Fever Dream

Image of Fever Dream
Release Date: 
May 10, 2010
Publisher/Imprint: 
Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 
416
Reviewed by: 

". . . one of those great adventure/mystery stories we all yearn for . . ."

Enigmatic FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast is back and in top form in this blood-pumping thriller, Fever Dream, from prolific writing team Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

This atmospheric novel starts out in Musalangu, Zambia, 12 years in the past, where Pendergast is relaxing with his beautiful wife, Helen. We enter the story just as our happy couple embark on the adventure that will leave Helen dead in a most brutal fashion. 

Fast forward to present day Louisiana, at the old family home, where Pendergast chances to examine Helen’s rifle from that fateful day. To his horror, he discovers evidence that her horrific death was an elaborately staged accident. The rifle used by Helen on that terrible day had been deliberately loaded with blanks. Who could have wanted to murder Helen, and equally important, why? Soon Pendergast discovers that Helen had nursed a secret obsession with famed naturalist-painter, John James Audubon, and in particular a long-lost painting of his known as the “Black Frame.” The painting was never found, and Audubon’s life ended in madness.

Pendergast soon embarks on an agonising quest to uncover the mystery of his wife's murder, and seeks the help of old pal and soon-to-be-married, NYPD Lieutenant, Vincent D’Agosta, to accompany him on the cold-trail journey. It’s a journey that sends Pendergast deep into his dead wife’s murky past—a past he learns Helen had wished to keep hidden.

Unfortunately for Pendergast, the more he discovers about Helen’s secret life, the more he realizes that he never really knew her. As he probes more deeply into the riddle—the answer to which is revealed in a night of shocking violence, deep in the Louisiana bayou—he soon finds himself faced with an even greater question: Who was this woman he had married?

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have collaborated on numerous other novels featuring Pendergast, but this is possibly their strongest and most ambitious to date. Fever Dream is one of those great adventure/mystery stories we all yearn for. The vivid descriptions of Africa and Louisiana Bayou are absorbingly authentic, making the smells and the sounds of exotic and mysterious creatures call out to the reader. While the level of violence and suspense is ratcheted up several notches, it is matched with the perfect balance of eloquent prose and action that is both intense and unpredictable. Coupled with this are a whole cast of creepy and totally original characters, some of whom Alfred Hitchcock would have loved dearly to sip spiked tea with.

Fever Dream is a solid page-turner of a book, delivered just in time for those hot and feverish summer days ahead. Make sure you’re in a cool place while reading it.