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The Sirens of Suspense

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THE FAMILIAR FACE OF EVIL

With his tall, gaunt frame, aloof, eccentric nature and unparalleled brilliance FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast may bring to mind a more modern (and slightly otherworldly) version of Sherlock Holmes.  I’m by no means the first to make this comparison — the man has a brother named Diogenes, after all — and perhaps that’s why he’s become one of the most popular and best known characters in years.  I first became a fan when he was introduced as a supporting character in Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s 1995 work The Relic. With each subsequent book, we learned a little more about, and yearned a little more for, the elusive Agent Pendergast until he became the protagonist of the series in 2002’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Since then, Pendergast has appeared in eight books, three more stand-alones, followed by the Diogenes trilogy, and the Helen trilogy, of which Cold Vengeance is book two.

All too often, the middle book in a trilogy can be a disappointment, the weakest link where the author is more concerned with connecting threads and building the arc between the first and last books than a strong story. Cold Vengeance does not suffer from middle child syndrome. Readers have known for some time that Pendergast’s wife Helen was killed by a lion on safari some years before. In the previous book, Fever Dream we delved deeper into his history, learning more about the days leading up to Helen’s demise — and that her death was far from accidental. Now, Pendergast is trying to further unravel that mystery, and pursues his revenge at a fevered pace through Scotland, New York and the Louisiana bayous with the help (and hindrance) of familiar characters Lt. D’Agosta, Corrie Swanson and Constance Green. So much happens in this book that it’s difficult to provide any details about the story without giving something major away. Suffice it to say that Helen may not have been who Pendergast believed, and he must come to terms with the possibility that she had a hand in the conspiracy surrounding her demise. Each resolution leads to a new, far more frightening, question and the quasi-supernatural undertones which run through much of the series are given a very human, very evil, face in Cold Vengeance.

For those who have yet to make the acquaintance of Agent Pendergast, this book is not really the best place to begin. Although there are morsels of what has gone previously, the fast-pace and constant action of Cold Vengeance doesn’t allow much time to remind readers of the details. If you hesitate to go back to the beginning of the series, don’t despair, the previous book, Fever Dream, can fill in a lot of the details…but I’m certain once you get a taste of Agent Pendergast’s world, your bookshelf will grow considerably.  

This review originally posted on The Poisoned Pen blog, read it and comment here:

http://poisonedpen.com/2011/the-familiar-face-of-evil/

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