From the Publisher
San Jose Mercury News This is as good as it gets....The Lincoln Rhyme series is simply outstanding.
People Deaver is a master of ticking-bomb suspense.
Booklist Intense and heart-stopping...leaves readers gasping at the stunning climax.
People Deaver...is a master of ticking-bomb suspense... Rhyme, now a forensic consultant, is more relentless than ever. Especially when, as in his chilling new case, he has a personal score to settle.
USA Today Deaver revs up the already supercharged tension by cramming all of the action in The Coffin Dancer into forty-eight hours.
Publishers Weekly Revelations and reversals punctuate this thriller like a string of firecrackers....Superb plotting and brisk, no-nonsense prose.
Library Journal Quick to the punch, The Coffin Dancer is diabolically packed with the good stuff: coverups, mystery, action.
Kirkus Reviews Fair warning to newcomers: Author Deaver is just as cunning and deceptive as his killer; don't assume he's run out of tricks until you've run out of pages.
St. Petersburg Times Readers who like "insider information" on police and FBI lingo will enjoy details Deaver adds to the dialogue.
The Barnes & Noble Review
Jeffery Deaver has, over the course of fewer than a dozen novels, made a major reputation for himself in the world of forensic thrillers. His writing is lean and crisp, and his characters seem all too real. The fun of the books is the way Deaver throws them into extraordinary situations. Fans of Jeffery Deaver will be thrilled by the return of Lincoln Rhyme in this new offering. Rhyme is the forensics expert who made a strong showing in Deaver's fascinating novel The Bone Collector. Unique among his forensics peers, Rhyme is a quadriplegic, but he still manages to be more involved in his cases than his colleagues.
Before we catch up with Rhyme, we're in the cockpit of a jet with pilot Edward Carney. Carney and his crew are taking a charter flight out of Mamaroneck Regional Airport in New York.The suspense builds all too quickly as Carney, worried about his wife, Percey, tries to reach her via phone before takeoff. When he calls her from the air and hears her voice, he is relieved. But seconds later, the chartered jet he's piloting gets blown out of the sky. On the ground, Percey gets the news. Fairly quickly, the feds and the cops realize that someone is eliminating witnesses to a crime. Percey may well be the next victim.
Enter Lincoln Rhyme. Rhyme's entire house is computerized, and when we first meet him, he is examining grains of sand for traces of murder. Rhyme has thoroughly adapted to his life without the use of limbs, and the electronic world that enables him to operate more than functionally is almost an outward metaphor for the inner workings of his mind.Brilliantly,Deaver has created something that few police procedural writers have managed to do: He can show through action the intellectual processes of a detective without ever having his detective lift a finger. Not to suggest that The Coffin Dancer is not an action-oriented story. Rhyme still manages to get around in a somewhat souped-up wheelchair. He has attained a certain strength of spirit since The Bone Collector, too.
What sets this story off and running is Stephen Kall. Kall is a psychologically twisted man, a hired assassin whose job is to kill the two remaining witnesses to criminal activity. It seems that a very bad man is behind bars awaiting a trial that is coming all too soon. With his strong connections, he has hired Kall to off those who would speak out against him.
Kall has a tattoo on his arm of the Grim Reaper dancing with a woman on a coffin to prove it (hence the novel's title). In his mind, Kall reenacts his military training even while he aims to kill an innocent woman as she stands at her living room window. A worthy adversary to Rhyme, Kall is a chameleon who manages to blend into any environment, who can charm a lonely woman into providing a cover for him, or become virtually invisible on a street crowded with cops.
Accompanying Rhyme is Amelia Sachs, criminologist and Rhyme's apprentice of sorts. Sachs and Rhyme share an unusual meeting of minds, a kind of intimacy that is beyond the sexual. They are truly soulmates, and their work together attests to that fact.
From this point, the story zooms into hyperdrive, with Rhyme and Sachs on the trail of serial killer Kall, trying to catch this most elusive of psychos. The plot twists and turns and leads, ultimately, to a shattering and heart-pounding climax that is worthy of such a tense and entertaining story.
Spellbinding crime thriller...
...Deaver builds on the classic detective tradition of the mental puzzler....For pure plot and adrenaline, for brain teasing, for being in the company of characters as interesting as Lincoln Rhyme and his friends, I can recommend The Coffin Dancer highly....[I] thought it was great and look forward to the next one. At least, I hope there's a next one. I hope this is one series that will stick around.
Mystery Magazine Online
Be prepared for a fast and bumpy ride. This book and these characters will draw you in and grab you up till you come screaming out the other side. Yes, Lincoln Rhymes is definitely back!
Over My Dead Body.com
Tightly written. . .unexpected plot twists. . .nearly impossible to put down.
A breakneck thriller....Deaver is a master of ticking-bomb suspense.
San Jose Mercury
As good as it gets. There is no thriller today like Jeffery Deaver.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Deaver has come a long way since his Rune novels (Manhattan Is My Beat; Death of a Blue Movie Star), and the measure of his growth as a writer is on display in this taut sequel to the bestselling The Bone Collector, starring quadriplegic forensic specialist Lincoln Rhyme. Rhyme is called in to track down a contract killer, known as the Coffin Dancer, who has been hired to eliminate three witnesses in the upcoming federal trial of Philip Hansen. The trial is set to begin just 48 hours from the novel's (literally) explosive beginning. Rhyme and his beautiful assistant, detective Amelia Sachs, have just that much time to ID the Dancer and keep him from murdering the remaining witnesses. Yet Rhyme has personal reasons to track the Dancer, which come out in just one of the revelations and reversals that punctuate this thriller like a string of firecrackers. The pace, energized by Deaver's precise attention, never flags; and if the romantic angle is a little obvious (Rhyme's seeming concern for one of the Dancer's female targets sparks Amelia's jealousy), Deaver manages to renovate many of the hoariest conventions of the ticking-clock-serial-murder subgenre. Another original renovation is his Nero Wolfe-ish Rhyme--a detective who lives the life of the mind by necessity, not choice, and who thinks of everything but can't even pick up a phone without help. Trust Deaver's superb plotting and brisk, no-nonsense prose to spin fresh gold from tired straw. Literary Guild main selection; Doubleday Book Club featured alternate; Reader's Digest Condensed Book Club. (Aug.)
If you could imagine James Bond as Brenda K. Starr and Sherlock Holmes as a quadriplegic with a penchant for solving arcane forensic clues, this suspenseful cat-and-mouse exercise should be easy to enjoy. This is Deaver's second title (after The Bone Collector) featuring the dynamic duo of detective Lincoln Rhyme and the gutsy redhead Amelia Sachs. After a suspicious bombing of a company aircraft, the New York metropolitan area becomes the stomping ground of the crafty hit-man-of-many-faces, The Coffin Dancer. He matches wits with officers Rhyme and Sachs as he comes ever closer to his next targets.
Quick to the punch, The Coffin Dancer is diabolically packed with the good stuff: cover-ups, mystery, action. -- Ahmad Wright
Lincoln Rhyme, the quadriplegic criminalist of The Bone Collector (1997), returns to confront the uncannily resourceful killer who's been hired to eliminate three witnesses in the last hours before their grand jury testimony. The first witness is no challenge for the Coffin Dancer, so dubbed after his distinctive tattoo: He simply plants a bomb on Hudson Air pilot/vice-president Edward Carney's flight to Chicago and waits for the TV news. But Ed's murder alerts the two other witnesses against millionaire entrepreneur-cum-weapons-stealer Phillip Hansen, and also alerts the NYPD and the FBI that both those witnessesEd's widow, Hudson Air president Percey Clay, and her old friend and fellow-pilot Brit Hale'are on the hot seat. With 45 hours left before they're scheduled to testify against Hansen, they bring Rhyme and his eyes and ears, New York cop Amelia Sachs, into the case. Their job: to gather enough information about the Coffin Dancer from trace evidence at the crime scene (for a start, scrapings from the tires of the emergency vehicles that responded to the Chicago crash) to nail him, or at least to predict his next move and head him off. The resulting game of cat and mouse is even more far-fetched than in The Bone Collectorboth Rhyme and the Dancer are constantly subject to unbelievably timely hunches and brain waves that keep their deadly shuttlecock in play down to the wirebut just as grueling, as the Dancer keeps on inching closer to his targets by killing bystanders whose death scenes in turn provide Rhyme and Sachs with new, ever more precise evidence against him. Fair warning to newcomers: Author Deaver is just as cunning anddeceptive as his killer; don't assume he's run out of tricks until you've run out of pages. For forensics buffs: Patricia Cornwell attached to a time bomb. For everybody else: irresistibly overheated melodrama, with more twists than Chubby Checker.
Read an Excerpt
When Edward Carney said good-bye to his wife, Percey, he never thought it would be the last time he'd see her.
He climbed into his car, which was parked in a precious space on East Eighty-first Street in Manhattan, and pulled into traffic. Carney, an observant man by nature, noticed a black van parked near their town house. A van with mud-flecked, mirrored windows. He glanced at the battered vehicle and recognized the West Virginia plates, realizing he'd seen the van on the street several times in the past few days. But then the traffic in front of him sped up. He caught the end of the yellow light and forgot the van completely. He was soon on the FDR Drive, cruising north.
Twenty minutes later he juggled the car phone and called his wife. He was troubled when she didn't answer. Percey'd been scheduled to make the flight with him -- they'd flipped a coin last night for the left-hand seat and she'd won, then given him one of her trademark victory grins. But then she'd wakened at 3 A.M. with a blinding migraine, which had stayed with her all day. After a few phone calls they'd found a substitute copilot and Percey'd taken a Fiorinal and gone back to bed.
A migraine was the only malady that would ground her.
Lanky Edward Carney, forty-five years old and still wearing a military hairstyle, cocked his head as he listened to the phone ringing miles away. Their answering machine clicked on and he returned the phone to the cradle, mildly concerned.
He kept the car at exactly sixty miles per hour, centered perfectly in the right lane; like most pilots he was conservative in his car. He trusted other airmen but thought most drivers were crazy.
In the office of Hudson Air Charters, on the grounds of Mamaroneck Regional Airport, in Westchester, a cake awaited. Prim and assembled Sally Anne, smelling like the perfume department at Macy's, had baked it herself to commemorate the company's new contract. Wearing the ugly rhinestone biplane brooch her grandchildren had given her last Christmas, she scanned the room to make sure each of the dozen or so employees had a piece of devil's food sized just right for them. Ed Carney ate a few bites of cake and talked about tonight's flight with Ron Talbot, whose massive belly suggested he loved cake though in fact he survived mostly on cigarettes and coffee. Talbot wore the dual hats of operations and business manager and he worried out loud if the shipment would be on time, if the fuel usage for the flight had been calculated correctly, if they'd priced the job right. Carney handed him the remains of his cake and told him to relax.
He thought again about Percey and stepped away into his office, picked up the phone.
Still no answer at their town house.
Now concern became worry. People with children and people with their own business always pick up a ringing phone. He slapped the receiver down, thought about calling a neighbor to check up on her. But then the large white truck pulled up in front of the hangar next to the office and it was time to go to work. Six P.M.
Talbot gave Carney a dozen documents to sign just as young Tim Randolph arrived, wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and narrow black tie. Tim referred to himself as a "copilot" and Carney liked that. "First officers" were company people, airline creations, and while Carney respected any man who was competent in the right-hand seat, pretension put him off.
Tall, brunette Lauren, Talbot's assistant, had worn her lucky dress, whose blue color matched the hue of the Hudson Air logo -- a silhouette of a falcon flying over a gridded globe. She leaned close to Carney and whispered, "It's going to be okay now, won't it?"
"It'll be fine," he assured her. They embraced for a moment. Sally Anne hugged him too and offered him some cake for the flight. He demurred. Ed Carney wanted to be gone. Away from the sentiment, away from the festivities. Away from the ground.
And soon he was. Sailing three miles above the earth, piloting a Lear 35A, the finest private jet ever made, clear of markings or insignia except for its N registration number, polished silver, sleek as a pike.
They flew toward a stunning sunset -- a perfect orange disk easing into big, rambunctious clouds, pink and purple, leaking bolts of sunlight.
Only dawn was as beautiful. And only thunderstorms more spectacular.
It was 723 miles to O'Hare and they covered that distance in less than two hours. Air Traffic Control's Chicago Center politely asked them to descend to fourteen thousand feet, then handed them off to Chicago Approach Control.
Tim made the call. "Chicago Approach. Lear Four Niner Charlie Juliet with you at one four thousand."
"Evening, Niner Charlie Juliet," said yet another placid air traffic controller. "Descend and maintain eight thousand. Chicago altimeter thirty point one one. Expect vectors to twenty-seven L."
"Roger, Chicago. Niner Charlie Juliet out of fourteen for eight."
O'Hare is the busiest airport in the world and ATC put them in a holding pattern out over the western suburbs of the city, where they'd circle, awaiting their turn to land.
Ten minutes later the pleasant, staticky voice requested, "Niner Charlie Juliet, heading zero nine zero over the numbers downwind for twenty-seven L."
"Zero nine zero. Nine Charlie Juliet," Tim responded.
Carney glanced up at the bright points of constellations in the stunning gunmetal sky and thought, Look, Percey, it's all the stars of evening...
And with that he had what was the only unprofessional urge of perhaps his entire career. His concern for Percey arose like a fever. He needed desperately to speak to her.
"Take the aircraft," he said to Tim.
"Roger," the young man responded, hands going unquestioningly to the yoke.
Air Traffic Control crackled, "Niner Charlie Juliet, descend to four thousand. Maintain heading."
"Roger, Chicago," Tim said. "Niner Charlie Juliet out of eight for four."
Carney changed the frequency of his radio to make a unicom call. Tim glanced at him. "Calling the Company," Carney explained. When he got Talbot he asked to be patched through the telephone to his home.
As he waited, Carney and Tim went through the litany of the pre-landing check.
"Flaps approach...twenty degrees."
"Twenty, twenty, green," Carney responded.
"One hundred eighty knots."
As Tim spoke into his mike -- "Chicago, Niner Charlie Juliet, crossing the numbers; through five for four" -- Carney heard the phone start to ring in their Manhattan town house, seven hundred miles away.
Come on, Percey. Pick up! Where are you?
ATC said, "Niner Charlie Juliet, reduce speed to one eight zero. Contact tower. Good evening."
"Roger, Chicago. One eight zero knots. Evening."
Where the hell is she? What's wrong?
The knot in his gut grew tighter.
The turbofan sang, a grinding sound. Hydraulics moaned. Static crackled in Carney's headset.
Tim sang out, "Flaps thirty. Gear down."
"Flaps, thirty, thirty, green. Gear down. Three green."
And then, at last -- in his earphone -- a sharp click.
His wife's voice saying, "Hello?"
He laughed out loud in relief.
Carney started to speak but, before he could, the aircraft gave a huge jolt -- so vicious that in a fraction of a second the force of the explosion ripped the bulky headset from his ears and the men were flung forward into the control panel. Shrapnel and sparks exploded around them.
Stunned, Carney instinctively grabbed the unresponsive yoke with his left hand; he no longer had a right one. He turned toward Tim just as the man's bloody, rag-doll body disappeared out of the gaping hole in the side of the fuselage.
"Oh, God. No, no..."
Then the entire cockpit broke away from the disintegrating plane and rose into the air, leaving the fuselage and wings and engines of the Lear behind, engulfed in a ball of gassy fire.
"Oh, Percey," he whispered, "Percey..." Though there was no longer a microphone to speak into.
Copyright © 1998 by Jeffery Deaver