It’s a Mystery: Fever Dream, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Fever Dream (Pendergast, #10)
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Fever Dream, the tenth entry in Preston and Child’s Pendergast series, opens with an event that took place in Africa twelve years in the past. Though much time has now passed, Pendergast still mourns his wife, Helen, who was killed by a rogue lion in safari country. When the novel switches to the present, he makes an astounding discovery: Helen’s death was no accident. In typical Pendergast fashion, he sets off on a quest to avenge her murder. He seeks assistance from his best NYPD friend, Vinnie D’Agosta. As they jet from NYC to Africa to Maine to the swamp lands of Louisiana, it becomes increasingly apparent that Helen had been keeping secrets from her husband, which deeply shakes the usually imperturbable Pendergast.

Interesting plot, no? Yes. And the tie in with James Audubon is alluring. The trouble lies in the characters and in the book’s verbosity. Pendergast has always been a paragon, always ten steps ahead of everyone else, smarter, better educated, tougher, eerily prescient and more cultured. Multiply Sherlock Holmes ten times over, and combine him with Rhett Butler. Unfortunately, what began as eccentricity has grown and grown till it’s become nothing less than obnoxious. As for Vinnie, he’s the foil, just a good old guy who guzzles beer and often can’t understand what the devil Pendergast is on about. When Vinnie got shot, I kept wishing it was Pendergast. As for its wordiness, this novel could have benefited from tighter editing, with an eye to limiting cliches (the snake on the neck is right out of Indiana Jones) and eliminating useless subplots (Constance Green, Pendergast’s ward.) When the book finally reaches its conclusion, we understand what was going on with Helen. We also understand that there’s a sequel in the works, in which Pendergast and his brother in law will lock horns at a Scottish hunting preserve. Who do you suppose will prevail?

Yes, I realize mine is a minority opinion. But there it is.

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