Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Book review - The Providence Rider


The Providence Rider – Robert McCammon






The Providence Rider was one of my most anticipated novels this year. It is marks the 4th entry into the superb Matthew Corbett series and see Matthew finally meet the mysterious Professor Fell. As fans of the blog know, Robert McCammon is rapidly becoming one of (if not is) my favourite authors.

The blurb:

When an unexplained series of explosions rocks his Manhattan neighborhood, Matthew finds himself forced to confront a new and unexpected problem. Someone is trying--and trying very hard--to get his attention. That someone is a shadowy figure from out of Matthew's past: the elusive Dr. Fell. The doctor, it turns out, has a problem of his own, one that requires the exclusive services of Matthew Corbett.

The ensuing narrative moves swiftly and gracefully from the emerging metropolis of New York City to Pendulum Island in the remote Bermudas. In the course of his journey, Matthew encounters a truly Dickensian assortment of memorable, often grotesque, antagonists. These include Sirki, the giant, deceptively soft-spoken East Indian killer, Dr. Jonathan Gentry, an expert in exotic potions with a substance abuse problem of his own, the beautiful but murderous Aria Chillany, and, of course, the master manipulator and 'Emperor of Crime' on two continents, Dr. Fell himself.

 I read somewhere that Robert McCammon likes to have a different theme for each book which has been evident so far.  If the last book was a psychological game of cat and mouse adventure, then I suppose, The Providence Rider is a crime mystery.

The story begins shortly after the events of, “Mister Slaughter” with Matthew and Hudson still trying to deal with their ordeal. Although Hudson Greathouse seems to have dealt with his issues a lot swifter. Matthew is no longer the innocent problem-solver we met in, “Speaks the Nightbird.”

It is not long before someone wants Matthew’s attention, setting off a series of explosions throughout New York and trying to frame him in the process. This inevitably leads to Matthew succumbing to Professor Fell’s bribes and setting off the Pendulum island for a conference at the Professor’s castle. He is accompanied by a host of unsavoury characters along with some familiar faces from the previous novels.

It is here the novel really begins as Matthew is forced to assume a new identity in order to fit in with the villains he finds himself amongst. This is intriguing as not only is Matthew a changed man, he is forced to become a character he is not comfortable with: Someone who is ruthless and heartless but at the same time trying to retain his sense of self.

The other villains on the island are not anything you haven’t already seen, each repulsive in their own ways. However, McCammon’s skill as an author is such that they all appear fresh and original creations. Each would make worthy antagonists to Matthew if they were alone with him in another novel and you find yourself wishing for each to have more screen time. Having said that I never felt cheated by the time I did share with them.

It is professor Fell though who is the real star. The anticipation has been building to meeting the crime Lord and when Matthew does stand before him, he does not disappoint. The professor oozes malevolence and McCammon does a great job of showing Matthew’s unease around him.

The Providence Rider makes constant reference to the previous books and so the series is starting to fill more joined up rather than a series of standalone novels. This novel could still be read as such however and enjoyed just as much.

Despite the multi layered levels of intrigue, the novel hurtles along at a frantic pace. The conclusion is satisfying. McCammon’s endings are always fulfilling without having to resort to cheap shock tactics.

It would be cliché to say that Robert McCammon gets better and better so I won’t. Robert McCammon continues to improve on his legacy as a master author. The Matthew Corbett (aside from a Song of Ice and Fire – an unfair comparison I admit) is easily my favourite series right now.

My rating: 9.2