Monday, November 25, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: White Fire by Preston & Child

      "Knocking over his chair in his agitation, one hand to his forehead, the man staggered from the room, nearly upsetting a waiter's tray of delicacies. And as he vanished in the direction of the gentlemen's toilet area, his face displayed a perfect expression of revulsion. 
     The last two sentences of the Prologue of White Fire, the latest novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, describes the exit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle after his dinner companion, Oscar Wilde, tells him about an event in Roaring Fork, Colorado, that he learned of while on his US tour in the late 1880's. A story so gruesome, so vile and disturbing, that he could not bring himself to commit it to paper. But would Conan Doyle? And why would it matter in a Twenty-First Century thriller? 
     Chapter One begins in the present day, with criminal justice student
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Corrie Swanson working to find a thesis acceptable to her hard to please adviser at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a retired NYPD Detective who was a, "strikingly handsome man with salt-and-pepper hair, wonderful teeth, trim and fit, a good dresser, articulate, soft-spoken, intelligent, and successful. Everything he did, he did well, and as a result he was an accomplished asshole indeed." Finally, and not without some deceit, Corrie's third thesis idea was approved: she would spend winter break studying the bones of miners killed in the late 1880's, presumably by a grizzly bear. She was off to Roaring Fork, Colorado, to start her research. 

     With its mining days behind it, Roaring Fork was now populated by the super rich. Being a millionaire wasn't good enough; it took a few hundred million dollars to be noticed. Corrie immediately set out to work examining the bones of the a miner, but after she got one quick peek, she was suddenly and inexplicably refused access. That peek showed her enough to know that the dead miner was not killed by a grizzly bear, but likely murdered. And she was intent not only to prove it, but to prove who the killers were, over one hundred thirty years later. Whoever revoked her access to the bones didn't want her to solve the century old mystery, and will stop at nothing to stop her.

     White Fire is the thirteenth in the series co-written by Preston and  Child featuring the mysterious FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast, "...his scultped, albaster, so blond it was almost white...eyes of such pale gray-blue that, even across the room, he looked almost like an alien." It was my second read of the series, following Still Life with Crows
     There were similarities between the two books. Like Still Life, there is a mystery that appears surreal, crimes so heinous it must be a monster or ghost that is the guilty party. But other than a reader's inferences, Preston and Child never took the books in the direction of the paranormal. Instead, Special Agent Pendergast, with deduction skills matched only by Sherlock Holmes, solves the mystery with worldly explanation.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

     White Fire is well balanced between compelling characters, a good, multi-layered plot, and thrills that kept coming. I enjoyed the injection of literary history about Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And, while I won't include any spoilers, the ending, and the solution to many of the book's mysteries, made a social statement about our power elite, environment, and how the two are still often connected to the sins of the Nineteenth Century. 

Child, Lincoln and Preston, Douglas. White Fire. Grand Central Publishing, 2013. 
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455525836

Review copy provided courtesy of Grand Central Publishing. No payment was made for this review.

     Creative Commons License

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