“Pendergast did not speak. With the firelight flickering over his gaunt features, his head bowed, an expression of intense thought on his face, surrounded by Victorian trappings, he suddenly looked so much like Holmes himself that Kleefisch was taken aback.”
This is the thirteenth book in a series. This review contains no spoilers for previous books, aside from giving away the survival of two characters.
White Fire, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
#13 in the Pendergast series
Grand Central Publishing, November 2013
379 pages (ebook)
Special Agent Pendergast arrives at an exclusive Colorado ski resort to rescue his protegee, Corrie Swanson, from serious trouble with the law. His sudden appearance coincides with the first attack of a murderous arsonist who – with brutal precision – begins burning down multimillion-dollar mansions with the families locked inside. After springing Corrie from jail, Pendergast learns she made a discovery while examining the bones of several miners who were killed 150 years earlier by a rogue grizzly bear. Her finding is so astonishing that it, even more than the arsonist, threatens the resort’s very existence.
Drawn deeper into the investigation, Pendergast uncovers a mysterious connection between the dead miners and a fabled, long-lost Sherlock Holmes story – one that might just offer the key to the modern day killings as well.
Now, with the ski resort snowed in and under savage attack – and Corrie’s life suddenly in grave danger – Pendergast must solve the enigma of the past before the town of the present goes up in flames.
*** I requested this review copy through NetGalley. ***
I was vaguely disappointed with the last couple Pendergast novels. I really enjoyed Fever Dream, the first in a trilogy within the series… but then Cold Vengeance and Two Graves, while good books, just went in a direction that wasn’t as compelling for me.
So that, combined with the fact that this one starts with Pendergast taking a back seat to Corrie Swanson, one of the supporting cast from the Pendergast universe… let’s just say that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Thankfully, he doesn’t take long to come back into the spotlight. Pendergast – a rather unorthodox FBI investigator – is such an interesting character that it’s a pleasure to watch him work and interact with those around him, especially those who aren’t familiar with him. And there’s plenty of that in this novel, which takes place far from New York and all of the familiar secondary characters there.
A lot of the tension in this one comes from Corrie sticking her neck out where she shouldn’t. She’s stubborn to the point of stupidity, and it’s an obvious plot device, but I buy it. She’s twenty years old, and she’s trying to prove herself. She’s indebted to Pendergast (a few times over), but she resents his involvement in what she sees as “her case” and wants to solve it on her own. Yes, she makes some eye-roll-inducing mistakes along the way. But it works.
The part of this book that I really loved was the key role of a lost Sherlock Holmes story. It’s fitting, considering how often Pendergast, with his peculiar methods, has been compared to the famous detective. I probably would have gotten more out of this if I’d read any Holmes myself, but it was enjoyable regardless.
White Fire is available in print, as well as for Kindle, Nook, and other e-readers.
Does this sound like something you’d pick up? Have you read any of the Pendergast novels before? (Or, for that matter, any Holmes?)