning pace and the stories are pure entertainment. It seems the trial separation is over. I was fortunate to be able to dive straight into Fever Dream’s sequel, and I will be sure to acquire the last in the trilogy as soon as I am able.

NOTE:  My review of the sequel, Cold Vengeance, follows immediately below.

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