2010; 405 pages. New Author? : No. Book 10 (out of 14) in the Agent Pendergast Series; Book 1 (out of 3) in the “Helen” trilogy. Genre : Thriller; Murder-Mystery. Overall Rating : 8½*/10.
For 12 long years, Special Agent Pendergast has grieved over the loss of his wife, Helen, killed in a tragic accident by a man-eating lion while they were on a safari in Africa. Now suddenly he discovers it was instead a premeditated, cold-blooded murder.
Obviously, Pendergast is going to find the perpetrator of the plot, and wreak vengeance and justice upon the unlucky soul. But whoever did this went to a lot of time and trouble, to say nothing of money, to make it look like an accident. And Helen was just a nurse.
So beyond the question of “Who” did it lies a more subtle and perplexing one.
What’s To Like...
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book from this series (the previous one is reviewed here), so it was nice to meet up with the ‘old gang’ again. Aloysius Pendergast is his usual, incisive self, and Detective Vincent D’Agosta plays an entertaining Dr. Watson to Pendergast’s Sherlock Holmes. Constance Greene, perhaps my favorite character in the series, is back, although her actions really remain tangential to the main storyline here. Perhaps she becomes more relevant further on in the trilogy. The other main character is D’Agosta’s girlfriend, Laura Hayward. Although one of the “good guys”, she resents the perils into which D’Agosta falls via his association with Pendergast. I like it when there is tension among the protagonists.
Fever Dream is first and foremost a Murder-Mystery, and structured more like a fast-paced Thriller than a Police Procedural. The 12-year lag in Pendergast discovering this was a murder makes it a cold case, and those are always fascinating. Some key players have passed away, others have disappeared. The usual Preston & Child motif of “Is it natural or is it supernatural?” is not present here, other than the continuing mystery of “Who or What is Constance Greene?”
The storyline moves along briskly, as Pendergast finds out there were many sides of Helen that she had kept hidden from him. The settings are primarily Africa and the swamps and Cajun regions of Louisiana and Mississippi. There are plenty of plot twists, and the motive for killing Helen is both clever and original. The ending ties everything up neatly, although one of the baddies eludes capture to set up the sequel.
Kewlest New Word ...
Foxed (adj.) : (of the paper in old books) discolored with brown spots.
Others : Scrofulous (adj.); Serried (adj.); Amanuensis (n.).
“Care for another sundowner?” Pendergast asked his wife, raising the cocktail pitcher.
“Another?” she replied with a laugh. “Aloysius, you wouldn’t be planning an assault on my virtue, would you?”
“The thought never entered my mind. I was hoping perhaps we could spend the night discussing Kant’s concept of the categorical imperative.”
“Now you see, this is exactly what my mother warned me about. You marry a man because he’s good with a rifle, only to find he has the brains of an ocelot.” (pg. 2)
“And the father? Is he still alive?”
“He was precipitated into a pyroclastic flow.”
“He was ... excuse me?”
“It’s a geological term. He fell into a volcano.” (pg. 218)
“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.” (pg. 75, and actually from Shakespeare’s “King Lear”. )
The quibbles are few and minor. Pendergast waltzes into the NYPD unannounced, tells D-Agosta he needs to leave his job immediately for an unknown-but-substantial length of time, on an investigation that may well get one or both of them killed, and D’Agosta just ups and accepts. If I were his boss, I would be less than pleased.
Also, Maurice the butler commits a rather blatant gaffe that could’ve spelled the deaths of our heroes. I’d go as far as to call it a firing offense.
Still, it was impressive the way Preston & Child addressed the “why go to all this trouble” issue, and if some of the action was a bit over-the-top, well it was all for a good storytelling cause.
8½ Stars. Fever Dream was an exciting, spellbinding read, as were all the books in this series that I’ve read so far (6 out of 14). I am at a loss to say why I took a 6-year hiatus from a series that has always kept me entertained. I think it will be a lot shorter time before I tackle Book 2 in this trilogy.