There are definitely draw backs to being a completionist fan boy. While the duo still has a strong gold-to-crap ratio going, Preston & Child are definitely starting to lose their “must read” label for me. Maybe it’s just that they are publishing at least one book a year at this point but the output is starting to get sketchy. Gideon’s Corpse is the sequel to the 2011 Gideon’s Sword. That book was not very good, and while Gideon’s Corpse is better it is still so far fetched it’s hard to take seriously at times.
Gideon Crew is a nuclear physicist/professional thief/con man that does free lance work for Effective Engineering Solutions (shortened to EES), a sort of think tank in Manhattan, in stopping various calamities. Also he has a medical condition that is going to kill him in a year or so when his vein of Galen pops and he suffers a massive brain hemorrhage and dies instantly. This is an inoperable condition so Gideon is basically a walking dead man which makes him take risks other people probably wouldn’t.
Picking up just seconds after the end of Gideon’s Sword, Corpse immediately throws the reluctant Gideon Crew back in to the fray as he is tasked with trying to talk down a hostage taker that he happened to work with at Los Alamos. This leads in turn to the discovery that a nuclear bomb was manufactured and is going to be detonated in a US city in a matter of days.
Gideon reluctantly joins the investigation for no other reason than he knew someone involved and EES pairs him with the improbably named Stone Fordyce, an agent with the FBI. The dynamic duo heads to Los Alamos to follow up on a long shot lead and, lo and behold, end up pulling a thread that gets the bad guys hot on their trail. They frame Gideon and soon he is on the run trying to piece together who is behind the attack and how to stop it.
The first half of Corpse is kind of silly but enjoyable. I was less enthused when Gideon goes on the run because the interplay between him and the FBI agent was entertaining. At one point the duo take a break from the investigation and Gideon makes them dinner at his cabin near Los Alamos and they listen to jazz and chat through the night. I swear I thought they were going to have sex and thought to myself “This is an intriguing development.” Alas, a same sex romance would have been an unconventional choice and this book is anything but that. The boys keep it as a platonic bromance although the frame up on Gideon definitely complicates their friendship.
All thrillers need an 11th hour twist and this one is a doozy. I won’t ruin it here but the twist made my suspension of disbelief completely stop and for the last 50 pages or so I read with complete detachment from the proceedings. Towards the end, you learn one of the characters was in on it from the beginning. This was completely expected and given the conventions of the genre I suspected this character immediately after they were introduced. However, the book is written in third person shifting between a few different characters. I had to go back and re-read the chapters with from this hidden conspirator’s perspective because I could swear the writers cheated. How can a hidden conspirator stay hidden when the reader is privy to their thoughts? By making extremely careful word choices in describing those thoughts. I still think it was a bit of a cheat, but it is a testament to Preston & Child’s skills that they made it work. But just barely.
The Pendergast series is the flagship brand for Preston & Child, but even it is getting a bit long in the tooth. This winter sees the publication of Two Graves, the finale of the so called Helen Trilogy. Once upon a time, the writers had a pretty good size group of characters to write about in the Pendergast series but over the years most of them were killed off. I think the Gideon Crew series is an attempt to have a series that is not so interwoven and dark as the Pendergast series. In doing so, the result is so light it reads more like a script treatment than an actual novel.
Gideons Corpse is better than the first novel in the series but that is damning it with faint praise. Unless you are also a Preston & Child fan boy like myself there is really no reason to give this one your time. This is Thriller 101 stuff and even the hilarious and logic shattering conclusion isn’t enough to recommend it.