Book Review: White Fire

While searching for a suitable subject for her thesis, Corrie Swanson learns of a series of grizzly bear attacks in 1876 near Roaring Fork, CO that killed eleven miners. Corrie sets off for what is now a high dollar ski resort in hopes of examining the exhumed bones of those miners. Despite a promise from the city police chief, Corrie is denied access to the remains though the brief glance she got was enough to convince her that something was wrong about the bear story. Driven by desperation, Corrie breaks into the warehouse where the bones of those who were buried in what was once Roaring Fork Cemetery were being stored prior to finding a suitable new location. Corrie is immediately jailed and facing a ten-year prison sentence when her mentor, Special Agent Pendergast comes to the rescue.

When the remains of four people were found in the smoldering wreckage of a multimillion-dollar home shortly after Pendergast’s arrival, the ineffectual police chief seeks the agent’s assistance. As the investigation deepens, Pendergast begins connecting the dots that link current events with a lost Sherlock Holmes story and those unfortunate miners. Meanwhile, Corrie’s forensic examinations are turning up undeniable evidence that the eleven miners were not preyed upon by a grizzly bear but something much worse. There is a long history of dark secrets in the exclusive resort town catering to the ultra-rich and clearly, there are those who will stop at nothing including murder to see to it those secrets remain buried.

Pendergast comes through with flying colors as he aids his protégé and sets about unraveling a series of old and new mysteries. It is particularly satisfying watching him put those in control of the town soundly in their place without so much as cracking a sweat. The addition of an Afghanistan war hero while unlikely, actually works quite well as does the tie-in with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Though Pendergast plays a vital role, it is Corrie and her dogged determination to find the truth hiding within the old bones that carries the tale. Savoy mystery readers will figure out who the arsonist is at the start but that doesn’t take away from a fine bit of story telling.

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