Gideon’s Corpse a Lively Adventure
- Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Author: Preston & Child
Title: Gideon's Corpse
Publisher: Grand Central
Since the introduction of hero Gideon Crew in last year's thriller Gideon's Sword, fans of the bestselling duo Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child have eagerly awaited another story featuring that novel's slick, roguish protagonist.
Crew, the quick-thinking nuclear scientist and former art thief, returns in Gideon's Corpse, a sequel that's an altogether different type of story than its predecessor, but equally thrilling.
As Sword ended, Crew had fulfilled his duties for government security contractor Eli Glinn, who asked him to do one mission on contract for his organization. But as any regular reader of these types of series knows, there's no such thing as "just one mission." And so, as Corpse opens, Crew gets pulled back in, this time into the midst of an international nuclear event. Reed Chalker, a colleague of Crew's from Los Alamos National Lab, holds a family at gunpoint in Queens, and Glinn calls on Crew to head over and talk Chalker down.
Crew's hostage negotiation mission is a failure, and Chalker dies in the process. When his dead body - the corpse from the novel's title - turns out to be hot with radiation, the plot kicks into motion. Chalker's computer files suggest he's knee deep in an Islamic terrorist plot to detonate a nuclear weapon somewhere in the United States in less than two weeks. Because of his ties to Chalker, and his reluctance to believe the man he knew so well would actually have a secret, militant agenda, Crew agrees to investigate.
His search leads him west to New Mexico, first to Santa Fe, then to Los Alamos itself. There are plenty of double-crosses and unexpected plot jolts as Crew and sidekick FBI agent Stone Fordyce narrow the net to get to the bottom of the case. Along the way, Crew picks up a Bond girl-type, Alida Blaine, a stunt girl and the daughter of novelist Simon Blaine, one of the investigation's suspects.
These sections set in the west are ripe with the kind of vivid details of setting which are the hallmarks of Preston & Child's work. The descriptions of dry creek beds, sagebrush, and sweeping vistas are unexpected in this kind of high tech thriller, and by juxtaposing nuclear event with badlands and desert, they provide a delightful twist.
Obviously, Preston & Child are masters at plotting and suspense, and Corpse plays to these strengths. They put Crew in enough sticky situations to keep the pace high, and find clever ways to get him out of them. Among the memorable touches here: a chainsaw duel, the aforementioned Old West movie set, which detonates in a giant ball of flame, a high speed mine car chase, and a Stryker armored fighting vehicle rampaging through a subdivision, flattening everything in sight. The over-the-top imaginative jubilation in these set pieces adds to the appeal, making the farfetched antics of Indiana Jones seems like a Jane Austen novel by comparison.
Preston & Child also continue to mine new facets of Crew's character. When the first installment ended, he discovered he had a year to live, due to a congenital brain condition. Crew seeks a second opinion, which turns out to confirm his first diagnosis. These issues of mortality aren't the novel's focus, obviously, but are still given enough attention to round out the edges of his character.
Put next to its predecessor, Gideon's Corpse is as wildly enjoyable, meaning that there should be an audience for the escapades of Gideon Crew for as long as the Preston & Child combo can keep concocting madcap adventures for him.
*This article first published 1/24/2012
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