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Bookends: After a strong opening, this book stumbles a bit January 16, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, mystery.
Tags: , , ,


Bookends: After a strong opening, this book stumbles a bit

By Dan Davidson

February 3, 2016

– 617 words –


Gideon’s Sword

By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Orion Books

356 pages

Kindle Edition



Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are that rare thing, a really successful writing team. They also write solo works, but they are undoubtedly best known for their series about the iconoclastic FBI Agent Pendergast. Those books are somewhat cerebral exercises in the thriller genre; they ring the changes on a lot of conventions, and may involve everything from monsters to serial killers, psychopaths and warmed over Nazi plotters.

With the book at hand, they have set off in a new direction, offering somewhat lighter fare. I expect the freedom to invent a new character, try out some different plots and not be tied to a fairly hefty load of past continuity may have been part of the motivation.

Speaking of which, Gideon Crew’s motivation is pretty much classic. At the age of 12 he watched his father a world-class mathematician, be accused of treason and gunned down by the authorities. It wasn’t until 12 years later that his mother, with pretty much her dying breath, let him in on the truth, that his father had been framed and murdered to silence him from uncovering a bungled government operation.

She asked her son to avenge him.

Gideon set about doing that, using skills he had begun to develop to amass a considerable war chest based on the acquisition of stolen art, much of it taken from people who shouldn’t have had it in the first place. We don’t read much about that, but we become aware that he’s done it.

In his early forties he is ready, and the first section of this book is about the very satisfactory way in which he ruins the lives of the people responsible for his father’s death. It’s a vengeance worthy of the Count of Monte Cristo.

But it impresses some people who think they have a use for someone with his skill set, and through a combination of coercion and allurement, they recruit him to work for a very “black bag” agency connected invisibly to the American intelligence establishment. He both does and doesn’t want to do the work and this emotional and intellectual push-pull is reflected in much of the rest of the adventure.

As this is the first book in a series, it was intended to whet the appetite for more to come, and it does that. My wife was absolutely grabbed by this book while we were travelling last fall, but after the first section, she was able to put it down for long periods of time, until she finally finished it. I read it out of curiosity and think I see why she reacted that way.

The book’s opening segment promises more than the rest of it delivers. Though the remainder is enough to make a decent story, it’s a bit of a let-down after that dazzling opening.

One wants to know more about Gideon, aside from just watching him in action. There is lots of that and it’s a decent page turner; it’s just that I’ve read better by this pair of writers. Once Gideon’s initial motivation is satisfied, there doesn’t seem to be the kind of depth to him that can carry a series.

That said, I intend to read at least one more of these (there are two more now, with a third due this coming May) to see if the authors develop Gideon more fully, and get beyond that introduction . My experience with Pendergast, who began as an elusive supporting character in someone else’s main story, suggests that they can.





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