My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As I have alluded to in past McDevitt book reviews, many of the Chase Kolpath/Alex Benedict series novels are starting to be “much of a muchness”, ergo, they are all comprised of elements that have worked for McDevitt before. As a writer, McDevitt is unabashedly not shy about reusing things that worked pretty well the first time. As a reader, I have said that this doesn’t matter to me much, a day with the worst McDevitt novel is better than a day without any McDevitt novels. FIREBIRD is far from his worst book– in fact, it is a stunning return to form for the series, which had reverted to the same plot device of: 1) visitor shows up with a mysterious artifact and story. 2) Something doesn’t seem right, investigation is done 3) this requires visiting a lot of places, and interviewing a lot of old people. Chase muses on her life and many ex-boyfriends 4) breakthrough 5) denouement, where somebody’s life is briefly in danger, and 6) everything is happily resolved, Alex is a hero, Chase is a wiser and richer woman, and haven’t we all learned a little something about ourselves?
What makes FIREBIRD so interesting is that the standard payoff isn’t present. The plot meanders around, dodges down an interesting blind alley having to do with a deadly planet with sentinent computers running the place, and the conclusion is somewhat anti-climactic. The central mystery, about the disappearance of an enigmatic Physics Professor doing some really interesting work with research, is not conclusively resolved. I mean, we get an IDEA of what transpires but we’ll never really know. And the payoff that does occur is not the standard denouement where Alex is lauded after arriving home and then pilloried for being a Tomb raider. If it were another author, I would have been a little annoyed, having him create a buildup for very little like that. But with McDevitt, a little goes a long way, and I found myself enjoying FIREBIRD better than the last two Alex Benedict books.
Well done, Mr. McDevitt, and I appreciate you injecting new life into your star characters.