The Providence Rider is author Robert McCammon’s latest installment in the series featuring Matthew Corbett. The novel begins in colonial New York City, shortly after Matthew’s tragic encounter with the murderous Tyranthus Slaughter. The adventure has left him withdrawn and depressed, but he is forced out of his melancholy by a series of explosions unleashed by shadowy figures who want his attention. His pursuit of the culprits lands him in the clutches of his arch enemy and criminal mastermind, Professor Fell, who whisks him away to a private Caribbean island where Fell’s council of villains has convened.
The colorful island locale is populated by equally colorful characters. There is Sirki, an East Indian killer; Aria Chillany, Fell’s captain of assasins; Miss Minx Cutter, master of forgery and knife throwing; and Professor Fell himself, the Emperor of Crime. Oddjob and Pussy Galore’s invitations must have been lost in the mail. Allusions to James Bond aside, the novel is rather serious. It reads more like P.D. James or Patricia Highsmith, and while it may not have the thematic depth of the preceding novel in its series, the period language and accurate portrayal of the era give the book gravitas.
McCammon’s vivid portrayal of America’s infancy is what makes this novel of historical fiction so enjoyable. I feel that successfully immersing a reader in a bygone era can be as impressive a feat of world-building as creating a galactic adventure or a fantastical quest. My only complaint is that while McCammon nails the qualitative aspects of life in colonial New England he does not provide a wealth of quantitative facts that will make you rush to the Internet to learn more (excuse me while I push my glasses back up my nose). That minor flaw aside, I highly recommend the book and eagerly await Matthew Corbett’s future adventures.