Book Review: The Providence Rider – Author Robert McCammon

The Providence Rider by Robert McCammon
(Subterranean Press)

The Providence Rider is the fourth standalone installment in the extraordinary series of historical thrillers featuring Matthew Corbett, professional problem solver. The narrative begins in the winter of 1703, with Matthew still haunted by his lethal encounter with notorious mass murderer Tyranthus Slaughter. When an unexplained series of explosions rocks his Manhattan neighborhood, Matthew finds himself forced to confront a new and unexpected problem. Someone is trying—and trying very hard—to get his attention. That someone is a shadowy figure from out of Matthew’s past: the elusive Professor Fell. The professor, it turns out, has a problem of his own, one that requires the exclusive services of Matthew Corbett.

The ensuing narrative moves swiftly and gracefully from the emerging metropolis of New York City to Pendulum Island in the remote Bermudas. In the course of his journey, Matthew encounters a truly Dickensian assortment of memorable, often grotesque, antagonists. These include Sirki, the giant, deceptively soft-spoken East Indian killer, Dr. Jonathan Gentry, an expert in exotic potions with a substance abuse problem of his own, the beautiful but murderous Aria Chillany, and, of course, the master manipulator and “Emperor of Crime” on two continents, Professor Fell himself. The result is both an exquisitely constructed novel of suspense and a meticulous recreation of a bygone era.

This signed, limited edition of this generous volume also contains a new, utterly compelling Matthew Corbett adventure, “Death Comes for the Rich Man.” This 11,500-word novella, which has never before been published and will not be reprinted anywhere else for at least two years, takes place between the events of Mister Slaughter and The Providence Rider. In the course of this startling tale, Matthew is approached by a wealthy, dying man with an urgent, if impossible, request: to keep Death itself at bay. Filled with danger, mystery, and an almost tangible sense of place, these superbly crafted narratives represent Robert McCammon at his best and historical fiction at its finest and most developed. Many devoted readers have been waiting for this book.

Whenever I hear that Robert McCammon is coming out with a new book I can’t help but get terribly excited.  It seems it wasn’t that long ago when a new Robert McCammon book was out of the question. He had stopped writing books and it seemed to his many fans that we would just have to reread his collection to get our McCammon fix in lieu of anything new.

Then about 10 years ago, Robert McCammon jumped back into the game in a big way, with the absolutely astounding historical thriller “Speaks The Nightbird”. A tale of witchcraft in the late 1600’s, it seemed to be right up my alley. At the time I didn’t really care what the book was about, all I knew is that there was a new book from Mr. McCammon coming out and I was going to read it as soon as it did. In “Speaks The Nightbird” Mr. McCammon introduced us to one of the most interesting and compelling characters in modern fiction, Matthew Corbett and further cemented his legacy as one of, if not the best author on the planet today.

Since that first Matthew Corbett tale Mr. McCammon has treated us to “The Queen Of Bedlam” and “Mr. Slaughter”. Two brilliant stories in and of themselves and worthy predecessors to “Speaks The Nightbird”. Which brings us to his latest and quite possibly his best book to date “The Providence Rider.”

“The Providence Rider” begins where “Mr. Slaughter” left off. Matthew Corbett’s confrontation with the insidious Mr. Slaughter has left him a changed man, but the mysterious and evil Professor Fell has plans for our young hero and goes about getting his attention by blowing up buildings in New York.

“The Providence Rider” is an absolutely brilliant historical thriller that will keep you turning the pages at a feverish pace as Mr. McCammon takes you along on a grand adventure full of action, intrigue, violence, love and friendship.

Up until “The Providence Rider”, Professor Fell has been somewhat reclusive, a shadowy character that we knew very little about. In “The Providence Rider” Mr. McCammon finally pulls back the curtain on Professor Fell and allows us into his criminal domain, giving us an unadulterated look at the nefarious Professor. Professor Fell proves to be as evil and villainous as he was hinted at in previous books. He has also surrounded himself with a group of despicable life like characters that add realism and depth to the story.

What really makes this series work for me is the continuing growth of Matthew Corbett as a character. Matthew continues to grow into his role as a “problem solver” and a man, with all the faults that accompany it. I can think of no character in modern fiction that I look more forward to reading about than Matthew Corbett.

Mr. McCammon is also able to brilliantly capture the time period. His descriptive prose makes you feel as if you are walking side by side with Matthew in early 1700 New York City. The sites, smells and people come to life gloriously in New York and on Pendulum Island.

Does “The Providence Rider” measure up to the first three books in the series? I say yes and then some. It contains the best of what I liked about the first three books, while adding substance and depth to Matthew, and introducing us to some new and interesting characters that I will be looking forward to getting to know better in future tales.

If you liked the first three Matthew Corbett tales you will absolutely love this one. I think it is the best one yet. If you haven’t yet read any of these books you can most certainly start with this one but I feel you would be robbing yourself of experiencing the continuing growth of Matthew Corbett and miss out on a lot of back story.

Either way, Mr. McCammon continues to bring us historical fiction as it is meant to be written, you must simply read this book and I give it my highest recommendation.

The Providence Rider – Author Robert McCammon

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