Friday, December 6, 2013

White Fire Delivers on the Promise of Pendergast

Five qualities of a really good mystery/thriller are:
  1. Draws readers in and doesn't let go
  2. Has compelling characters that readers can become passionate about
  3. Tells a captivating story that's exciting and interesting, suspenseful and scary
  4. Surprises readers
  5. Leaves readers wanting more
"White Fire" is all those things and more. Preston and Child have written, arguably, their best Pendergast book to date. The story is fantastic, the double, intertwining mysteries and the setting are all excellent. The inclusion of a "lost" Sherlock Holmes mystery, and the scene featuring Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde were well placed and fun to read. (I couldn't help but picture Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as I read the Holmes story). I really couldn't wait to get back to it every time I put it down. Last night, when I finished it, I felt so sad that it was over, and it's hovered around my mind ever since, like I can't let go yet.

I really enjoyed Corrie's storyline; she's my favorite of Pendergast's female associates. I also liked the setting, which is high in the mountains of Colorado in a former mining town that is now a bustling ski resort town for the uber-wealthy. I was reminded of Park City or Sundance, here in Utah. Reading a story set in winter, just as winter set in just added to the fun. 

Best of all, though, Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast is back in fine form. Much has changed for him, but so much is the same. In the last few books, his character took a detour from the norm, to deal with some personal things (which I think are still unresolved; I can't remember), and while I liked those books, I didn't love them, like I had the previous books. 

I missed the Pendergast I fell in love with-- the one who is an enigma: part Sherlock Holmes, part unbeatable FBI agent (like an American James Bond sans womanizing), and part New Orleans aristocrat. I adore his mannerisms, his eccentricities, his intelligence, his ability to see beyond the simple crime scene, and his own personal mysteries. I appreciated him becoming a bit more human in those last few books, and I think there was some excellent character development as he experienced tragedy, devastation, and shock, among other things, but I was so happy to have a more familiar Pendergast story in "White Fire". 

The end of the book is superb, and things happened I didn't see coming, which is always fun. And Pendergast's recently developed sliver of emotive humanity remains, which is good. Continuity is important to fans, and Preston and Child don't neglect it.

Thank you, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. "White Fire" has all the things I hope for when I pick up one of your books. In a word: delicious.

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