Preston & Child
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 stars)
Great book! Fever Dream is the tenth Pendergast novel and the first of the Helen trilogy, Helen being his former wife, who perished some twelve years prior to the events in this story.
Until now, Helen’s story was always a mystery. Fever Dreams begins by telling us the events of her death in an extended flashback, in all its intimacy. The event is set in Africa and is highly reminiscent of a Wilbur Smith adventure, and I love all of Wilbur Smith’s brilliant books, and African safari and advenure, so that was a lot of fun to read about.
What was less fun was Helen’s tragic end. We see so little of her and yet she appears to be the perfect character to balance Pendergast. I now no longer have any hope of Pendergast finding love in the series, since he had met his perfect match and lost her. Her death is gruesome and sad. Yet the way it was done was very dramatic. Lions and ghost stories, well done, Preston & Child.
The story unfolds as Pendergast accidentally discovers that his wife’s death was no simple accident. In fact, it was an elaborate murder, part of a very elaborate cover-up by a cabal and mystery. Helen herself kept a huge secret from her husband, perhaps more than one. The whole thing shakes Pendergast to the core as he is forced to re-evaluate his memory of this beloved woman and the facts of their relationship.
I liked how Pendergast started with one partner, D’Agosta, then sees him switch out his loyal old friend for that friend’s girlfriend, Laura, who very much doesn’t like Pendergast. It was a neat twist and we had the pleasure of seeing Pendergast grudingly start to win Laura over. And the way the switch happened gave D’Agosta and Laura some nice depth and character growth.
I really liked the African setting. It’s a personal favourite. But I think it’s also important for a book to have multiple settings to chance things up. The book moves from the African veld to Southern cities to the deepest swamps. Nice work.
I think that the book combines a goo dmix of mystery and thriller, making it more interesting than so many slick but boring thrillers out there. It’s as if the story is more ornate or detailed than a typical Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler’s Oregon Files. In fact, it’s crammed with so much information that the story has added depth and more impact than action alone could create. The scenes and characters stick with you, even after the book is closed.
What was Missing
The book starts out with a vivid yet painful flashback of Pendergast’s beautiful marriage with Helen, and that was excellent. But the rest of the book is nothing but revenge and mystery. We see a bit of the struggle Pendergast faces as he confronts the past, but the story would have earned 5 stars and much mroe emotional depth if we had experienced further flashbacks where the two characters share their friendship and love.
It would have raised the tension in the thriller part, made the mystery more meaningful and given the story more emotional weight because we would have been more emotionally invested in their relationship and the tragedy of it. And, I think it’s important that the main character have an emotional connection that’s explored beyond the action of the novel, or else why are we even reading about this story? The emotional connections are vital.
Still, I’m very excited to read the next Pendergast novel. Can’t wait to read them all! 🙂