Series: Pendergast #13
Published in 2013
Genres: Crime Mystery
Source: Review Copy
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Special Agent Pendergast arrives at an exclusive Colorado ski resort to rescue his protégée, Corrie Swanson, from serious trouble with the law. His sudden appearance coincides with the first attack of a murderous arsonist who--with brutal precision--begins burning down multimillion-dollar mansions with the families locked inside.
After springing Corrie from jail, Pendergast learns she made a discovery while examining the bones of several miners who were killed 150 years earlier by a rogue grizzly bear. Her finding is so astonishing that it, even more than the arsonist, threatens the resort's very existence.
Drawn deeper into the investigation, Pendergast uncovers a mysterious connection between the dead miners and a fabled, long-lost Sherlock Holmes story--one that might just offer the key to the modern day killings as well.
Now, with the ski resort snowed in and under savage attack--and Corrie's life suddenly in grave danger--Pendergast must solve the enigma of the past before the town of the present goes up in flames.
While perusing the virtual shelves at NetGalley, I saw the book White Fire by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, the 13th in the Pendergast mystery series, and I clicked on the ‘Request’ button without a hesitation. This author duo is one of my favorites in the mystery genre. Ever since I read Relic, Reliquary and Cabinet of Curiosities I was literally hooked, and from my first contact with their writings, I devoured everything else they’ve written together in the Pendergast series, along with each author’s stand alone novels as well.
Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast is an interesting, complex and very original/intriguing character that appears in all books that the two authors wrote together. He is quite enigmatic and invariably linked to rather bizarre and weird occurrences within the novels. The Pendergast series is not your typical mystery series and that’s probably one of the main reasons why I rush to read every single book as soon as it is out.
The story in the book White Fire focuses on a character which was first introduced in Still Life With Crows, Corrie Swanson. She is the FBI agent’s protege, since he took her under his wing when she was a perky goth teen who had a tendency of being foolish, brave and extremely impulsive. These traits remained with her as she grew up and became a student at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
And these traits are also what are putting her in constant danger in this new novel, and it’s but for the grace of Pendergast that she is still relatively unharmed – at least for a while.
The setting in White Fire is a very expensive and posh Colorado ski resort where even thieves are absent because the town is too expensive for them to stay until they’d make their robbery plans. Corrie travels to Colorado for her thesis to research some old bones of miners mauled and eaten by grizzly bears, and as it turns out, the $4000 that she has saved over the years might not even be enough to stay a week in the cheapest hotel in the area.
However Corrie is positive that she can do her research in the fastest possible time as she gets the OK from the local police to study the remains of the miners, after which she’d be out of there while still being in possession of some of her saved up money. And this is where things start to turn ugly and unpredictable. There are forces in town that don’t want Corrie to discover what happened to those early miners and will do anything they can to stop her, including putting her in jail for a maximum time of 30 years.
Of course this is where Pendergast gets a real interest in the happenings at the retreat and comes rushing to help her protege escape prison and possibly worse.
But nothing prepares him – or her – for the truly dark secrets that lay hidden within the forgotten mines behind the community.
There are three different (yet connected) storylines in the book, which make the novel a very interesting read. First we have the story of the mauled miners that Corrie is researching about, then we have a seemingly unrelated series of arson crimes that plague the ski resort, and finally we have a piece of fictional history, which was a very nice surprise. We get a glimpse into a fictional discussion between Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde, where Conan Doyle hears a story so horrific that he will be haunted by it for the rest of his life. I was thrilled to read this little story, since I am extremely fond of Sherlock Holmes (just check the header of this very website if you don’t believe me). This chapter was a wonderful part of Sherlock Holmes history that I didn’t want to end. And when it finally ended, it turned to be a satisfying read indeed.
Now I won’t reveal more of the plot, as there are lots of things still to come and I don’t want to spoil it for you. As usual with the Pendergast novels there are lots of twists and turns, lots of hidden and lost secrets and a sprinkle of occult as well, just enough to keep it interesting, without making it uncomfortable for those who like their mysteries straight.
Let me tell you there was even a moment towards the end of the book when I realized I had tears in my eyes and that is not very common with me reading books – especially mysteries. It was a truly touching moment, which left me breathless for a little while, still thinking of what I’ve just read.
I am glad to see that the two authors haven’t lost their touch and are still able to deliver a story that packs a punch, gets us flipping the pages fast to see what happens next, and keeps us interested in Pendergast, a person who remains enigmatic and almost a mythical character even after we’ve already discovered so much about his past, life and secrets in previous books. I’d love to see one of the Pendergast novels made into a movie and I’d love to see who will be chosen for this role. I know that Relic has already been made into a movie, however sadly Pendergast didn’t make an appearance in it (unlike in the book).
If you like a mystery that will keep all your attention focused on reading while forgetting about the outside world, I highly recommend this book. Once again Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child didn’t disappoint.
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