White Fire by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child is all about fire and ice. The main story takes place in Roaring Fork, Colorado. This town was a successful silver mining operation in the 1880”s and is now a billionaire’s ski resort. A family from the old silver days is in charge of the new multi-million dollar plots of land.
In 1889, Oscar Wilde had passed through Roaring Fork and gave a lecture. He heard a horrific story about a bear eating miners but with a bizarre twist. He shared this with Conan Doyle when he returned to London. Doyle incorporated what he heard from Wilde, first in Hound of the Baskervilles and then in an unpublished story a couple of months before he died.
Corrie is a rebellious student at John Jay College in NYC who discovers a path to follow her forensic dream to win a scholarship. She is going to investigate the miners who were eaten by the bear. As she runs into obstacles in Colorado, her guardian angel FBI Agent Pendergast comes to her rescue as does a recently discharged Air Force Captain, Stacy Bowdree, a descendent of one of the original miners mauled by the bear in the 1880’s.
The past and present mingle as archives are searched, closed, stolen, and clues to the solution. In the middle of this we are regaled with the previously unpublished Sherlock Holmes’ “The Adventure of Aspern Hill.” Pendergast has Holmesian qualities and they both solve this case. Dangerous Work by Arthur Conan Doyle about his early life in the Arctic is mentioned in this novel and was reviewed by me last June.
White Fire is a masterpiece, beautifully written, loaded with literary gems from Doyle, Wilde, and Frost. It contains luscious scenery and is loaded with historical references that cause us to pause. Keeping it simple we are our own worst enemies and sometimes the evildoers can be victims themselves.