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Bookends: The Secret Life of Helen Pendergast December 29, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: The Secret Life of Helen Pendergast

By Dan Davidson

September 8, 2013

– 875 words –

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast began as a mysterious problem solver in books that were mostly about other people. As time went on, however, they moved to the rear and Pendergast to the fore. The character even developed story arcs that took two of three books to clear up. This trilogy marks the 10th, 11th and 12th appearance of the character and is best read one right after the other, especially after the middle book concludes on an atrocious cliffhanger.

There are simply bound to be spoilers in this review, so don’t read any further if this might bother you.


Fever DreamFever Dream

By Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston


576 pages



We began to learn about the rather odd Pendergast family in the trilogy during which Aloysius had to track down and deal with his mad brother, Diogenes, but this trilogy digs us deeper into this history. We learn that several other members of the family were troubled souls.

Pendergast was once married, we learn, and his wife, Helen, was killed during a hunting accident in Africa some dozen years earlier. Early in this book Pendergast chances to examine the rifle she had been using at the time to hunt down a rogue lion, and discovers that it had been tampered with. On that crucial day it had been loaded with blanks and was never properly cleaned afterwards. That meant that Helen had been murdered. The remainder of the trilogy is full of one revelation after another regarding the secret life of Helen Pendergast.

Who was she really? Why was she fascinated with the life and work of James Audoban? How did she really meet Pendergast all those years ago? What does all this have to do with a parrot and the mysterious death of a remarkable family seized with both brilliance and homicidal mania?

Pendergast is not the only actor in this story. His friend, NYPD detective Vinnie Decosta is enlisted as an aid. As they uncover clues, they are stalked by an implacable marksman, who turns out to be Helen’s brother. Why he would be covering up all traces that might lead to the solution of her murder by killing all the possible witnesses is a complete mystery at this point in the story.

Meanwhile, Pendergast’s ward, Constance Green (the subject of a mad 19th century doctor’s experiments in extended life which have left her a young woman at the age of about 140) has been arrested for seeming to have killed her baby, which she apparently threw overboard during an ocean crossing. Her case becomes the obsession of a well-meaning therapist, who endangers himself while trying to verify her life’s story. There’s a whole subplot involving his quest, which leads me to believe that the authors have more to tell us about Constance later on.


Cold VengeanceCold Vengeance

By Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston

Grand Central Publishing

480 pages



Book two sees Pendergast squaring off against his brother in law, Judson Esterhazy, on the Scottish moors, in what is nearly a fight to death. During the course of the duel, which takes up a good portion of the book, and takes place on land and sea, Pendergast learns that his wife is not, in fact, dead, but has been in hiding for all these years.

Kidnappings abound in this volume. Constance is captured in what seems to be an attempt to divert Pendergast and this leads to a shipboard battle of Bond-like proportions during which we learn that everthing Esterhazy has done has been to protect Helen, who is kidnapped herself at the end of this volume just as she and Pendergast are about to be reunited.


Two GravesTwo Graves

By Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston

Grand Central Publishing

624 pages



The final book is even more about vengeance than the one that had that word in its title. Pendergast penetrates to the heart of a mysterious proto-Nazi organization called the Conclave, which has been experimenting with with twins in an attempt to create perfect Aryan specimens. One twin will be the superman and a weaker version will be available for spare parts.

Pendergast discovers that one set of these twins is, in fact, his sons, children that he never knew he had with Helen. One of them, Alban, is a Nazi trained, genetially engineered killer, quite likely his father’s superior in strength and intellect. The other, who finds his way to Pendergast’s home in New York, has no name until Pendergast christens him Tristan. Tracking down Helen and ending the conspiracy which has created these anomalies becomes Pendergast’s sole focus in this book, and the climax is even more Bond-like that I can remember this character being in the past.

I enjoyed these books, but I do think there was a bit too much going on, too many subplots that probably won’t be played out until some other book down the line. Child and Preston weave their various characters through many of thier thrillers and often leave plotlines dangling to be picked up later.

On the other hand, the books are fast paced and interesting, and I keep coming back to them.






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