Title: Fever Dream
Authors: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Year of Publication: 2010
Length: 528 pages
New or Re-Read?: New!
Rating: 4.5 stars
Okay, so. I love the Pendergast thrillers. I got hooked on them when I picked up The Book of the Dead by accident (the 7th book in the series, and third of an in-series trilogy), and then had to backtrack and put the rest of them in order. Someday, I’m going to start the series at the beginning and review them all on this blog, but I have quite enough re-read projects on my plate at the moment as it is. Maybe over the summer — these are great beach reads.
It seems perfectly valid, though, to go ahead and do a review now for Fever Dream, the 10th book in the series, which I got in the mail a couple of days ago and tore through in under 24 hours. (I wait for the paperbacks of these because I have a thing about matched sets, and since my first 8 books in the series were all mass markets… yeah, it would make me a little crazy to have hardcovers. So I have to torture myself by waiting for the paperback releases). It’s the first book in a new in-series trilogy, and it’s not so heavily dependent on what’s come before. One of the great things about these books, though, is that they all are stand-alone, even the ones within sets.
Readers of the Pendergast thrillers have long known that he had a wife, once upon a time, who met with a tragic accident while on a hunting trip in Africa. In Fever Dream, Aloysius Pendergast learns that the accident was actually murder. The opening chapters flashback to these events, and it’s… really quite brutal. P&C don’t shy away from the gruesome when occasion calls for it. Pendergast uncovers a previously overlooked detail, and this discovery sets him on a path to vengeance like none he’s ever pursued before. Naturally, he pulls in Lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta, the closest thing to a best friend he has, to help with the investigation.
I won’t even try to hide the fact that I adore Agent Pendergast. He’s fascinating, and has been ever since he first showed up in a purely supporting role in Relic. The mix of ruthless FBI efficiency with genteel Southern charm just makes me swoon. He’s so full of odd quirks, peculiar habits, and contradictions. He shows more genuine emotion in Fever Dream than he’s shown before, even when dealing with his brother in an earlier trilogy — the resurfacing of emotions attached to his wife really seems to get to him. The readers experience him largely through D’Agosta in this book, and so we feel the bewilderment at seeing Pendergast come a little unhinged. I confess, it thrills me — there’s just something delicious about watching the iron control slip. Everyone describes Pendergast as cold, but it’s apparent here that there are deep passions in him — just ones that he’s spent a long time and a lot of effort burying. In Fever Dream, we see them threaten to boil over.
This book takes off like a rocket and doesn’t let up. I nearly had two heart attacks in the middle of it — because I know that P&C aren’t afraid to pull punches or kill off beloved characters. It’s the “no one is safe” threat, and it’s always real, so when something bad happens, it’s truly heart-stopping. Pursuing clues, Pendergast and D’Agosta ricochet from Louisiana to Zambia to Maine and back again. And I had been waiting for P&C to take Pendergast back to his native Louisiana. I’d been praying they would for years now. Most of the books take place in New York, though a few have had other settings — the Midwest, Europe, the Atlantic Ocean — but we’ve only gotten tantalizing hints of Pendergast in his homeland. When I heard Fever Dream would take place in Louisiana, I was overcome with excitement, and P&C didn’t disappoint me; Fever Dream is full of backwater towns and gator-ridden bayous. P&C handle the twists and turns deftly, never letting the pace slacken — precisely what you want from a thriller.
The other thing I so enjoy about P&C thrillers is that they always have a slightly sci-fi twist. It’s always within the realm of plausibility, but they make speculations about where modern science could go. In that way, their novels are somewhat like Michael Crichton novels — only with a suspense twist. In Crichton novels, the science is typically front-and-center; in P&C thrillers, it slides in sideways. Usually the main characters discover it as they go along, piecing improbabilities together, and that’s the case in Fever Dream, though in some other novels, we get the viewpoint of the involved scientists as well. Their sci-fi elements never create a new universe, it all fits in perfectly well with our version of reality, but it gives their novels that little extra kick that not all mysteries have.
I’ve also noticed that P&C have a fascination with mob violence. It shows in the Pendergast novels (Reliquary in particular) and in some of the stand alones (especially Preston’s Blasphemy). It’s a concept they explore again in Fever Dream. I confess, I was worried when the idea was introduced that it would take over the story, derail an already packed plotline — but it didn’t. P&C used it as an effective element and then let it drop naturally, rather than carrying it through past the point of usefulness.
Overall — I loved this book. P&C deliver brain candy of the very highest quality yet again. Fever Dream is a fast-paced rocket of a book, a thoroughly enjoyable entry into the series. The mystery of Helen’s murder isn’t fully solved by the end of the book, which ends on a cliffhanger. I’ll be looking forward to the next two books with great excitement. I highly recommend this, and the whole Pendergast series, to lovers of thrillers and mysteries, but also to anyone looking to experiment in a new genre. I don’t typically read a lot of thrillers, but P&C’s are just fantastic, and I’m completely addicted to them.