The Dance of Death (Special Agent Pendergast Series #6)

The Dance of Death (Special Agent Pendergast Series #6)

by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

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Hot on the trail of a killer in Manhattan, FBI Special Agent Pendergast must face his most brilliant and dangerous enemy: his own brother.

Two brothers.
One a top FBI agent.
The other a brilliant, twisted criminal.

An undying hatred between them.

Now, a perfect crime.

And the ultimate challenge:
Stop me if you can...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781455582921
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 05/27/2014
Series: Special Agent Pendergast Series , #6
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 63,827
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

The thrillers of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child "stand head and shoulders above their rivals" (Publishers Weekly). Preston and Child's Relic and The Cabinet of Curiosities were chosen by readers in a National Public Radio poll as being among the one hundred greatest thrillers ever written, and Relic was made into a number-one box office hit movie. They are coauthors of the famed Pendergast series and their recent novels include Fever Dream, Cold Vengeance, Two Graves, and Gideon's Corpse. In addition to his novels, Preston writes about archaeology for the New Yorker and Smithsonian magazines. Lincoln Child is a former book editor who has published five novels of his own, including the huge bestseller Deep Storm.
Readers can sign up for The Pendergast File, a monthly "strangely entertaining note" from the authors, at their website, The authors welcome visitors to their alarmingly active Facebook page, where they post regularly.

Place of Birth:

Cambridge, Massachusetts


B.A., Pomona College, 1978

Read an Excerpt


DEWAYNE MICHAELS SAT in the second row of the lecture hall, staring at the professor with what he hoped passed for interest. His eyelids were so heavy they felt as if lead sinkers had been sewn to them. His head pounded in rhythm with his heart and his tongue tasted like something had curled up and died on it. He’d arrived late, only to find the huge hall packed and just one seat available: second row center, smack-dab in front of the lectern.

Just great.

Dewayne was majoring in electrical engineering. He’d elected this class for the same reason engineering students had done so for three decades—it was a gimme. “English Literature—A Humanist Perspective” had always been a course you could breeze through and barely crack a book. The usual professor, a fossilized old turd named Mayhew, droned on like a hypnotist, hardly ever looking up from his forty-year-old lecture notes, his voice perfectly pitched for sleeping. The old fart never even changed his exams, and copies were all over Dewayne’s dorm. Just his luck, then, that—for this one semester—a certain renowned Dr. Torrance Hamilton was teaching the course. It was as if Eric Clapton had agreed to play the junior prom, the way they fawned over Hamilton.

Dewayne shifted disconsolately. His butt had already fallen asleep in the cold plastic seat. He glanced to his left, to his right. All around, students—upperclassmen, mostly—were typing notes, running microcassette recorders, hanging on the professor’s every word. It was the first time ever the course had been filled to capacity. Not an engineering student in sight.

What a crock.

Dewayne reminded himself he still had a week to drop the course. But he needed this credit and it was still possible Professor Hamilton was an easy grader. Hell, all these students wouldn’t have shown up on a Saturday morning if they thought they were going to get reamed out . . . would they?

In the meantime, front and center, Dewayne figured he’d better make an effort to look awake.

Hamilton walked back and forth on the podium, his deep voice ringing. He was like a gray lion, his hair swept back in a mane, dressed in a snazzy charcoal suit instead of the usual threadbare set of tweeds. He had an unusual accent, not local to New Orleans, certainly not Yankee. Didn’t exactly sound English, either. A teaching assistant sat in a chair behind the professor, assiduously taking notes.

“And so,” Dr. Hamilton was saying, “today we’re looking at Eliot’s The Waste Land—the poem that packaged the twentieth century in all its alienation and emptiness. One of the greatest poems ever written.”

The Waste Land. Dewayne remembered now. What a title. He hadn’t bothered to read it, of course. Why should he? It was a poem, not a damn novel: he could read it right now, in class.

He picked up the book of T. S. Eliot’s poems—he’d borrowed it from a friend, no use wasting good money on something he’d never look at again—and opened it. There, next to the title page, was a photo of the man himself: a real weenie, tiny little granny glasses, lips pursed like he had two feet of broomstick shoved up his ass. Dewayne snorted and began turning pages. Waste Land, Waste Land . . . here it was.

Oh, shit. This was no limerick. The son of a bitch went on for page after page.

“The first lines are by now so well known that it’s hard for us to imagine the sensation—the shock—that people felt upon first reading it in The Dial in 1922. This was not what people considered poetry. It was, rather, a kind of anti-poem. The persona of the poet was obliterated. To whom belong these grim and disturbing thoughts? There is, of course, the famously bitter allusion to Chaucer in the opening line. But there is much more going on here. Reflect on the opening images: ‘lilacs out of the dead land,’ ‘dull roots,’ ‘forgetful snow.’ No other poet in the history of the world, my friends, ever wrote about spring in quite this way before.”

Dewayne flipped to the end of the poem, found it contained over four hundred lines. Oh, no. No . . .

“It’s intriguing that Eliot chose lilacs in the second line, rather than poppies, which would have been a more traditional choice at the time. Poppies were then growing in an abundance Europe hadn’t seen for centuries, due to the numberless putrefying corpses from the Great War. But more important, the poppy—with its connotations of narcotic sleep—seems the better fit to Eliot’s imagery. So why did Eliot choose lilacs? Let’s take a look at Eliot’s use of allusion, here most likely involving Whitman’s ‘When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.’”

Oh, my God, it was like a nightmare: here he was in the front of the class and not understanding a word the professor was saying. Who’d have thought you could write four hundred lines of poetry on a freaking waste land? Speaking of wasted, his head felt like it was packed full of ball bearings. Served him right for hanging out until four last night, doing shots of citron Grey Goose.

He realized the class around him had gone still, and that the voice from behind the lectern had fallen silent. Glancing up at Dr. Hamilton, he noticed the professor was standing motionless, a strange expression on his face. Elegant or not, the old fellow looked as if he’d just dropped a steaming loaf in his drawers. His face had gone strangely slack. As Dewayne watched, Hamilton slowly withdrew a handkerchief, carefully patted his forehead, then folded the handkerchief neatly and returned it to his pocket. He cleared his throat.

“Pardon me,” he said as he reached for a glass of water on the lectern, took a small sip. “As I was saying, let’s look at the meter Eliot employs in this first section of the poem. His free verse is aggressively enjambed: the only stopped lines are those that finish his sentences. Note also the heavy stressing of verbs: breeding, mixing, stirring. It’s like the ominous, isolated beat of a drum; it’s ugly; it shatters the meaning of the phrase; it creates a sense of disquietude. It announces to us that something’s going to happen in this poem, and that it won’t be pretty.”

The curiosity that had stirred in Dewayne during the unexpected pause faded away. The oddly stricken look had left the professor’s face as quickly as it came, and his features—though still pale—had lost their ashen quality.

Dewayne returned his attention to the book. He could quickly scan the poem, figure out what the damn thing meant. He glanced at the title, then moved his eye down to the epigram, or epigraph, or whatever you called it.

He stopped. What the hell was this? Nam Sibyllam quidem . . . Whatever it was, it wasn’t English. And there, buried in the middle of it, some weird-ass squiggles that weren’t even part of the normal alphabet. He glanced at the explanatory notes at the bottom of the page and found the first bit was Latin, the second Greek. Next came the dedication: For Ezra Pound, il miglior fabbro. The notes said that last bit was Italian.

Latin, Greek, Italian. And the frigging poem hadn’t even started yet. What next, hieroglyphics?

It was a nightmare.

He scanned the first page, then the second. Gibberish, plain and simple. “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” What was that supposed to mean? His eye fell on the next line. Frisch weht der Wind . . .

Abruptly, Dewayne closed the book, feeling sick. That did it. Only thirty lines into the poem and already five damn languages. First thing tomorrow morning, he’d go down to the registrar and drop this turkey.

He sat back, head pounding. Now that the decision was made, he wondered how he was going to make it through the next forty minutes without climbing the walls. If only there’d been a seat up in the back, where he could slip out unseen . . .

Up at the podium, the professor was droning on. “All that being said, then, let’s move on to an examination of—”

Suddenly, Hamilton stopped once again.

“Excuse me.” His face went slack again. He looked—what? Confused? Flustered? No: he looked scared.

Dewayne sat up, suddenly interested.

The professor’s hand fluttered up to his handkerchief, fumbled it out, then dropped it as he tried to bring it to his forehead. He looked around vaguely, hand still fluttering about, as if to ward off a fly. The hand sought out his face, began touching it lightly, like a blind person. The trembling fingers palpated his lips, eyes, nose, hair, then swatted the air again.

The lecture hall had gone still. The teaching assistant in the seat behind the professor put down his pen, a concerned look on his face. What’s going on? Dewayne wondered. Heart attack?

The professor took a small, lurching step forward, bumping into the podium. And now his other hand flew to his face, feeling it all over, only harder now, pushing, stretching the skin, pulling down the lower lip, giving himself a few light slaps.

The professor suddenly stopped and scanned the room. “Is there something wrong with my face?”

Dead silence.

Slowly, very slowly, Dr. Hamilton relaxed. He took a shaky breath, then another, and gradually his features relaxed. He cleared his throat.

“As I was saying—”

Dewayne saw the fingers of one hand come back to life again, twitching, trembling. The hand returned to his face, the fingers plucking, plucking the skin.

This was too weird.

“I—” the professor began, but the hand interfered with his speech. His mouth opened and closed, emitting nothing more than a wheeze. Another shuffled step, like a robot, bumping into the podium.

“What are these things?” he asked, his voice cracking.

God, now he was pulling at his skin, eyelids stretched grotesquely, both hands scrabbling—then a long, uneven scratch from a fingernail, and a line of blood appeared on one cheek.

A ripple coursed through the classroom, like an uneasy sigh.

“Is there something wrong, Professor?” the T.A. said.

“I . . . asked . . . a question.” The professor growled it out, almost against his will, his voice muffled and distorted by the hands pulling at his face.

Another lurching step, and then he let out a sudden scream: “My face! Why will no one tell me what’s wrong with my face!”

More deathly silence.

The fingers were digging in, the fist now pounding at the nose, which cracked faintly.

“Get them off me! They’re eating into my face!”

Oh, shit: blood was now gushing from the nostrils, splashing down on the white shirt and charcoal suit. The fingers were like claws on the face, ripping, tearing; and now one finger hooked up and—Dewayne saw with utter horror—worked itself into one eye socket.

“Out! Get them out!”

There was a sharp, rotating motion that reminded Dewayne of the scooping of ice cream, and suddenly the globe of the eye bulged out, grotesquely large, jittering, staring directly at Dewayne from an impossible angle.

Screams echoed across the lecture hall. Students in the front row recoiled. The T.A. jumped from his seat and ran up to Hamilton, who violently shrugged him off.

Dewayne found himself rooted to his seat, his mind a blank, his limbs paralyzed.

Professor Hamilton now took a mechanical step, and another, ripping at his face, tearing out clumps of hair, staggering as if he might fall directly on top of Dewayne.

“A doctor!” the T.A. screamed. “Get a doctor!”

The spell was broken. There was a sudden commotion, everyone rising at once, the sound of falling books, a loud hubbub of panicked voices.

“My face!” the professor shrieked over the din. “Where is it?

Chaos took over, students running for the door, some crying. Others rushed forward, toward the stricken professor, jumping onto the podium, trying to stop his murderous self-assault. The professor lashed out at them blindly, making a high-pitched, keening sound, his face a mask of red. Someone forcing his way down the row trod hard on Dewayne’s foot. Drops of flying blood had spattered Dewayne’s face: he could feel their warmth on his skin. Yet still he did not move. He found himself unable to take his eyes off the professor, unable to escape this nightmare.

The students had wrestled the professor to the surface of the podium and were now sliding about in his blood, trying to hold down his thrashing arms and bucking body. As Dewayne watched, the professor threw them off with demonic strength, grabbed the cup of water, smashed it against the podium, and—screaming—began to work the shards into his own neck, twisting and scooping, as if trying to dig something out.

And then, quite suddenly, Dewayne found he could move. He scrambled to his feet, skidded, ran along the row of seats to the aisle, and began sprinting up the stairs toward the back exit of the lecture hall. All he could think about was getting away from the unexplainable horror of what he’d just witnessed. As he shot out the door and dashed full speed down the corridor beyond, one phrase kept echoing in his mind, over and over and over:

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Table of Contents

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Dance of Death (Special Agent Pendergast Series #6) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 228 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite book in the FBI Agent Pendergast series! Most of the Preston/Child books are stand alone, that is you can read just one without missing out on much -- however, this book is the second in what is informally called the Diogenese Trillogy and I would recommend reading Brimstone first. It's a great stand alone read, but would be better enjoyed the knowing the background information (about Diogenese) given in Brimstone. - A lot of suspense, I held my breath through half of it. - The characters are very well developed and believable. -
Darth-Vader More than 1 year ago
Reading Dance Of Death the second installment of the Diogenes trilogy is just like watching The Empire Strikes Back. Both are the best of their series and doesn't disappoint. I agree that Brimstone should be read first but its not mandatory.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All I'm sayin'....the Special Angent Pengergast series leaves me totally exhausted. I don't know how Preston and Child think of all the twists, turns and white knuckle page turning, but I'm ready for the next book. This book shows the more "human" side of Pengergast - and remind me to never go to a Pendergast family reunion.....well written - intense - during the end of the day at work, I just start thinking I have to get home and finish this book........I'm envious of the authors' well honed writing skills....
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great read. It was pretty fast paced with different twists and turns.Can hardly wait to read the next book in the series. I highly recommend this book and others written by these authors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my second favorite book in the Pendergast Series. ( The Cabinet of Curiosities is my first ) Superb writing & an amazing plot. Plenty of twists & turns that kept me on the edge of my seat. It's a great stand alone novel but I would suggest reading Brimstone first if you want more background on Agent Pendergast's brother Diogenes. I'm obsessed with these books and I absolutely plan to read them all !! I love Agent Pendergast !!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book when looking for something new and different. I was not aware at the time that this was the second in a trilogy, but soon found it to have perfectly stable legs it could stand on. The characters are awesomely diverse and the plot is relentless in its twists and turns. I'm definitely going back to pick up Brimstone(the first in the trilogy) and Book of the Dead, Pendergast is one of my favorite book characters and he'll no doubt be yours too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
rwt42 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Crime fiction. Pendergast #6. Prequel to Book of the Dead (a must read). This was less gruesome, less science fictiony than the previous five - which I prefer.
DanaJean on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm really starting to get into these Preston/Child books. Unfortunately, I've been reading them out of order, but it hasn't messed me up to the point I couldn't quickly catch on to what has happened previous. They do a fairly decent job of having these books standalones with enough explanation to keep you interested and engaged. Good series of stories, I like the continuing characters.
Anntstobbs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoy the Pendergast mystery series by these two authors. This book pitches Agent Aloyisius Pendergast with his evil brother, Diogenese. The usual cast of characters is present, Laura Hayward, Vinnie D'Agosta, Margo Green, Bill Smithback, Constance and of course, Proctor. This story takes place within the confines of New York and takes us through the killings of friends and acquaintances of Agent Pendergast. It also revisits some of the horror of the previous novel, Relic. A very good read.
candlemark on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not quite up to Preston/Child's usual standards, this book was a continuation of BRIMSTONE and the prequel to BOOK OF THE DEAD. While I don't mind continuing plots like this, ordinarily, this book FELT like a setup for the next in many ways - the characters acted at odds to their usual depictions, and the scenarios felt quite forced. I can ordinarily figure out where a Preston/Child novel is going well before it gets there, but the entire setup this time just felt...trite and forced.Beyond that, the two major questions that have come up in the last few books in the series - regarding Diogenes's motivations and the nature/origins of Constance - were only hinted at. Irritatingly. Go right ahead, talk about how this is an "unfathomable mystery" or how things aren't what they appear, but at least throw us a bone regarding what said mystery is going to turn out to be, to keep us hooked and thinking about it before the next book. Don't simply mention the great mystery again and again while pointedly refusing to actually DISCUSS it. That's just maddening.The prose was, thankfully, up to the usual snappy standards of this duo - the references come fast and thick, the writing and pacing are taut without being too simplistic or didactic, and the tension builds nicely. But that was about all that was up to the team's usual standards here - the plot was hackneyed and too telegraphed, the scenarios too outlandish (and for a duo known for writing about malevolent genetic oddities, that's saying something), and the characters acted at odds with their usual habits and deportment.Let's not get into the fact that women, apparently, are always referred to by their first names, while men are referred to by their surnames. Laura Hayward is referred to both ways, but usually called "Laura" - a commentary on how women in power are perceived? I found it interesting that she was called Hayward when in her official capacity, but Margo Green was never called "Green," even though she was now a powerful personage, the editor of a top-ranked magazine. Hm. Meanwhile, even the lowliest of male characters was always referred to by his surname by the authors. Don't get me wrong, I love Preston/Child and I'll certainly read BOOK OF THE DEAD, but their work is starting to lose me, at least in the Diogenes trilogy.
buckeyeaholic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
HATED IT!!! It just wouldn't end.
graveskeeper2000 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was the first book that I had read by these authors. Actually read it because it was recommended to read it before "Book of the Dead." I had no clue what I was in for, as I started looking for the beginning to this series. Though each book is written as a stand alone story, it is hard not to read them all. What I think is one of the greatest draws to the books is the FBI Agent Pendergast, which could be looked upon as a Spooky Moulder, without all the Government conspiracy.I have to admit that with the exception of the "Wheel of Darkness" I enjoy the books that Revolve around the Museum of Natural History.
RogueBelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Thrilling and captivating, as with all of the Pendergast novels. Aloysius begins to seem like more of an actual human being, with the foil of Diogenes stripping away some of his supernatural ethereality and uncovering secrets of his past. Thoroughly gripping, and the ending will make you rush to pick up Book of the Dead as quickly as possible.
Grandeplease on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you liked Brimstone - you will love Dance of Death.In this tale told by the Preston / Child author duo features familiar characters (D'Agosta, Proctor, Constance and the return of Pendergast) struggling to solve a life and death mystery. Strange death arrives early. This book is not for the squeamish.Pendergast believes that the bad guy is his genius brother with whom he has a near Cain and Able relationship. Wits are matched, unmatched and matched again.Thankfully, in Dance of Death the authors have avoided their distracting tendency to repeat unusual words. My only annoyance is with Dance of Death is minor - Pendergast has the notion that he knows better than everybody else what he should share. This includes D'Agosta. It is silly, unnecessary drama. Even upon reflection it does not make sense. But then, I am getting picky!I noticed one typo in the first edition. Found on the second line of page 274, "voice" is "vice".
tiddleyboom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well, I'm losing adjectives for this trilogy. Loved it, couldn't put it down. Definitely will read more by these guys.
burnit99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A suspense novel with former FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast and Lt. Vincent D'Agosta as they join forces against Pendergast's brilliant and insane brother Diogenes, who is seeking to gain an ultimate vengeance against his hated brother. This is the first of these novels I have read in which Diogenes is more than a hushed whisper of a flashback, and a formidible and intriguing character he is indeed. The story is taut and believable in spite of its heightened unreality, and the action is fast-paced and exhilarating in a dark and moody way. We also see some more of characters that were merely names in other books I have read by these two, and it is a pleasure to finally see a more vulnerable and human aspect of the noteworthy Agent Pendergast.
GMac on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Stalked throughout his life by his diabolical brother Diogenes, FBI special agent Pendergast finds himself framed for several murders, a situation that forces him to flee while he works alongside a friend from the NYPD to prove his innocence.
hoosgracie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Agent Pendergast, with the assistance of Lieutenant D¿Agosta, must confront the most diabolical criminal of his career ¿ his brother Diogenes. Good addition to the series, but I hate that it left you hanging for the next book.
kenck4 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book Dance of Death written by Douglass Preston and Lincoln Child is the latest in a series that started with Relic. In Dance of Death, the main protagonists are a brilliant FBI agent Aloysius Pentergast and his equally brilliant but evil and twisted brother Diogenes. Diogenes is bent on destroying his brother Aloysius by leaving clues as to who will die next. Not all the clues that are left by Diogenes are to be trusted. If Aloysius is wrong about how to interpret the clues then people will continue to die because he can not protect themMany of the characters in this book are from earlier books in this series and their deaths leave you in disbelief. Over the years I have seen the development of several of them and even the offbeat goofier ones have been made endeared to this reader. The chance of their imminent loss makes you think harder to figure out how is really being stalked and who is being used as a red herring. A lot of the fun of the book was trying to see if you could figure out the clues for yourself. The twists and turns always kept me on my toes and made me think steps ahead and to think of the plot as a chess game. I think that this is a wonderful book that will keep the reader on the edge of the chair and that they will have a hard time putting it down. This book can be read without having read the earlier books but if you have read the earlier books you will care about some of the characters even more than if you read this as a stand alone book.
eduscapes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Special Agent Pendergast's homicidal brother is trying to commit the "perfect crime" which involves framing our hero. The Preston/Lincoln writing team always provide exciting thrillers that keep the reader thinking and guessing right up to the end.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Okay... this is now my favorite Preston and Child story - and my favorite novel featuring Agent Pendergast. Thanks, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child! The best yet! Make the next one even better!Great fun quotient and the suspense was getting to me the entire time.The story goes something like this (briefly and absolutely NO spoilers -- AND note: if you have not read Brimstone yet, stop reading this!In the last installment by these two authors, Brimstone (which was also amazing, thank you very much!), we last left our hero, Agent Aloysius Pendergast walled up in a room of the castle belonging to the positively evil Count Fosco, left for dead. But -- he's back (the book will explain why). That's not a spoiler; you'll learn as much from the jacket cover! Anyway, Pendergast knows that something terrible is going to happen on January 28 and that this terrible crime will be the work of his maniacal but highly intelligent, sociopathic brother Diogenes. Pendergast takes Vincent D'Agosta (you'll remember him if you've read this series) into his confidence because he needs all the help Vincent can give him to try to stop Diogenes. But of course, there are always weird twists and turns in Preston & Childs' work; so by the time you get to the end your stomach is tied up in knots from the suspense. I know this is a lousy synopsis, but I just can't give away the show. Many of the Preston/Childs favorite characters from the Relic series are back; Pendergast is amazing, as usual. To be honest I saw it coming (not the actual ending, but the evil plot by Diogenes), but it still didn't lessen the fun of this book! Look for the self-referential pokes at this pair's other novels as you read.recommended; you may want to read the series in order to have it all make sense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Always a great story teller
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another Special Agent Pendergast story I couldn't put down. The evil brother is a great villain.