Wednesday, January 13, 2016

REVIEW | The Providence Rider by Robert McCammon
The Providence Rider by Robert McCammon
Publication Year: 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Series: Matthew Corbett #4
Awards: NA
Format: Audio from
Narrator: Edoardo Ballerini

WHY?: This is one of my favorite historical mystery (though it has morphed into more thriller, less mystery) series.  Book 3 was my favorite so far and was one of the best books I read in 2015. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to pick this book up.

SYNOPSIS: Matthew gets drawn into Professor Fell's shady international criminal syndicate.  It comes in the form of he, Berry and Zed being kidnapped by several colorful agents and taken across the sea to Fell's creepy secret island lair.  Fell wants Matthew to do a job for him, and uses the people he cares about as leverage.

If the synopsis gives you a James Bond vibe it should.  This book really played out like a 17th century, gruesomely violent Bond story complete with eccentric villain and a super spy (Corbett) who has become irresistible to the ladies.  Though instead of super spy, Matthew is called a problem solver.  Really! That's his official job title with the Herald Agency, which is kind of awesome.

Professor Fell, head of a mysterious and international criminal organization, marked Matthew for death in an earlier book, but in The Providence Rider it is clear that he has started to admire Matthew's pluck and resourcefulness.  He wants Matthew to work for him and he thinks he can convince him by offering to pay him a whole bunch of cash and removing the death mark on him. Matthew learned his lesson in Mister Slaughter, however, and he is no longer interested in illicit cash. What he is worried about is Berry and Hudson and the threat Professor Fell could pose to them so he sets about trying to pull a fast one on the bad guys.

I enjoyed this book but it never quite came together for me, not like Mister Slaughter did at least. For one thing Professor Fell, while not completely uninteresting, failed to scare the pants off of me like Tyranthus Slaughter.  For an *Arch Villain* he was pretty tame despite the macabre, James-Bond-esque persona.  Or maybe he just seemed vanilla after old Tyranthus.

For another thing,the evolution of Matthew's character is not one I am totally buying.  His experience with Slaughter has profoundly changed him; toughened him up, made him more serious, made him better able to control his emotions.  This is all well and good but it has also apparently made him irresistible to all womankind and way too good at everything.  This book is a little too chock full of drop dead gorgeous femme fatales, again reminiscent of the movies featuring everybody's favorite English spy [maybe the books too? I've not read any of them]. There is actually a sex scene, which is strange and gratuitous and is basically a rape of Matthew.  It felt squicky and just was a little too much for my sensibilities.  Heads being slowly sawed off at the dinner table are fine but sexual violence is a line I am uncomfortable with.  Oh yeah, this one definitely has a gory scene or two (as do most of the books in the series) so beware!  Anyway, where was I?  Matthew.  By the end of the book I was once again feeling okay with how he was portrayed.  He has been exposed to a lot of horrific things and the reader has watched him change from the competent and smart but relatively innocent boy of the first book into a much more hardened and haunted man.  I hope I can continue to hang with him as the series goes on.

There are a few other things.  I liked having Berry, the one stable female character, along but McCammon doesn't do much with her.  There is some missed potential there.  And speaking of misses... I missed Hudson, I missed a more mysterious plot.  

And now I've gone and done nothing but pointed out negatives.  I swear I did still get immersed in the very interesting historical setting of the book. This series is fantastic and I guess I have come to expect each book to blow my socks off so perhaps I am too demanding. Bottom line, this is still a go to and unique series for me but this was the weakest installment up to this point.  Unfortunately, I was just unable to go with the 17th century James Bond vibe but you, perhaps, will love it!

FINAL VERDICT: Book four in the Matthew Corbett series reads like a 17th century spy thriller complete with a secret island populated by criminals and an eccentric villain.  A cool idea but it didn't quite click with me.  This is still a fantastic series however so if you haven't yet check it out, you should!  3 out of 5 stars.

Some Other Opinions Are Available: Criminal | Horror Novel Reviews

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