Cold Vengeance by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
19 August, 2013
Here it is. I never did murder Helen. She’s still alive.
Recall my obsession with the FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast who is a cross between a modern version of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey and an undertaker and for whom nothing is impossible. He’s back in the second volume of the Helen trilogy which began with Fever Dream and continues with Cold Vengeance. This is the 11th title in the Agent Pendergast series which I’ve been avidly following for the last 10 years. Apart from them being nail biting thrillers, they’re erudite and retain an old world charm reminiscent of the Victorian sensation novels mixed with the darkness and fog of the Victorian underbelly with their whiff of murder and crime all operating with 21st century technology and an inexhaustible supply of money. The Pendergasts are an antebellum New Orleans family with enough skeletons in their closet to make Flavia de Luce proud.
If you haven’t read the series, I would recommend you start with A Cabinet of Curiosities which will introduce you to all the relevant characters and set you onto a wonderful journey in Pendergast’s world. Otherwise, at least read Fever Dream as Cold Vengeance is a direct continuation. There are some spoilers below which are inevitable when discussing a long-standing series but I will try to keep them to a minimum.
So as we found out in Fever Dream, Pendergast’s beloved, deceased wife Helen had a lot of secrets of her own. And in Cold Vengeance, we find out that her brother, Dr. Judson Esterhazy, who is on a hunting trip in Scotland with Pendergast has a lot he wants to keep hidden and will do anything to keep it that way. Including getting rid of his brother-in-law. As the two spar and circle each other, Pendergast begins to realise that the secret is bigger than he had imagined and with the appearance of the sinister Covenant, he opens up a can of worms with a trail leading back to post-war Brazil, a notorious hiding place for former Nazis. What does this have to do with Helen? And can she really be alive?
Pendergast must work against the clock if he is to uncover the mystery of his wife’s apparent death before Esterhazy can get to him. And this time, his adversary is as intelligent, cold and as ruthless as he is. When Pendergast’s ward Constance Green, who is recovering from her brush with Pendergast’s diabolical brother Diogenes, is kidnapped, the tension is ratcheted up a notch. For Pendergast will not stop now that he has a purpose, an obsession.
Pendergast is a cold, cerebral person who keeps his emotions tightly under control. Until he acquired Vincent D’Acosta, his unexpected friend in the NYPD and unofficial partner in several cases, and Constance, his ward, he had no weaknesses. But those two, together with Helen will prove to be his Achilles heel and his enemies know exactly how to get to him.
As usual, Preston & Child have done a superb job. Cold Vengeance is the novel that bridges this trilogy and is thus very fast-paced. There is a lot more action than usual which left little room for the usual plethora of fascinating information one usually gleans from Preston & Child’s research but I didn’t mind that at all. I cannot wait to read Two Graves, the conclusion to the Helen trilogy. I cannot wait.