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Yesterday, Special Agent Pendergast still mourned the loss of his beloved wife, Helen, who died in a tragic accident in Africa twelve years ago.
Today, he discovers she was murdered.
Tomorrow, he will learn her most guarded secrets, leaving him to wonder: Who was the woman I married? Why was she murdered? And, above all . . . Who murdered her?
Revenge is not sweet: It is essential.
About the Author
The thrillers of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child "stand head and shoulders above their rivals" (Publishers Weekly). Preston and Child's Relic and The Cabinet of Curiosities were chosen by readers in a National Public Radio poll as being among the one hundred greatest thrillers ever written, and Relic was made into a number-one box office hit movie. They are coauthors of the famed Pendergast series and their recent novels include Fever Dream, Cold Vengeance, Two Graves, and Gideon's Corpse. In addition to his novels, Preston writes about archaeology for the New Yorker and Smithsonian magazines. Lincoln Child is a former book editor who has published five novels of his own, including the huge bestseller Deep Storm.
Readers can sign up for The Pendergast File, a monthly "strangely entertaining note" from the authors, at their website, www.PrestonChild.com. The authors welcome visitors to their alarmingly active Facebook page, where they post regularly.
Place of Birth:Cambridge, Massachusetts
Education:B.A., Pomona College, 1978
Read an Excerpt
By Preston, Douglas
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2010 Preston, Douglas
All right reserved.
TWELVE YEARS AGO
THE SETTING SUN BLAZED THROUGH THE AFRIcan bush like a forest fire, hot yellow in the sweltering evening that gathered over the bush camp. The hills along the upper Makwele Stream rose in the east like blunt green teeth, framed against the sky.
Several dusty canvas tents circled a beaten area shaded by a grove of old musasa trees, their branches spreading like emerald umbrellas over the safari camp. A thread of smoke from a cooking fire twisted up through the cover, carrying with it the tantalizing scent of burning mopane wood and roasting kudu.
In the shade of the central tree, two figures, a man and a woman, were seated in camp chairs on either side of a table, drinking iced bourbon. They were dressed in dusty khakis, long pants and sleeves, protection against the tsetse flies that came out in the evening. They were in their late twenties. The man, slender and tall, was remarkable for a cool, almost icy paleness that seemed impervious to the heat. The coolness did not extend to the woman, who was lazily fanning herself with a large banana leaf, stirring the thick mane of auburn hair she had loosely tied back with a bit of salvaged twine. She was tanned and relaxed. The low murmur of their conversation, punctuated by an occasional laugh from the woman, was almost indistinguishable amid the sounds of the African bush: the calls of vervet monkeys, the screech of francolins and chattering of fire-finches, which mingled with the clattering of pots and pans in the kitchen tent. The evening chatter was underlain by the distant roar of a lion deep in the bush.
The seated figures were Aloysius X. L. Pendergast and his wife of two years, Helen. They were at the tail end of a hunting safari in the Musalangu Game Management Area, where they had been shooting bushbuck and duiker under a herd reduction program granted by the Zambian government.
“Care for another sundowner?” Pendergast asked his wife, raising the cocktail pitcher.
“Another?” she replied with a laugh. “Aloysius, you wouldn’t be planning an assault on my virtue, would you?”
“The thought never entered my mind. I was hoping perhaps we could spend the night discussing Kant’s concept of the categorical imperative.”
“Now you see, this is exactly what my mother warned me about. You marry a man because he’s good with a rifle, only to find he has the brains of an ocelot.”
Pendergast chuckled, sipped his drink, glanced down at it. “African mint is rather harsh on the palate.”
“Poor Aloysius, you miss your juleps. Well, if you take that FBI job Mike Decker’s offering, you can drink juleps day and night.”
He took another thoughtful sip and gazed at his wife. It was remarkable how quickly she tanned in the African sun. “I’ve decided not to take it.”
“I’m not sure I’m ready to stay in New Orleans with all that it entails—the family complications, the unpleasant memories. And I’ve seen enough violence already, don’t you think?”
“I don’t know—have you? You tell me so little about your past, even now.”
“I’m not cut out for the FBI. I don’t like rules. In any case, you’re all over the world with that Doctors With Wings outfit; we can live anywhere, as long as it’s close to an international airport. ‘Our two souls therefore endure not a breach, but an expansion, like gold to airy thinness beat.’ ”
“Don’t bring me to Africa and quote John Donne. Kipling, maybe.”
“ ‘Every woman knows all about everything,’ ” he intoned.
“On second thought, spare me the Kipling as well. What did you do as a teenager, memorize Bartlett’s?”
“Among other things.” Pendergast glanced up. A figure was approaching along the trail from the west. He was a tall Nyimba tribesman, dressed in shorts and a dirty T-shirt, an ancient rifle slung over his shoulders, carrying a forked walking stick. As he approached the camp, he paused and cried out a greeting in Bemba, the local lingua franca, which was answered by welcoming shouts from the kitchen tent. He then proceeded into camp and approached the table at which the Pendergasts were seated.
Both rose. “Umú-ntú ú-mó umú-sumá á-áfíká,” Pendergast said by way of greeting, and grasped the man’s dusty, warm hand, Zambian-fashion. The man proffered his walking stick to Pendergast; there was a note wedged into its fork.
“For me?” Pendergast asked, switching to English.
“From the district commissioner.”
Pendergast shot a glance at his wife, then removed the note and unfolded it.
My dear Pendergast,
I wish to have a conversation with you immediately via SSB. There has been a nasty business at Kingazu Camp—very nasty.
Alistair Woking, DC
PS. Dear chap, you know perfectly well that regulations require you to have SSB communications set up at every bush camp. It is most annoying to have to send a runner like this.
“I don’t like the sound of that,” said Helen Pendergast, looking over her husband’s shoulder. “What do you think this ‘nasty business’ is?”
“Perhaps a photo tourist has suffered the amorous advances of a rhinoceros.”
“That’s not funny,” Helen said, laughing all the same.
“It is rutting season, you know.” Pendergast folded the note and shoved it in his breast pocket. “I’m very much afraid this means our shooting safari is over.”
He walked over to the tent, opened a box, and began screwing together the battered pieces of an aerial antenna, which he then carried up into a musasa tree and wired to an upper branch. Climbing back down, he plugged the wire into the single side-band radio he had placed on the table, turned on the unit, adjusted the dials to the correct frequency, and sent out a call. In a moment the irritated voice of the district commissioner came back, squawking and scratchy.
“Pendergast? For God’s sake, where are you?”
“Upper Makwele Stream camp.”
“Blast. I was hoping you were nearer the Banta Road. Why the devil don’t you keep your SSB connected? I’ve been trying to reach you for hours!”
“May I ask what’s happened?”
“Over at Kingazu Camp. A German tourist was killed by a lion.”
“What idiot allowed that to happen?”
“It wasn’t like that. The lion came right into camp in broad daylight, jumped the man as he was walking back to his hut from the dining tent, and dragged him screaming into the bush.”
“Surely you can imagine ‘and then’! The wife was hysterical, the whole camp went into an uproar, they had to bring in a helicopter to airlift out the tourists. The camp staff left behind are scared shiteless. This fellow was a well-known photographer in Germany—bloody bad for business!”
“Did you track the lion?”
“We have trackers and guns, but nobody who’ll go into the bush after this lion. Nobody with the experience—or the ballocks. That’s why we need you, Pendergast. We need you down here to track that bugger and… well… recover the remains of the poor German before there’s nothing left to bury.”
“You haven’t even recovered the body?”
“Nobody will go out there after the bloody thing! You know what Kingazu Camp is like, all the dense brush that’s come up because of the elephant poaching. We need a damned experienced hunter. And I needn’t remind you that terms of your professional hunting license require you to deal with rogue man-eaters as, and if, it becomes necessary.”
“Where’d you leave your Rover?”
“At the Fala Pans.”
“Get cracking as fast as you can. Don’t bother breaking camp, just grab your guns and get down here.”
“It’ll take a day, at least. Are you sure there isn’t anyone closer who can help you?”
“Nobody. At least, nobody I’d trust.”
Pendergast glanced at his wife. She smiled, winked, mimed the shooting of a pistol with one bronzed hand. “All right. We’ll get moving right away.”
“One other thing.” The DC’s voice hesitated and there was a silence over the radio, filled with hissing and crackling.
“Probably not very important. The wife who witnessed the attack. She said…” Another pause.
“She said the lion was peculiar.”
“It had a red mane.”
“You mean, a little darker than usual? That’s not so uncommon.”
“Not darker than usual. This lion’s mane was deep red. Almost blood red.”
There was a very long silence. And then the DC spoke again. “But of course it can’t be the same lion. That was forty years ago in northern Botswana. I’ve never heard of a lion living more than twenty-five years. Have you?”
Pendergast said nothing as he switched off the radio, his silvery eyes glittering in the dying twilight of the African bush.
Excerpted from Fever Dream by Preston, Douglas Copyright © 2010 by Preston, Douglas. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another book ruined by egotistical plot spoilers. You ppl shoyld be banned from posting here. A review is to tell if you liked a book or not, not ti give a dissertation or a book report or write cliff notes. Readers like to read and be surprised by what happens, but when you reveal every detail, there is no need to buy the book or even read it.
In "Fever Dream" by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston, Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast is faced with an impossible task-solving the mysterious murder of his wife Helen Easterhazy, a medical researcher, who is ferociously eaten by a lion during their African safari after somebody, loads her gun with blanks. Twelve years later, Pendergast must re-trace the events of that fateful safari and pinpoint Helen's enemies. As Pendergast starts the investigation, with the help of NYPD Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta, he realizes that he never really knew his wife. Returning to Africa, he learns that the lion that ate her was an elaborate set-up and most of the people involved in the original safari have since passed. Back in America, Pendergast and D'Agosta learn of Helen's mysterious obsession with famous painter John James Audubon and his masterpiece known as the Black Frame. The painting was never found, and Audubon's life ended in madness. Pendergast next discovers Helen's theft of certain parrots, and is more puzzled then ever as he realizes a local family died shortly after one of Helen's thefts. As he starts interviewing people from Helen's past, he learns of her involvement in Project Aves and the scary fates of all those who were a part of it. While Pendergast struggles to find the painting and trace Audubon's connection, the murders start. This book boasts a whole cast of creepy characters, but this only enhanced the story. One of the people most close to Helen turns out to be a traitor, while almost everyone surrounding Pendergast-including his servant Maurice, have ulterior motives. Then there's Pendergast's guardianship of Constance Greene, a young woman who descends into madness and creates a fascinating subplot. Overall, I thought the story was pretty captivating. I loved the exotic safari setting, and the ending which has a 'to-be-continued' vibe about it. The story really becomes interesting during the latter half of the book, and is hard to put down at the end. A lot of themes are touched upon, which I won't give away, but suffice to say it's a compelling read.
This is one of my favorite of the Pendergast series. Twelve years after the accidental death of his beloved wife, Helen, in Africa, Pendergast discovers she was murdered. The brutality of her murder is enough to make most men go crazy, but Pendergast sets out on a mission of revenge. Naturally he talks Vinnie D'Agosta into taking a leave of absence from his job to help him. They go to Africa first and discover clues about Helen's horrible death on a safari with her husband. Afterwards the setting is mainly centered in New Orleans at Pendergast's home. D'Agosta and Pendergast go from one clue to another slowly piecing together the reason why Helen was killed. I cannot say anymore about the plot without giving it away. What made it interesting to me is the way Preston and Child reveal the clues, some random at first, a little at a time. They slowly begin to fall into place, but just when you think you know where the story is going, you don't. There are so many twists and turns that I found the book so intriguing I felt compelled to read faster! The descriptions of some of the scenes are so chillingly described, I will never forget them. Constance Green makes a brief appearance in the book, but no more can be said about her. The ending is one of the most exciting in the Pendergast series. We get to watch Pendergast do something in the end that not only needed to be done, but it is so much fun watching him do it, you want to be there with him to enjoy it!! Once you start reading this book, you get sucked so deeply into the plot that you are forced to read it as fast as the plot goes. I just loved it!
I absolutely love the Pendergrast series - but this one really disappoints. It is like a 400 page set up for a sequel. In any series, each book has elements that add to the "big story" being told by the series. However, in this book that is all there is. The "stand alone" plot of this book was very weak, and, honestly, boring. It just doesn't have the "pop" and suspense of the other books in the series. I think it also suffers from a serious logical flaw -Pendergrast has such wonderful deductive powers, yet in this book he seems oblivious to the most obvious villain. To anyone who has not read any of the other books in this series - DO NOT START WITH THIS ONE. You will just be lost and confused. To any fan of the series, I would wait until the next book is released (because the price of this one will be lower by then) and then read Fever Dream as a 400 page prologue. Otherwise, you will just have a lot of unresolved questions.
Have read and reread all the others....wonderful books, characters, etc. Where's the old Pendergast? And what happened to our dying detective? And Constance..... A real disappointment.
If you like a good mystery with a unusual twist this is the book for you. Agent Pendergast is a different kind of FBI agent. Once you read one of the Pendergast series you will want to read them all.
I hope that this is not a harbinger of thins to come in this series. I think that this is the weakest of the series. Hopefully this will just be a fluke.
Which is highly unfortunate because A.X.L. Pendergast is my favorite fictional character bar none. Upon reading this, I thought -- this is garbage. They can do better than this. The characters were flat, they actually made some of them boring. It is pretty apparent that they're getting burned out on writing Pendergast books. There was no heart in this book, it was completely half-assed. I walked away disappointed and wishing I'd never read it at all. The ending was the worst of all. Leaving it on a cliff-hanger is understandable, but the way they wrote the characters into the cliff-hanger was not. Then a note about a new character and a new series, and I thought 'ah-ha.' Basically, I'd rather they just stopped writing Pendergast books than churn out half-ass ones. Leave it on a high-note, fellas.
They are at it again....robbing me of my beauty sleep! That book, like all the Preston/Child books, is impossible to put down. I find myself thinking "I wonder what will happen next" while I should be doing all sort of other things, like working for example ;-) It's definitely a page turner and I highly recommend it. Special Agent Pendergast is in rare form once again.
This was my first and last Pendergast book. The plot lines were so sketchy and unfinished. The book stopped in the middle of the story. I guess that readers are expected to buy the next book to learn the ending. No thanks.
Iread this book out of sequence for the story, reading number 11 before number 10. Once I finished this book, I went back and read number 11 again. This entire series is a good read and captivates you from page 1 on. Just be sure to read them in order.
The story opens with Special Agent Pendergast and his beloved wife Helen on safari in Africa where Helen was mauled and killed by a lion. We have heard bits and pieces of Helen in other books but we never really knew the whole story other than she had died. Now we find out all the details. Pendergast enlists the help of another old friend, Vincent D'Agosta to help him get to the bottom of things. I loved this book! I love all the books in the Pendergast series but some touch me more than others and this was one of those. In all the years I have been reading and cheering Pendergast on, I have always wondered about Helen, how they met, what happened to her and why he doesn't like to talk about her. In this book we see that "soft" side of Pendergast. Of course he is still following his own rules and doing things his own way which is why we love him isn't it? We see that Helen may not be the woman her husband thought she was, or is she? It's not easy to describe the book without giving away goodies so you will have to trust me, it's good, great even. I enjoy the camaraderie between the police lieutenant, D'Agosta and the FBI agent, Pendergast. We see a heated and at times comical interaction with Laura Haywood, D'Agosta's girlfriend and Pendergast, who she is not fond of. We have the classic cliffhangers of Preston and Child that make us want the next book right now. As in most books in the series, there are stories within stories and never a dull moment. The book moves along at a quick pace and holds your interest from page one. While they say the books can be read as stand alone books, I feel that knowing the characters and the back stories always make them a more enjoyable read. I don't think I would start with this one if you haven't read the others but that is just my opinion. If you like quirky characters that you can't really figure out, stories within stories and being entertained pick up this or any of these books and fall in love with Special Agent Pendergast, I sure did.
For the first time, I feel dissatisfied after reading a Pendergast novel. I never felt the same amount of entertainment in this novel that I have in previous novels of this series. The beginning of the book is great, and I was very excited to know where the mystery about his wife's death would lead. I felt no sense of resolution by the end, and I the whole time I was reading the story, I kept waiting to feel the same suspense that I usually feel in Pendergast stories that really gets me hooked and entertained. Although I appreciate a new mystery at the end of a book that hints at an exciting sequel, this book's main storyline was not concluded satisfactorily. I will read the next Pendergast novel in hopes of getting some resolution to this novel. The small thread about Constance was also a bit dissatisfying, but I hope there will be a better explanation in the next novel about her behavior and situation. This book is still worth reading for anyone who is a fan of Pendergast.
Preston and Child are the masters of suspense. Highest praise for the Helen Trilogy!
These novels are fun and entertaining. If you want Sherlock Holmes with a supernatural modern twist, read these books and enjoy.
I usually enjoy this series so I was really disappointed at the slow pace and tedious plot. It could have been told well with perhaps a couple hundred fewer pages. It doesn't seem to fit the series at all and I had to force myself to finish it. I have even considered dropping the series altogether but I decided to give it one more chance. I hope the next book gets back to a more exciting plot that isn't drawn out so much just to fill pages. Stephanie Clanahan
Another great adventure with Pendergrass
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