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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Fever Dream" by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Visit Preston and Child's Official Website Here
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AUTHOR INFORMATION: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are collaborators who have written thirteen previous novels. Douglas Preston lives in Santa Fe and Maine and Lincoln Child lives in New Jersey. They usually meet each other while touring or at conferences. Douglas Preston was a curator previously for the New York natural history museum in which their first book Relic was set. Lincoln Child was an editor with St. Martins previously. Their debut book was made into a movie of the same name by Paramount.

PLOT SUMMARY: At the old family mansion in Louisiana, Special Agent Pendergast is putting to rest long-ignored possessions reminiscent of his wife Helen's tragic death, only to make a stunning-and dreadful-discovery. Helen had been mauled by an unusually large and vicious lion while they were big game hunting in Africa. But now, Pendergast learns that her rifle-her only protection from the beast-had been deliberately loaded with blanks. Who could have wanted Helen dead...and why?

With Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta's assistance, Pendergast embarks on a quest to uncover the mystery of his wife's murder. It is a journey that sends him deep into her past where he learns much that Helen herself had wished to keep hidden. Helen Pendergast had nursed a secret obsession with the famed naturalist-painter John James Audubon, in particular a long-lost painting of his known as the Black Frame.

As Pendergast probes more deeply into the riddle - the answer to which is revealed in a night of shocking violence, deep in the Louisiana bayou-he finds himself faced with an even greater question: who was the woman he married? And why was she murdered?

FORMAT/INFO: Fever Dream is 405 pages divided into eighty chapters and an epilogue. Narration is via Third person and features the characters are Aloysius X.L. Pendergast, Lt. Vincent D’Agosta, Captain Laura Hayward, Judson Esterhazy, Dr. John Felder and couple of others. This book is the first in the Helen Pendergast Trilogy and the plot ends with the book.

May 11, 2010 marked the North American Hardcover publication of Fever Dream via Grand Central Publishing.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Special agent A.X.L. Pendergast returns in his 10th outing by Messrs Preston & Child and in this one Pendergast is pitted against someone whom he doesn’t even know of? His life has always been shrouded in mystery but it was crystal clear to his wife Helen. Until, a gruesome hunting accident robbed Pendergast of his idyllic companion. However a recent discovery made entirely by chance reveals that the entire scenario might have been untrue so much so in fact to suggest that the hunting accident could have been premeditated.

When confronted with a dilemma as to how to proceed next Pendergast turns to the one person whom he calls his friend and ally Lt. Vincent D’Agosta and he comes along with him to help solve what could be Pendergast’s bĂȘte noir.

Pendergast then along with D’Agosta tracks down his wife Helen and her movements before and after their marriage. All of these turn out to be highly difficult as Helen turns out to be a person with a very Machiavellian agenda, as they navigate the twists and turns they realize that she was besotted with famed artist John James Audubon and his supposed lost masterpiece “The Black Frame”. They also try to get more information about her past from her brother Judson Esterhazy who is shocked as well about this new information and will go to any lengths to see that justice is met for his sister. The clues point them in several directions and D’Agosta and Pendergast part ways to search for them individually taking them places far off in the south and east of the continental US.

All this while Pendergast seems to be ruffled, all of his life he has trusted a select few and amongst the few, Helen was his most trusted however this new turn of events seems to shaken him to the core and thus we get to see a Pendergast who’s operating without his usual calm and impenetrable demeanor, his movements and action seem more robust and frantic and he has a plan for justice of the vigilante sort.

Captain Laura Hayward, D’Agosta’s love interest, is a character whom I have liked since her introduction in Reliquary, however since her last few appearances she seems to have been under-utilized by the authors. This however is not the case in this book as due to certain events we see her take a more active role in Pendergast’s investigation and for the first time we get to see how their different but effective methods gel together. Another very interesting side plot is that of Constance Greene and her return to help Pendergast, however things take a rather different turn for Constance and this plot I assume will be further explored in the remaining parts of the trilogy. The authors have also decided to part ways with a few of their beloved characters since their book last year and it seems that they will be continuing this trend with this book and in the future as well. Constance subplot has a very apropos ending and long time fans might appreciate the irony.

Messrs Preston and Child have decided to unveil more about the past of their enigmatic character and like their last trilogy about Diogenes, the focus of this trilogy will be Helen Pendergast, about whom just a few sentences have been alluded to in the previous nine volumes. The writing is sharp as ever and they have again decided to include a famed real life persona into their plot(They had done this previously with Brimstone and included a Stradivarius Violin as a main plot element) in this case John James Audubon. They have successfully amalgamated his paintings and fictional masterpiece into this plot.

The best part about this book is that all newcomers can jump into this book without having read any of the previous Pendergast titles and they will not be confused. The authors have laced enough info to give the new reader the required amount of information to proceed and not get confused about the past dealings of these characters. At the same time, previous book plots are not spoiled so readers for whom this book clicked for can go back and read the remaining books until next year when the next book is released. To help those here is the chronological order in which the previous books are meant to be read can be found here.

The book ends on a rather even keel unlike the Brimstone (book 1 of Diogenes trilogy) and again Messrs Preston-Child deliver a sound book which will hearken the strings of their old fans and will definitely gain them newer readers as well. If you aren’t a reader yet then this would be an excellent time to get yourself acquainted with their books and find out why this duo are considered to be the top rung of the Techno-Thrillers genre.


Jon said...

I read Relic a while back and enjoyed it. Unfortunately, my local library seems to be ingnoring Messrs. Preston & Child's collaborations, though they seem to get some of Child's solo mysteries every once in a while, which I read.

Unknown said...

I just finished Fever Dream and was wondering about being left hanging when it came to Constance Greene and a few other things. I assume there will be more books that tie things together???

The Reader said...

Hi Nancy

Yes the sub plot with Constance & Pendergast's search will be resolved in the remaining 2 books in the Helen Pendergast trilogy in 2011 & 2012.


Anonymous said...

I'm a huge fan of the Preston, Child books I've read them all in sucession.

I usually listen to them on audiobooks makes them very exciting.

I'm loving "Fevered Dream" at first I wasn't sure about the new reader Rene' Auberjonois'. There usually read by Scott Brick.

But after the 1st CD ur actually glad they changed the reader. Gives the book a whole new demention.

And being left on pins and needles when you don't know what's happened to a character just keeps you coming back for more! Carol


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