Wednesday, 18 December 2013

MORE GREAT CHRISTMAS READS FOR DECEMBER 2013

White Fire, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

As patient readers of this little blog will know, I have long been a fan of Preston and Child’s fearless protagonist FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast, along with millions of other dedicated followers of his hair-raising adventures as he deploys his considerable intellectual and physical powers to defeat all manner of dastardly villains. (see October 2010 review of ‘Cold Vengeance’ below)  Sadly, ‘Two Graves’ the white-knuckle adventure preceding this latest title was so absurd, so defying of all credulity that I couldn’t in all conscience write my usual ecstatic review – I mean, come ON:  a nest of evil  NeoNazis in the South American Jungle conducting eugenic experiments so that they can breed another Master Race, and who should be involved but Pendergast’s great love Helen, mother of twins he didn’t know he’d fathered (gasp!), one of whom is bred specially for great things, and the other (double gasp!!) for slavery. 
Our hero destroys the nest of evil Nazi vipers, but at great personal cost (Helen really does die this time), causing Pendergast to sink into a slough of despond from which he has great difficulty extricating himself, BUT!
His creators need to bring him back from his hell of substance abuse and depression for this latest adventure, and I am happy to say that ‘White Fire’ is a complete success, with only limited reference to ward Constance Green ( meditating in a monastery in the Himalayas) and his good and evil twins (of the nasty one no trace;  the good one is getting an education at an exclusive Swiss Academy).  Instead this adventure centres on Corrie Swanson, Pendergast’s sponsored protégé and student at the prestigious John Jay College of Criminal Justice who decides to base her thesis on the supposed slaughter by a bear of eleven miners 150 years ago in a remote area mined for silver in Colorado.  By great coincidence the rough mining camp of Roaring Fork has now become the exclusive ski resort and winter vacation wonderland of the megarich and famous – and others who find Corrie’s desire for information and request to examine the exhumed bodies of some of the miners intrusive and unhelpful:  she must be discouraged permanently from her investigations, and with a ruthlessness that takes Corrie’s breath away she suddenly finds herself in prison facing a ten-year sentence for ‘desecration of a corpse’ and various other lesser charges.  Her devastation is absolute – until Pendergast, finally roused from his torpor by her desperate situation arrives in Roaring Fork complete with the necessary evidence to refute the charges and send a message to the villains that their nefarious plans are not going to succeed.  Oh, it’s great stuff, and as an added bonus Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his great hero Sherlock Holmes are connected to Pendergast’s modern day sleuthing in an entirely credible subplot, forming the basis of his ultimately successful solving of The Mystery – but not before Corrie undergoes some truly death-defying experiences (she has her little finger shot off and nearly goes up in smoke for being unwittingly lippy to a madman), as required in any suspense novel worth its salt.  It is a pleasure to welcome Pendergast back to the land of the living –at least as portrayed by Preston and Child:   his mourning period is now thankfully over and he can attend to his usual business of conquering evil, striking fear into the black hearts of villains everywhere with his pale eyes, pale hair and an inexhaustible supply of money and black designer suits.  Lincoln and Child are back to their best:  sound scholarship, good research and a great plot.  Who could ask for more?  This is the ideal holiday read.      

Cold Vengeance, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
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Guess who’s back!  Messrs. Lincoln and Child have been working their little tails off to provide fans with the next instalment of the intrepid adventures of FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast, that peerless paragon of perfection in all things, arbiter of funereal fashion excellence – he always wears black designer suits, giving him ‘the look of a wealthy undertaker’ -  and lethal weapon in the perpetual battle against the forces of evil.  As always, the reader is transported to places near and far, starting in the Scottish Highlands where Pendergast has been shot and left for dead in a bog by his wicked brother-in-law.  He cannot possibly survive shooting and drowning – can he?  Mere mortals would long be contributing to the swamp gases, but not our Aloysius :  he manages to haul himself out of the muck and crawl 12 miles (truly!) to shelter and the devoted nursing of a reclusive auld biddie who lives on the wild moors (this is Scotland, remember), gradually returning  to good health, thanks to his cast-iron constitution, burning desire for revenge, and the new-found knowledge that his beloved wife Helen, killed twelve years before by a lion (!) is actually still alive.  And as the ultimate plot device, Lincoln and Child have brought in the Neo-Nazis in the shape of a diabolical organization called The Covenant.  What CAN one say?  Except that you’ll just have to keep on reading all this glorious silliness to find out WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.  These books are seriously good fun and I can’t wait for the next one:  will Aloysius be reunited with his wife, captured by said evil Neo- Nazis?  Will Aloysius be able to sustain yet another gunshot wound? (He is now more ventilated than a Swiss Cheese.) Will his ward Constance Green reveal where she has hidden her baby, the son of his mad brother Diogenes?  Oh, the questions are endless and had better be answered soon, otherwise the enormous cult following of Agent Pendergast - he has his own webpage – will suffer terminal withdrawal symptoms.  Funeral garb has never been more cool, and the FBI”s reputation has been burnished quite undeservedly. Trashy escapism of the very highest quality, and entertainment par excellence.   

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