Copyright 2011 by Gary L. Pullman
The seventh chapter of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Fever Dream places the reader (alongside D’Agosta and Pendergast) in New York City, as the FBI agent’s “Rolls-Royce” tears “up Park Avenue.” The homicide detective and the FBI agent are seated in the back of the vehicle, with D’Agosta “feeling awkward” because of Pendergast’s uncharacteristically emotional openness:
The Rolls-Royce tore up Park Avenue. Late-cruising cabs flashing by in blurs of yellow. D’Agosta sat in the back with Pendergast, feeling awkward, trying no to turn a curious eye toward the FBI agent. This Pendergast was impatient, unkempt, and--most remarkable--openly emotional (37).Like most of the other of the novel’s opening paragraphs, this one sets the scene, accomplishing its purpose with economy. At the same time, the paragraph characterizes both the scene and the main character. As if employing deft strokes of an artist’s brush, the authors use phrases to paint the picture: “Rolls-Royce” and “Park Avenue” suggest wealth and luxury; “cabs flashing by in blurs of yellow” provides an image that the reader can not only visualize in his or her mind but also nearly hear; and the adjectives that appear at the end of the paragraph characterize the protagonist with the same decisive economy: “impatient, unkempt, and. . . emotional.”
Chapter 8 introduces another of the series’ recurring characters (or, for first-time readers, debuts her): Captain Laura Hayward, although she is not seen or even heard; she is introduced merely by the omniscient narrator’s mention of her: “D’Agosta stood, a little uncertainly, in the hallway of the tidy, two-bedroom he shared with Laura Hayward.” The reader learns that the couple has only just become a couple again, after an apparent earlier breakup, and that D’Agosta fears that his partnering with Pendergast may cost him his newly repaired relationship with the police captain:
D’Agosta stood, a little uncertainly, in the hallway of the tidy, two-bedroom he shared with Laura Hayward. It was technically her apartment, but recently he’d finally begun splitting the rent with her. Just getting her to concede to that had taken months. Now he fervently hoped this sudden turn of events wouldn’t undo all the hard work he’d put into repairing their relationship (42).There is conflict here--or potential conflict: Hayward may break up with D’Agosta again. There is also the implication that Hayward was hard to win over; it was difficult for D’Agosta to gain her trust and her heart, for it “had taken months” for him to get her to “concede” to his offer to split the apartment’s rent with her--in other words, to accept him as a roommate and not just a visitor. Moreover, there is the suggestion that D’Agosta finds Hayward worth the effort that it has taken for him to win her over again: he has put a lot of “hard work into repairing their relationship.” Finally, there is also an allusion to a past event or series of events that had somehow fractured their relationship; otherwise, no “repairing” would be necessary. Once again, the authors set the scene with their chapter’s opening paragraph, and, once again, at the same time, they accomplish more--in this case, creating suspense (for new readers, at least) concerning what has happened to damage the relationship between D’Agosta and Hayward in the past and (for readers old and new) the question as to whether D’Agosta’s partnering with Pendergast will have a disastrous effect upon their present relationship, undoing “all the hard work” that D’Agosta has “put into repairing their relationship.”
Again, using carefully worded phrases to paint a picture of the New York Harbor, as Pendergast and D’Agosta, driven by the FBI agent’s chauffeur, Proctor, the authors set the scene, suggest the narrative’s progress, and introduce a “detour”:
The Rolls, Proctor again at the wheel, hummed along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway south of the Brooklyn Bridge. D’Agosta watched a pair of tugboats pushing a giant barge heaped with cubed cars up the East River, leaving a frothy wake behind. It had all happened so fast, he still wasn’t quite able to wrap his head around it--they would have to make a brief, but necessary, detour (44).Where will the detour take the characters, the reader wonders, and why? We, along for the ride, are apt to be as curious as D’Agosta, eager to learn of our destination and its purpose. With economy, Preston and Child, as usual, suggest action (we are riding along with D’Agosta and Pendergast, “along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway south of the Brooklyn Bridge,” tugboats on view outside the window of the Rolls-Royce), and create suspense (concerning the nature and the reason for the “detour”) that D’Agosta and Pendergast must take--quite a feat for a paragraph of only sixty-six words!
The opening paragraph of the next chapter returns the reader to Africa, or, more specifically, as the chapter’s tagline makes clear, “Zambia.” D’Agosta (with Pendergast at the wheel, the reader learns, in the next paragraph), travels inside a rickety and ramshackle vehicle along a rutted road. We are not sure what we are doing in Zambia, when, last we knew, D’Agosta and Pendergast were in New York, about to catch the airplane that, presumably, has brought them here, to Africa, but, it seems clear, we will soon find out. Once again, the authors maintain the reader’s interest by shifting scenes:
The smiling, gap-toothed man at the dirt airstrip had called the vehicle a Land Rover. That description, D’Agosta thought as he hung on for dear life, was more than charitable. Whatever it might have been, now it barely deserved to be called an automobile. It had no windows, no roof, no radio, and no seat belts. The hood was fixed to the grille by a tangle of baling wire. He could see the dirt road through giant rust holes in the chassis (48).