Preston & Child’s 10th Special Agent Pendergast novel, Fever Dream, is the first of a trilogy about the agent’s long-lost wife, Helen, who was slain by a lion while they were on safari in Africa.
Special Agent Aloysius X. L. Pendergast became a hit with movie goers after the novel Relic was made into a major motion picture. That was my first exposure to the character and to the authors. Since then I’ve been reading their books as I get the time. The 10th installment in Pendergast’s saga is no disappointment.
From the authors’ website: “At the old family manse 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?”
Whether the reader has seen Relic or read any of the other Pendergast novels, this stand alone trilogy will grip fans off suspense, thriller, and mystery alike. Pendergast seems to be an anachronism in the FBI, let alone in modern society. Fond of dark suits, paired with his pale skin, he looks to be either an undertaker or an eccentric Southern gentleman. This impression is furthered by his preference for driving his classic Rolls Royce. His unique psyche and understanding of the criminal mind leaves the impression that he himself might be a sociopath. His obsession for detail and penchant for eliminating his perps rather than bringing them to justice just might make him a psychopath with an FBI badge and gun.
Fever Dream, taken as it is, reads well enough. Preston and Child give enough background on their characters to make it easy for a new reader to follow along without wondering where this little tidbit or that hint of something from another case came from. The book also brings in that element of love that is often missing from hard crime novels. Pendergast loved his wife, and still does, but he’s learning as the story unfolds that the woman he loved and the woman Helen was might not be the same person. With hints of psychodrama (and mental illness) threaded through the story, fans of psychological thrillers just might find the trilogy worth picking up. Audubon being at the center of the investigation and the mystery of who Helen was will be of interest to the Naturist and the art lover. Elements of medical mystery combines with other twists and turns definitely kept this reader flipping pages to get to the end.
And of course I am already reading book two in the Helen trilogy of the Pendergast series with book three sitting on my to-be-read shelf.