FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast is back in Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston’s COLD VENGEANCE.
The book begins in the marshes of Scotland where Pendergast is hunting with his brother-in-law, Judson Esterhazy. Pendergast’s wife, Helen, died 12 years ago, but he stayed in touch with her brother. Suddenly, just when it would be time to take a shot at the stag for which they are aiming, Esterhazy shoots Pendergast, who then falls into a mire of quicksand. As Pendergast is slowly being sucked up, Esterhazy tells him that he did not kill Helen and in fact she’s still alive. Then he runs away and makes a big show of how he had this terrible accident with Pendergast and that he needs help getting his body out of the swamp. Inspector Balfour is in charge of gathering the men who will be on the rescue team. With their experience of the mire that makes up Cairn Barrow, they hope to find at least a body. After many attempts to dredge the muck, they come away empty-handed.
"Murder is certainly a factor in COLD VENGEANCE, and the body count mounts as the narrative unfolds."
But Pendergast saves himself and moves on following the trail of Helen’s murderer. His sole purpose in this endeavor is to exact vengeance upon her killer. His travels take him from New York to Louisiana, and he ends up in Scotland. His goal is to find out if Helen is really alive; as he moves through the incidents that brought her to Africa, secrets of her past are revealed. Things that come to light about Helen and her family are very disturbing. Pendergast is astonished, yet continues to uncover as much information as he can --- information that he realizes is linked to history in a deathly dance.
As he gathers the data about Helen, he realizes that she may have been a collaborator in her own death. He can barely think, as the secrets kept from him emerge. Murder is certainly a factor in COLD VENGEANCE, and the body count mounts as the narrative unfolds. The level of tension is high and the plot tightly woven. Readers will be shocked as Pendergast follows the strange clues left by the disappearance of Helen and her possible demise. He begins to wonder who Helen really was as he unlocks the past of a woman “unknown” to him. She is his great love, and he’s heartbroken over her death and what he may find of her if she really is alive.
As they always do, Preston and Child have several parallel themes going on at the same time. Here we have the Brodies, a couple who disappeared without a word for years and then simply showed up in town as though they never left. Their destiny is as surprising as their hiding away somewhere. On the trail of their story is a young reporter who is looking for that one big scoop that will catapult him into big time journalism. He has no idea what is in store for him, and readers will be shocked when these stories play out.
COLD VENGEANCE, the middle book in a trilogy, goes a long way to tickle the reader’s imagination getting ready for the final installment. The characters are finely honed and believable, and the writing style is consistent with the authors’ large body of work. These two writers are professionals who know how to put together a thriller that is full of suspense and surprises around every twist and turn. You may want to read FEVER DREAM before embarking on COLD VENGEANCE just to keep things straight. Both are excellent beach reads.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on August 4, 2011