The Coffin Dancer (Lincoln Rhyme Series #2)

The Coffin Dancer (Lincoln Rhyme Series #2)

4.2 129
by Jeffery Deaver

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Detective Lincoln Rhyme, the foremost criminalist in the NYPD, is on the hunt for an elusive murderer, the Coffin Dancer. He's a brilliant hitman who changes his appearance even faster than he adds to his trail of victims, only one of whom has lived long enough to offer a clue: the assassin has an eerie tattoo on his arm of the Grim Reaper waltzing with a woman in…  See more details below


Detective Lincoln Rhyme, the foremost criminalist in the NYPD, is on the hunt for an elusive murderer, the Coffin Dancer. He's a brilliant hitman who changes his appearance even faster than he adds to his trail of victims, only one of whom has lived long enough to offer a clue: the assassin has an eerie tattoo on his arm of the Grim Reaper waltzing with a woman in front of a casket. In The Coffin Dancer, Rhyme, tragically paralyzed from a line-of-duty accident, continues to tutor his beautiful protege, Detective Amelia Sachs, in the art of criminal hunting. Rhyme is certain he's seen this killer before, and his suspicion of an earlier encounter fuels a bitter taste for vengeance. Rhyme's brainpower and Sachs's legwork are the only tools they have to track the cunning murderer through the subways, parks, and airports of a darkly painted New York City. And they have only forty-eight hours before the Coffin Dancer strikes again.

Editorial Reviews

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.

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Product Details

Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date:
Lincoln Rhyme Series, #2

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Chapter Two

Big as asteroids, bone yellow.

The grains of sand glowed on the computer screen. The man was sitting forward, neck aching, eyes in a hard squint -- from concentration, not from any flaw in vision.

In the distance, thunder. The early morning sky was yellow and green and a storm was due at any moment. This had been the wettest spring on record.

Grains of sand...

"Enlarge," he commanded, and dutifully the image on the computer doubled in size.

Strange, he thought.

"Cursor down...stop."

Leaning forward again, straining, studying the screen.

Sand, Lincoln Rhyme reflected, is a criminalist's delight: bits of rock, sometimes mixed with other material, ranging from .05 to 2 millimeters (larger than that is gravel, smaller is silt). It adheres to a perp's clothing like sticky paint and conveniently leaps off at crime scenes and hideouts to link murderer and murdered. It also can tell a great deal about where a suspect has been. Opaque sand means he's been in the desert. Clear means beaches. Hornblende means Canada. Obsidian, Hawaii. Quartz and opaque igneous rock, New England. Smooth gray magnetite, the western Great Lakes.

But where this particular sand had come from, Rhyme didn't have a clue. Most of the sand in the New York area was quartz and feldspar. Rocky on Long Island Sound, dusty on the Atlantic, muddy on the Hudson. But this was white, glistening, ragged, mixed with tiny red spheres. And what are those rings? White stone rings like microscopic slices of calamari. He'd never seen anything like this.

The puzzle had kept Rhyme up till 4 a.m. He'd just sent a sample of the sand to a colleague at the FBI's crime lab in Washington. He'dtwice, and quit once, the criminalist had rehired the unflappable nurse/assistant an equal number of times. Thom knew enough about quadriplegia to be a doctor and had learned enough forensics from Lincoln Rhyme to be a detective. But he was content to be what the insurance company called a "caregiver," though both Rhyme and Thom disparaged the term. Rhyme called him, variously, his "mother hen" or "nemesis," both of which delighted the aide no end. He now maneuvered around the visitors. "He didn't like it but I hired Molly Maids and got the place scrubbed down. Practically needed to be fumigated. He wouldn't talk to me for a whole day afterwards."

"It didn't need to be cleaned. I can't find anything."

"But then he doesn't have to find anything, does he?" Thom countered. "That's what I'm for."

No mood for banter. "Well?" Rhyme cast his handsome face toward Sellitto. "What?"

"Got a case. Thought you might wanta help."

"I'm busy."

"What's all that?" Banks asked, motioning toward a new computer sitting beside Rhyme's bed.

"Oh," Thom said with infuriating cheer, "he's state of the art now. Show them, Lincoln. Show them."

"I don't want to show them."

More thunder but not a drop of rain. Nature, as often, was teasing today.

Thom persisted. "Show them how it works."

"Don't want to."

"He's just embarrassed."

"Thom," Rhyme muttered.

But the young aide was as oblivious to threats as he was to recrimination. He tugged his hideous, or stylish, silk tie. "I don't know why he's behaving this way. He seemed very proud of the whole setup the other day."

"Did not."

Thom continued. "That box there" -- he pointed to a beige contraption -- "that goes to the computer." <

"Whoa, two hundred megahertz?" Banks asked, nodding at the computer. To escape Rhyme's scowl he'd grabbed the question like an owl snagging a frog.

"Yep," Thom said.

But Lincoln Rhyme was not interested in computers. At the moment Lincoln Rhyme was interested only in microscopic rings of sculpted calamari and the sand they nestled in.

Thom continued. "The microphone goes into the computer. Whatever he says, the computer recognizes. It took the thing a while to learn his voice. He mumbled a lot."

In truth Rhyme was quite pleased with the system -- the lightning-fast computer, a specially made ECU box -- environmental control unit -- and voice-recognition software. Merely by speaking he could command the cursor to do whatever a person using a mouse and keyboard could do. And he could dictate too. Now, with words, he could turn the heat up or down and the lights on or off, play the stereo or TV, write on his word processor, and make phone calls and send faxes.

"He can even write music," Thom said to the visitors. "He tells the computer what notes to mark down on the staff."

"Now that's useful," Rhyme said sourly. "Music."

For a C4 quad -- Rhyme's injury was at the fourth cervical vertebra -- nodding was easy. He could also shrug, though not as dismissingly as he'd have liked. His other circus trick was moving his left ring finger a few millimeters in any direction he chose. That had been his entire physical repertoire for the past several years; composing a sonata for the violin was probably not in the offing.

"He can play games too," Thom said.

"I hate games. I don't play games."

Sellitto, who reminded Rhyme of a large unmade bed, gazed at the computer and seemed unimpressed. " Lincoln," he began gravely. "There's a task-forced case. Us 'n' the feds. Ran into a problem last night."

"Ran into a brick wall," Banks ventured to say.

"We thought...well, I thought you'd want to help us out on this one."

Want to help them out?

"I'm working on something now," Rhyme explained. "For Perkins, in fact." Thomas Perkins, special agent in charge of the Manhattan office of the FBI. "One of Fred Dellray's runners is missing."

Special Agent Fred Dellray, a longtime veteran with the Bureau, was a handler for most of the Manhattan office's undercover agents. Dellray himself had been one of the Bureau's top undercover ops. He'd earned commendations from the director himself for his work. One of Dellray's agents, Tony Panelli, had gone missing a few days earlier.

"Perkins told us," Banks said. "Pretty weird."

Rhyme rolled his eyes at the unartful phrase. Though he couldn't dispute it. The agent had disappeared from his car across from the Federal Building in downtown Manhattan around 9 P.M. The streets weren't crowded but they weren't deserted either. The engine of the Bureau's Crown Victoria was running, the door open. There was no blood, no gunshot residue, no scuff marks indicating struggle. No witnesses -- at least no witnesses willing to talk.

Pretty weird indeed.

Perkins had a fine crime scene unit at his disposal, including the Bureau's Physical Evidence Response Team. But it had been Rhyme who'd set up PERT and it was Rhyme whom Dellray had asked to work the scene of the disappearance. The crime scene officer who worked as Rhyme's partner had spent hours at Panelli's car and had come away with no unidentified fingerprints, ten bags of meaningless trace ev idence, and -- the only possible lead -- a few dozen grains of this very odd sand.

The grains that now glowed on his computer screen, as smooth and huge as heavenly bodies.

Sellitto continued. "Perkins's gonna put other people on the Panelli case, Lincoln, if you'll help us. Anyway, I think you'll want this one."

That verb again -- want. What was this all about?

Rhyme and Sellitto had worked together on major homicide investigations some years ago. Hard cases -- and public cases. He knew Sellitto as well as he knew any cop. Rhyme generally distrusted his own ability to read people (his ex-wife Blaine had said -- often, and heatedly -- that Rhyme could spot a shell casing a mile away and miss a human being standing in front of him) but he could see now that Sellitto was holding back.

"Okay, Lon. What is it? Tell me."

Sellitto nodded toward Banks.

"Phillip Hansen," the young detective said significantly, lifting a puny eyebrow.

Rhyme knew the name only from newspaper articles. Hansen -- a large, hard-living businessman originally from Tampa, Florida -- owned a wholesale company in Armonk, New York. It was remarkably successful and he'd become a multimillionaire thanks to it. Hansen had a good deal for a small-time entrepreneur. He never had to look for customers, never advertised, never had receivables problems. In fact, if there was any downside to PH Distributors, Inc., it was that the federal government and New York State were expending great energy to shut it down and throw its president in jail. Because the product Hansen's company sold was not, as he claimed, secondhand military surplus vehicles but weaponry, more often than not stolen from military bases or imported illeg ally. Earlier in the year two army privates had been killed when a truckload of small arms was hijacked near the George Washington Bridge on its way to New Jersey. Hansen was behind it -- a fact the U.S. attorney and the New York attorney general knew but couldn't prove.

"Perkins and us're hammering together a case," Sellitto said. "Working with the army CID. But it's been a bitch."

"And nobody ever dimes him," said Banks. "Ever."

Rhyme supposed that, no, no one would dare snitch on a man like Hansen.

The young detective continued. "But finally, last week, we got a break. See, Hansen's a pilot. His company's got warehouses at Mamaroneck Airport -- that one near White Plains? A judge issued paper to check 'em out. Naturally we didn't find anything. But then last week, it's midnight? The airport's closed but there're some people there, working late. They see a guy fitting Hansen's description drive out to this private plane, load some big duffel bags into it, and take off. Unauthorized. No flight plan, just takes off. Comes back forty minutes later, lands, gets back into his car, and burns rubber out of there. No duffel bags. The witnesses give the registration number to the FAA. Turns out it's Hansen's private plane, not his company's."

Rhyme said, "So he knew you were getting close and he wanted to ditch something linking him to the killings." He was beginning to see why they wanted him. Some seeds of interest here. "Air Traffic Control track him?"

"LaGuardia had him for a while. Straight out over Long Island Sound. Then he dropped below radar for ten minutes or so."

"And you drew a line to see how far he could get over the Sound. There're divers out?"

"Right. Now, we knew that soon as Hansen heard we had the three witnesses he was gonna rabbit. So we managed to put him away till Monday. Federal Detention."

Rhyme laughed. "You got a judge to buy probable cause on that?"

"Yeah, with the risk of flight," Sellitto said. "And some bullshit FAA violations and reckless endangerment thrown in. No flight plan, flying below FAA minimums."

"What'd Mis-ter Han-sen say?"

"He knows the drill. Not a word to the arrestings, not a word to the prosecutors. Lawyer denies everything and's preparing suit for wrongful arrest, yadda, yadda, yadda...So if we find the fucking bags we go to the grand jury on Monday and, bang, he's away."

"Provided," Rhyme pointed out, "there's anything incriminating in the bags."

"Oh, there's something incriminating."

"How do you know?"

"Because Hansen's scared. He's hired somebody to kill the witnesses. He's already got one of 'em. Blew up his plane last night outside of Chicago."

And, Rhyme thought, they want me to find the duffel bags...Fascinating questions were now floating into his mind. Was it possible to place the plane at a particular location over the water because of a certain type of precipitation or saline deposit or insect found crushed on the leading edge of the wing? Could one calculate the time of death of an insect? What about salt concentrations and pollutants in the water? Flying that low to the water, would the engines or wings pick up algae and deposit it on the fuselage or tail?

"I'll need some maps of the Sound," Rhyme began. "Engineering drawings of his plane -- "

"Uhm, Lincoln, that's not why we're here," Sellitto said.

"Not to find the bags," Banks added.

"No? Then?" Rhyme tossed an irritating tickle of black hair of f his forehead and frowned the young man down.

Sellitto's eyes again scanned the beige ECU box. The wires that sprouted from it were dull red and yellow and black and lay curled on the floor like sunning snakes.

"We want you to help us find the killer. The guy Hansen hired. Stop him before he gets the other two wits."

"And?" For Rhyme saw that Sellitto still had not mentioned what he was holding in reserve.

With a glance out the window the detective said, "Looks like it's the Dancer, Lincoln."

"The Coffin Dancer?"

Sellitto looked back and nodded.

"You're sure?"

"We heard he'd done a job in D.C. a few weeks ago. Killed a congressional aide mixed up in arms deals. We got pen registers and found calls from a pay phone outside Hansen's house to the hotel where the Dancer was staying. It's gotta be him, Lincoln."

On the screen the grains of sand, big as asteroids, smooth as a woman's shoulders, lost their grip on Rhyme's interest.

"Well," he said softly, "that's a problem now, isn't it?"

Copyright © 1998 by Jeffery Deaver

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The Coffin Dancer (Lincoln Rhyme Series #2) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 130 reviews.
scully60 More than 1 year ago
This was a reread. I first read this book in 2000 and decided to read it again last year. I gained more insights into the story on the second read. Jeffery Deaver is a master of suspense. This book has you constantly turning the pages unable to put it down. If you want a excellent suspense read this is a great choice.
Neil_Collins More than 1 year ago
This is the second Jeffery Deaver book I've read, and also the second of his Lincoln Rhyme series. (The Bone Collector was first). I think I enjoyed The Coffin Dancer even more than The Bone Collector, and I saw some real development in the characters, mainly Lincoln and Amelia Sachs, the primary protagonists. I found the story very well constructed and the telling quite good. I also really liked the way the reader is drawn to a certain perspective regarding the antagonist, setting the stage for a totally unexpected plot twist as the story reaches its climax. In short, Deaver did a great job steering us exactly where he wanted us to go, letting us discover the truth along with Lincoln and Amelia. No formulaic predictable ending here! As always, Deaver's understanding of his topic and the locations add greatly to his story telling. There is much visual detail that brings the reader into the scene. My one complaint is a minor one. Deaver goes into some detail about the ammunition the killer is using in his M-40 sniper rifle, as well as some technical detail about the rifle and the sniper's technique. He relates how the killer transformed "M118 Match Rounds" into "explosive" bullets by drilling into the core, filling it with an explosive charge, and then topping it with a ceramic tip "that would pierce most kinds of body armor." While the M118 (Military designation for a .308 cartridge firing a 173 grain boat-tailed projectile) was a correct long range round used by military snipers, the more common "Match round" in use today is the 168 grain boat-tail hollow-point. Both of these rounds, without alteration, will defeat common body armor as worn by many street cops; the purpose of which is to protect from handgun rounds. The idea of drilling out a "match" bullet is ridiculous, as it would require machining with micrometer precision to tolerances greater than .0001 of an inch; and it would still render the bullet far less accurate, especially if some substance were loaded into the tiny cavity. Adding a "ceramic nose" would further diminish the uniformity and accuracy. To then load a magazine full (five) of these "explosive rounds" into the rifle and slam them into the chamber, one after another, is asking to have the whole thing blow up in your face. Probably why no such rounds exist. I point this out only because it was unnecessary to the story, and made me wonder what other technical items that I'm not versed in might be made up. I realize it's fiction, but I want to be able to believe the story could happen. That issue aside, I loved The Coffin Dancer and will be reading more from Jeffery Deaver soon!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very entertaining read! Deaver has quickly turned into one of my favorite authors. I'd give it 4 1/2 stars if possible, but I save the 5 star rating for the absolute best of the best... Never a dull moment in this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outstanding, remarkable, best read, highly recommend. Lots of twists and turns, keep you guessing till the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Deaver is one of the very best mystery writers. Lincoln Rhyme is a quadriplegic former cop. He does all his work using a mobile chair and several really good detectives. He always gets his "man" but you'd never guess it until the very end.
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Awesome book its for everyone who loves reading mysteries/ crime.
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1dachsmom More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend this book. Couldn't put it down. Can't wait for the next book.
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RapJR More than 1 year ago
Very interesting, had some good twists.
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grannytyjac More than 1 year ago
Could not stop reading! read it in two days. Was amazed that I didn't figure out the who the Coffin Dancer was. when you read as many mysteries as I have over the years, you usual can figure them out. I'm ordering the restnofmthe series. I'm hooked
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