Through nine previous novels Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have enrapt readers with the exploits of FBI Special Agent Aloysius X.L. Pendergast. The cases are always bizarre, with inklings of the supernatural, and Pendergast’s modus operandi is quite unorthodox. Although the majority of the novels are set in New York, Pendergast is from an old New Orleans family with a sordid history. Tall, lean with white/blonde hair and even whiter skin, Pendergast is always dressed in black woolen suits and is often mistaken for an undertaker. During each novel, more of Pendergast's past has been slowly revealed, especially in the trilogy of books dealing with his brother Diogenes. The readers knew Pendergast was married and his wife, Helen, has been killed by a lion on safari twelve years ago.
The prologue of Fever Dream recounts the events leading up to Helen’s demise. Back in present day New Orleans, Pendergast visits his homestead and discovers Helen’s gun had been loaded with blanks. Someone, for some reason, had set Helen up! It was murder. The quest for Helen’s killer(s) is made more difficult since a dozen years have passed and so have many of the potential witnesses. The journey takes Pendergast and his adopted partner Lt. D’Agosta from Africa, to Georgia, to Maine but mostly around Louisiana.
I attended a Fever Dream release book signing and Preston and Child spoke and answered questions. They referred to the book as the first of the Helen Trilogy. There are several deviations from past novels, the main ones are the setting (not in NY) and the lack of the mystical elements. It is still fascinating and I am amazed how the authors continue to tie seemingly random elements together in a believable coherent story. In this case, we have a murder in Africa, John James Audubon and his mysterious lost painting “The Black Frame”, stolen Carolina parakeets and a family of four that met a horrible end.
By the end, Pendergast has solved the case... almost. There is still at least one person at large and many unanswered questions concerning Helen. Which is good, because on August 2 Pendergast #11, Cold Vengeance, is being released. This one begins in Scotland with a bang. I read the first chapter which was released as a teaser in the paperback release of Gideon’s Sword. Even I was surprised by the suddenness of what occurred. The publisher promises this journey will lead Pendergast from Scotland to New York and back to the bayou of Louisiana. I, for one, cannot wait.
Should you read Fever Dream if you haven’t read the other Pendergast novels? Of course! You will want to go back and read them afterward but you be able to understand the nuances of the relationships without the previous books. You should read it before Cold Vengeance. If you are looking for other books after the eleven in this series, Preston/Child have several non-Pendergast books written collaboratively and individually. After the temperature hit 104 on Friday, I am ready to replace a Fever with something Cold.