Douglas Preston
& Lincoln Child,
Dance of Death
(Time Warner, 2005)

If you are a fan of the character FBI Agent Pendergast created by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, then you have undoubtedly already read their novel Dance of Death. If you are thinking "FBI Agent who?" then you are several books behind. And do not even think about starting with this one. You will be completely lost.

Dance of Death is the second book in a trilogy relaying Pendergast's challenge to stop his brother, Diogenes, from committing a series of heinous crimes. Both brothers are brilliant to the level of being geniuses. However, where one brother uses his intelligence to solve crimes, the other has a penchant for murder and high-profile thefts. Since it is common to blame one's parents and society in general for one's misgivings, I wonder how much getting picked on in school for having a name like Diogenes had to do with the way this kid turned out?

Diogenes is a strange character. At the end of the previous novel, he saves his brother's life. He didn't save him out of brotherly love, but because he hates him so. At first, that doesn't make sense. But as this novel progresses, that perception will change. Diogenes starts to kill his brother's friends and acquaintances and frames his brother with the murders. He also plans a diamond theft for variety. For most of the novel Diogenes outwits his brother at every move. Fortunately, Pendergast always has a few aces up his sleeve.

Rene' Auberjonois narrates the audiobook. This actor, recognizable from the television shows Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Benson, is The Voice of Agent Pendergast. I enjoy his reading style as much as I enjoy the writing style of the authors. Child was a systems analyst and a book editor prior to writing about Pendergast. Preston worked at the American Museum of Natural History and contributed to the New Yorker before collaborating with Child. These three gentlemen have an interesting and entertaining "interview" at the end of the last CD that lasts a couple minutes. Be sure not to skip it.

Dance of Death is a book without much of a beginning. The prior novel, Brimstone, never truly wrapped up. Similarly, this second book simply seems to run out of pages and is very open ended, leading the way to the last book in the series, The Book of the Dead. This novel also leaves out the mysterious and supernatural elements common in most Agent Pendergast tales.

On its own, Dance of Death is only so-so. A reader without background on Pendergast would not be impressed at all. Fans of the authors, on the other hand, will see this book as another stone on the path to all things Pendergast and will be happy with what they read. The former type reader will think this book ends with no real conclusion, which is exactly what will excite the latter type reader (like myself) because that is a sign of more to come.

by Wil Owen
25 November 2006

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