A member of the Baker Street Irregulars died, and his widow donated all his Sherlockiana to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, perhaps thinking that Holmes was a real life detective. Among the papers was a photocopy of Doyle’s diary relating a meeting that took place in 1889 between Doyle, Oscar Wilde, Joe Stoddart and William Gill, in which Wilde relates a horrific story that was told to him while he was on a trip to America. Eleven miners had been killed and eaten by a monstrous Grizzly Bear.
White Fire features a student at John Jay, Carrie Swanson, and her mentor, Special Agent Pendergast of the FBI. Swanson has a research project that takes her to a town high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. She is there to study the bones of prospectors from the 1880s who were killed and eaten by a rogue Grizzly.
Powerful people in the town don’t want the bones studied and when Carrie persists she is arrested and is in danger of spending several years in jail. Pendergast arrives in town to help Carrie’s case. An arsonist suddenly begins setting fire to multi-million dollar homes, killing the inhabitants.
Not having read any other books by the team of Preston & Child, I can’t say if this is a typical book by them or not. I will say that I would have to classify it as more of a ‘thriller’ than a ‘mystery’, even though there are mysteries to be solved. (Perhaps I have read too many mysteries now, but it seemed pretty obvious who the arsonist is.) There are other crimes though. What really happened to the miners? Why don’t people want the miners bones studied? Who is responsible for the repeated attempts to discourage Carrie, or kill her? Who is the arsonist? Is there a connection between the miner’s deaths and the current fires? How does Doyle’s diary tie in? Is there a missing Holmes story?
The story ties the older story and the modern events together perfectly. Pendergast brings in a new character, Captain Stacy Bowdree, USAF, and I hope she features in further Pendergast stories. If she does, I’ll be there.