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WesternSFA
White Fire
by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Grand Central, $27.00, 368pp
Release Date: November 13, 2013
Whipped through this in two and a half days. A smoking book, seriously!

Corrie Swanson (From a “Still Life with Crows” and now a protégé of Pendergast) has decided for her thesis to do a forensic examination on the bones of eleven miners who, in 1876, were killed and partially eaten by a rogue grizzly bear in Roaring Fork, Colorado .

Corrie figures a man-eating bear’s marks on human bones is unusual enough and will make great material for her paper. She convinces her supercilious thesis advisor to let her go to Roaring Fork (a thinly disguised Aspen ) which she can do over her winter break from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Roaring Fork started life as a silver mining town. So the mountains around the glitzy resort are riddled with tunnels and mines.

Corrie finds the chief of police to get permission to look at the exhumed bones. The Boot Hill cemetery where they had been buried was going to be razed for a very posh country club, part of the very exclusive conclave of zillion dollar homes called The Heights.

The Chief tells her he thinks there will be no problem as they are all laid out in a warehouse where they will sit until they are removed to a new cemetery outside of town.

The next day, Corrie all ready to start examining finds she’s thwarted by the grand dame of the town, a Mrs. Kermode who does NOT want her messing with the bones and Corrie’s permission is withdrawn.

Corrie is still the impetuous young woman we met in a “Still Life with Crows. ” She decides she’ll sneak in, do her research, photograph the bones, etc. and be out with no one the wiser.

Wrong, of course. She is arrested because Mrs. Kermode knew she wouldn’t likely take no for an answer and had her watched.

Corrie is in jail for ten days. She writes a letter and addresses it to Pendergast’s man Proctor, who chagrined at her circumstances sends it to the Dakota, (Pendergast is in Europe ) and the message finally reaches our erstwhile FBI agent. He comes to Roaring Fork and gets Corrie out of jail by declaring at a big town meeting regarding where the bones are going to be re-interred that the bones had been moved illegally and he had found a living descendant of one of the miners who had not been informed of the disinterment and was not happy. All the powers-that-be are embarrassed by Pendergast’s grasp of Colorado ’s civil codes and laws regarding the movement of human remains and Corrie is released.

The stuff hits the fan.

And things in a manner of speaking go downhill at Olympic speed.

To add to the kerfuffle: an arsonist begins to burn down the expensive homes of the very rich, torturing the residents within and leaving them to burn alive in the conflagrations.

Gripping and compelling are such weak words: I was fricking riveted and read this at my desk at work whenever I could.

An extra delightful bonus to this tale: Preston and Childs utilize an “unpublished” Sherlock Holmes tale as a clue to the shenanigans in Roaring Fork.

I almost threw the book down at the end floored by the harrowing conclusion. Trust me: The ending is a freaking WHOPPER! ~~ Sue Martin

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