Fans of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child will be happy to discover
that FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast is alive. Readers will remember
that he was last seen at the end of BRIMSTONE (2004) buried alive
behind a brick wall. His estranged brother, Diogenes, rescued him
and nursed him back to health. But this was not a true act of
kindness; Diogenes had a dark agenda and needed his brother to live
in order to carry out his nefarious plans.
Their Great Aunt Cordelia speaks of Diogenes: "The Pendergast
bloodline has been tainted for centuries. Young Diogenes was
touched even from the beginning. From the day he was born, he was
different. A bad seed indeed. Diogenes never cared for anyone but
his mother, of course, but he seemed to put Aloysius in a special
From childhood to adulthood, his "dark side" grew and blossomed.
And now, in DANCE OF DEATH, he sets in motion a grisly series of
torture-murders for which Aloysius is blamed.
Agent Pendergast is a hero in the spirit of Sherlock Holmes,
Hercule Poirot, Roy Rogers, Superman, and Dick Tracy. He is the
antithesis of his psychopathic brother and quickly comes to
understand that he is the real target of the hellacious killings.
In a painful discussion with his "cop/buddy" sidekick, Lieutenant
Vincent D'Agosta, he explains: "These deaths, and the manner in
which they were staged, were Diogenes's way of attracting my
attention. I had always assumed his crime would be against
humanity. That's the real reason he rescued me. He doesn't want me
dead, he wants me alive --- alive so he can destroy me in a far
more exquisite way, leaving me filled with misery…torturing
myself with the knowledge that I was unable to save those few
people on earth…I truly care about."
Also on the scene are familiar characters: Detective Captain Laura
Hayward; author and crime reporter Bill Smithback; his ward,
Constance; and Proctor, the majordomo. And a cast worthy of Cecil
B. DeMille accompanies them.
As the story takes shape and unfolds, several threads slither into
the kaleidoscopic plot with supersonic speed for most of the
narrative. But readers may wonder why some of the subplots are
given so much space; unfortunately, they slow down the pathos that
simmers at the heart of this novel. Too often these "side trips"
feel contrived and unnecessary, yet they are not so egregious as to
fatally flaw the book. And, for the first time in this series,
Preston and Child add a bit of romance to their heady mix of chaos,
killing, and intellectual calisthenics and literary allusion.
DANCE OF DEATH may be a bit more melodramatic than the others in
this series, but overall the book holds up. The ending is a
cliffhanger, which is a sure signal that Preston and Child have
something more planned for their clever and fleshed-out characters.
Agent Pendergast is sure to return "on his white steed" to put the
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on December 29, 2010