Spoiler Warning: All trope names and book titles are unmarked.
The titular character and main protagonist of the series. Once the most brilliant detective in New York and one of the top minds in the country, Rhyme was crippled from the neck down when a support beam collapsed on him while he was running a crime scene. He makes up for his complete immobility with his unmatched intellect, allowing him to think five steps ahead of all but his most prepared opponents.
- The Alcoholic: Drinking is his favorite pastime, even after he's no longer doing it to shield himself from suicidal pain.
- Alone with the Psycho: His condition gives killers a free pass to walk right into his room and threaten his life.
- The Bone Collector: The killer walks into his room, kills the police captain he was talking to, and tries to murder him. Rhyme only survives by faking a dysreflexia attack to lure him in and biting his throat out.
- The Empty Chair: Once Jim Bell realizes Rhyme has the conspiracy figured out, he locks all of the doors and pours toxic pesticide on Rhyme's face. Subverted when it turns out that the whole thing was a prepared police sting on Bell and the "pesticide" was a decoy.
- The Vanished Man: The Conjurer sneaks into his room, torments him with magic tricks and fools him into thinking he's been stabbed before setting the room on fire and escaping.
- The Burning Wire: The Watchmaker finally makes a direct attempt to kill Rhyme by waiting for everyone else to leave, entering Rhyme's house, and setting up an electrical circuit on his wheelchair.
- The Steel Kiss: Just as he figures out Alicia's involvement in the "People's Guardian" plot, she arrives in his apartment, appears to knock Juliette Archer unconscious, and tries to kill Rhyme with a knife. Unfortunately for her, Archer is both still conscious and not really quadriplegic.
- Character Development: In The Bone Collector, he's actively seeking euthanasia and the doctor who's secretly practicing it frequently interacts with him. By The Burning Wire, he is able to shoot down an assisted suicide advocate without batting an eye while Thom throws him out. In the same book, perhaps not coincidentally, he regains the use of his right arm.
- The Chessmaster
- Disability Immunity: Explicitly noted to be an asset in The Bone Collector; when the killer tried to stab Rhyme to stop Rhyme basically biting the man's throat out, it was noted that Rhyme's condition made him basically immune to pain and so attempting to incapacitate him that way wouldn't work.
- Driven to Suicide: Throughout The Bone Collector, he is considering assisted suicide. Obviously, he ultimately declines and seeks healthier ways to overcome his burdens.
- Genius Cripple: A given. Jeffery Deaver created him with the intent to write someone who could "out-Sherlock Sherlock."
- Handicapped Badass: He's stared down hardened killers in both protected and unprotected situations without breaking a sweat, and in the climax of The Bone Collector, he even manages to rip the killer's throat out with his teeth.
- Heroes Want Redheads: He admits as much when he tells Amelia, who is a redhead, that he was attracted to another girl with red hair in college.
- Non-Action Guy: With a few exceptions, such as ripping a man's throat out in The Bone Collector and briefly holding a crew of assassins at gunpoint in The Kill Room, he is rendered completely helpless by his disability and has to rely on his wits and the help of his allies.
- Official Couple: With Amelia Sachs. And as of The Steel Kiss, they're engaged.
- Man Bites Man: How he dispatches Colin Stanton in The Bone Collector.
- Secret Test of Character: A few cases see Rhyme deliberately push people to get a genuine reaction out of them rather than let them just try and be 'nice' to him because of his condition, such as provoking his temporary assistant in Empty Chair to yell at him or musing that he liked the team's temporary magic consultant Kara (The Vanished Man) because she immediately speculated that he'd make a great illusionist because people wouldn't expect anything of him.
- Sympathy for the Devil: Rhyme always tries to remain detached from a killer's tragic motives, but he finally expresses sympathy for Vernon Griffith after his surrender and confession in The Steel Kiss.
- Troll: To Thom's horror, he sometimes fakes being severely mentally disabled to make new people uncomfortable enough to leave. Since his fame has increased, though, this has gotten less effective.
- Action Girl
- Alone with the Psycho: Being able-bodied, she is usually in less danger than Rhyme when it happens, but it does happen nonetheless.
- The Bone Collector: The killer ambushes her in her home as she's getting undressed, knocks her out, and buries her in a shallow grave in her backyard.
- The Coffin Dancer: The Dancer traps her and his targets in a safehouse with all of the staff dead and stalks them with a hunting rifle.
- The Stone Monkey: Every time she's with John Sung counts as this, since Sung is really the Ghost.
- The Broken Window: After she accidentally finds 522's house, the killer knocks her out and drags her down to his hoarder maze with the intent to rape, torture, and kill her.
- Character Development: Grows from an inexperienced rookie whom Rhyme has to verbally guide through crime scenes to a master of forensic examining who mentors rookies herself.
- Deuteragonist: Each book is split roughly evenly between Rhyme's perspective and hers, and she takes on the brunt of the actual field work.
- Fair Cop: Everyone describes her as stunningly beautiful, and she worked as a model before joining the police force.
- Fiery Redhead: Downplayed, but she's definitely passionate and slightly Hot-Blooded. Her Establishing Character Moment is stopping a train by herself to preserve a crime scene.
- Hero Antagonist: Briefly in The Empty Chair, when she joins up with Garret and therefore becomes Rhyme's enemy.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Her marksmanship abilities border on superhuman; she's placed first in most contests and tends to make every shot she takes. Best demonstrated at the end of The Coffin Dancer, when she puts a pistol round straight through the scope of the Dancer's rifle from across a darkened field with little time to properly line up the shot.
- So Beautiful It's a Curse: She has supermodel-good looks and distinctive red hair, but this tends to draw the killers she pursues in her direction.
Rhyme's caretaker, and his closest companion other than Amelia. Usually only involved in the investigation to the degree of writing down notes on the board, but wherever Rhyme goes and whatever situation he's in, Thom will follow.
- Berserk Button: Anything that endangers Rhyme infuriates him.
- Berserker Rage: In The Burning Wire, when he comes back to find out that the person he thought was interviewing Rhyme about an award is really an assisted suicide advocate drilling Rhyme for information about his depression, he flies into an uncharacteristic rage and almost physically carries the man out. It's the first time in the series that he actually shouts.
- Mr. Fanservice: Described as exceptionally handsome and has drawn the gaze of more than a few women.
- Servile Snarker: He has a sarcastic quip for just about every occasion, mostly in response to Rhyme's ridiculous demands.
- Straight Gay: His homosexuality is hinted, but not explicitly confirmed until The Empty Chair, and he displays very few stereotypical mannerisms before or after that point.
A longtime friend of Rhyme's, Lon is an aging police official with dozens of cases under his belt. Whenever Rhyme needs a police sting coordinated or evidence brought to him, Lon is the man he turns to.
- Cowboy Cop: Downplayed significantly, as he wouldn't be able to keep his job if he didn't follow the rules and regulations, but when Rhyme needs something done that bends the law, Lon is perfectly willing to look the other way. Sometimes, he even helps.
- Hardboiled Detective: Has a few shades of this.
- Near-Death Experience: In The Skin Collector, he drinks coffee that was poisoned by the Watchmaker and spends the remainder of the book passing in and out of critical condition at the hospital. He barely recovers by the end. The aftermath continues to affect him well into the next book.
Rhyme's go-to forensic examiner.
- The Smart Guy: Just under Rhyme's intellectual level.
A young rookie cop who joins the investigative team in The Twelfth Card, during which he sustains a severe brain injury courtesy of the killer. Since his recovery, he has become a permanent fixture of Rhyme's team and, in spite of the problems his injury sometimes causes, one of the most dependable people on the police force.
- Fire-Forged Friends: With Rhyme and the rest of the team.
- Foil: Inexperienced where Rhyme is a veteran and psychologically damaged where Rhyme is physically crippled.
- New Meat: A rookie to the NYPD when he's introduced.
- Tap on the Head: Subverted and deconstructed with his injury. Thompson Boyd merely knocked him out with a club, but the damage still lingers with him and causes him all manner of confusion, inconvenience, and general pain.
- The Sixth Ranger: Unlike the rest of Rhyme's team, he was not introduced until The Twelfth Card (the sixth book, coincidentally), but he has gone on to become one of the stars and sometimes even a proper Deuteragonist.
A police detective who meets Rhyme during their pursuit of Stephen Kall. His remarkable performance in that case has led to Rhyme specifically calling up his service during particularly difficult investigations.
An undercover expert and Master of Disguise with the FBI, capable of assuming any role he needs to in the criminal underworld. While initially a thorn in Rhyme's side, he has since become a valued ally.
- Hero Antagonist: In The Bone Collector, where he tries to bring the case out of Rhyme's hands and into the FBI's jurisdiction.
- Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Whenever he's introduced, he's usually wearing the worst combination of colors and styles imaginable, which is always pointed out.
- Jive Turkey: He speaks with a stereotypical gangster dialect even when on official business.
- Master of Disguise: Chances are, if a hitherto-unknown African-American character is introduced in a side segment dealing with criminals or a suspect, it's Dellray blending in.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: In The Bone Collector.
A kinesics (Body Language) expert who helps Rhyme in the Watchmaker investigation. She has her own spinoff novel series.
- The Cameo: She corresponds with Rhyme in The Burning Wire while tracking the Watchmaker.
- Living Lie Detector: She can tell whether someone is being truthful just by looking at subtle cues, unless that person is a Consummate Liar or a sociopath like the Watchmaker.
- Near-Rape Experience: In The Cold Moon, this is subverted. Vincent corners her in an alley intending to subdue and rape her, but she in fact lured him there for the police to trap and arrest him.
The daughter of Charlotte Willoughby, one of the Bone Collector's attempted victims and the Right-Wing Militia Fanatic who bombed the embassy after being rescued. After her mother's arrest in The Cold Moon, Amelia recognizes her from when she was a little girl in the Bone Collector case and becomes a surrogate mother to her.
- Action Survivor: In the climax of The Skin Collector, she manages to wound Seth / Billy Haven and evades him just long enough for the police to break in.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Mostly subverted, but her Dark and Troubled Past does make her lash out and rebel against Amelia on multiple occasions.
- Dark and Troubled Past: She was part of her mother's right-wing militia and grew up abused and neglected as such. When she and her mother journeyed to New York, she was told not to tell anyone her mother's real name lest she be killed. And of course, she was kidnapped by the Bone Collector and almost killed by a wild dog.
A computer crimes expert initially contacted to help in the pursuit of 522. While Rhyme is initially unimpressed with him, he goes on to become the first name Rhyme brings up when a crime involves technology.
- Dueling Hackers: With 522 in The Broken Window.
- Foil: While Rhyme is dour and technologically blind, Rodney is laid back and up-to-date.
- Playful Hacker: To contrast with other, less friendly hackers like 522 and the People's Guardian.
- Running Gag: Every time Rhyme calls him, without fail, hard rock music is blaring to the point where he has to speak up.
KaraAn aspiring magician who is brought in as a consultant during The Vanished Man and befriends Amelia.
- Affectionate Pickpocket: She's good at swiping things from Amelia or moving them around even when the detectives are on the watch and does this to demonstrate magicians misdirection.
- The Cameo: Is consulted again in The Cold Moon, albeit for her knowledge of tarot cards rather than the more conventional magic.
- The Dutiful Son: Cares deeply for her alzheimers ridden mother.
- Evil All Along: Averted. At the end of the book Rhyme suddenly accuse her of being an accomplice of the Conjurer but it all turns out to be a gag in order for her to demonstrate an escape and impress a circus owner involved in the case as a form of auditioning.
- Faking the Dead: Early in The Vanished Man she pretends to have been killed in the middle of a crowd in order to empty the streets in panic before the Conjurer can kill anyone for real.
- Plucky Girl: A generally upbeat person who adds a lot of practical knowledge to the case.
- Secret Test of Character: As far as Rhyme is concerned, Kara passed one when her immediate reaction to his condition was to muse what a great illusionist he'd make as people would underestimate him because of his condition, as he likes people being blunt rather than diplomatic.
- Stage Names: Kara is a stage name and her real one is never revealed, as she apparently dislikes it.
Daryl MulbryAn embassy worker who deals with Rhyme during his Italian journey in The Burial Hour and has ties to intelligence groups. Impressed by Rhyme's work, he offers him a part-time job assisting his agency.
- The Man Behind the Man: He is behind the Composer's spree, not that the Composer is the villain he initially seems like.
- Scare 'Em Straight: His people try this on their detainees rather than kill them or send them to black sites.
- Sheep in Sheep's Clothing: First his just seems like a nice, well-meaning embassy worker trying to clear someone who was Wrongfully Accused, then it turns out he' a spy behind some off the books detentions, but then it turns out those detentions are (as far as the genre goes) fairly humane and achieving results.
- The Spook: He's a man with vast intelligence recourses and a disguised background.
- Torture Is Ineffective: His group believes this, avoiding physical torture and primarily relying on drugs and threats.
- Unwitting Pawn: He and his agents spend most of the novel being used by a group of people trying to fake a terrosit conspiracy in order to return public opinion against illegal immigrants, something they're chagrined to realize and move to counter at the end.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: He's out to stop threats against terrorism albeit by unconventional and somewhat dubious methods.
Nick CarelliAmelia's ex-boyfriend (who is first mentioned in The Bone Collector), who was arrested for being a Dirty Cop accused of hijacking a truck, and asks her to help Clear My Name after being released in The Steel Kiss.
- Entitled Bastard: Feels that he is "Owed" for his time in prison. Even though he's guilty and still committing crimes.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Double-subverted. He had a good reputation and a junkie brother but Nick was the one who ended up arrested for hijacking a truck. Then when he reappears he tells Amelia he was Taking the Heat for his (now dead) brother the whole time. Which ultimately turns out to be a lie to cover his efforts to find and retrieve his cached money.
- Humble Goal: He just wants to own a restaurant.
- The Informant: After being caught trying to get back his hijacked money, while undergoing other crimes, he ends up caught by the FBI and made into an informant to retain his freedom.
- New Old Flame: He and Amelia were once very close and when he reenters her life, there's a bit of sparks, although she stays with Rhyme.
- Ungrateful Bastard: After finding out where his money is, he plans -with some, but not much reluctance- to kill the Childhood Friend who'd helped him -thinking that he was really trying to find evidence that someone else was the hijacker- in order to avoid lose ends, although the police put a stop to that.
The Watchmaker, aka Gerald Duncan, aka Richard Logan, aka Charles Vespasian Hale
A Professional Killer who uses rigid timing and numerous distractions to accomplish his goals. The first killer to outsmart Rhyme and get away scot-free in The Cold Moon, he has become Rhyme's worst nemesis.
- Arch-Enemy: Rhyme's, no contest.
- Big Bad: Of The Cold Moon, and is shaping up to be this for the series as a whole.
- The Chessmaster: His intellect and planning skills are on par with Rhyme's, and they often even surpass his.
- Clock King: Befitting his name, he runs on a strict timetable and always knows where and when another piece of his plot has to slip into place. In his Gerald Duncan persona, he even leaves clocks by his victims.
- Crazy-Prepared: Half of his moves are made to plant the seeds for his escape or backup plans should his scheme somehow go awry.
- Faking the Dead: The Skin Collector sees him escape prison by using tetrodotoxin to fake his death.
- I Have Many Names: Goes by Gerald Duncan for the majority of The Cold Moon before switching to his real name for the denouement, and in following books he goes steadfastly by Richard Logan.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: The fact that Gerald Duncan isn't his real name and that he is a Professional Killer is only revealed at the end of The Cold Moon, but following books are not shy about giving it away, and it would be impossible to talk about his character otherwise.
- Man Behind the Man: In The Skin Collector, he trained Billy Haven and directed the militia toward their most efficient means of achieving their goals in exchange for them smuggling tetrodotoxin into his cell.
- Master of Disguise: Not quite to the level of the Conjurer, but he regularly changes his appearance with prosthetics and basic plastic surgery techniques. Notably, in The Skin Collector, he manages to disguise himself as his own lawyer after faking his death.
- Professional Killer: The most scarily competent one in the series.
- Theme Serial Killer: In The Cold Moon, his theme is clocks and time, which is where he comes up with and starts sticking with the Watchmaker persona. In The Burning Wire, he switches to electricity-based kills under the guise of Raymond Galt.
- The Sociopath: He is willing to take the lives of absolutely anyone with no remorse, as long as he gets paid, and to what degree he has real emotions is up for debate. However, he does feel some kind of personal connection to Rhyme.
- Vigilante Man: He sets the Gerald Duncan identity up as a vigilante in The Cold Moon to distract from his real goal.
The Bone Collector, aka Dr. Peter Taylor, aka Colin Stanton
A Serial Killer obsessed with bones and manners of death which expose them. Beginning his killing spree just as Rhyme is in danger of killing himself, his brutality ultimately pulls the detective out of retirement to stop him. He is the first killer faced in the series and the main villain of his titular book.
- Becoming the Mask: Initially he's just setting up Death Trap's clinically people with a persona to draw Rhyme into the case and set up his demise but then he comes to find that he really likes hurting and killing people.
- Big Bad: Of The Bone Collector, obviously.
- Criminal Mind Games: At each crime scene, he purposefully leaves specific evidence that, if deciphered and interpreted correctly, will lead to the location of the next victim.
- Faking the Dead: He faked killing himself in a mental hospital so Rhyme would have no reason to suspect him.
- Freudian Excuse: A mistake Rhyme made while examining a crime scene led to the perp getting away and shooting Stanton's family to death in front of him.
- I Need You Stronger: This is Stanton's reason for not killing Rhyme immediately — he needs to make Rhyme care enough about living by providing him with a challenge that he will no longer want his life to end, thus making his death true revenge.
- Jack the Ripoff: It quickly becomes clear that his murders are based off those perpetrated by a killer from the 1800s who was also obsessed with bones. This killer also lost his family because of the police, and he feels kinship with him.
- Karmic Death: His throat gets chewed out while he's trying to kill Rhyme.
- Kill It with Fire: His second victim is handcuffed in front of an opened steam pipe that, when activated, essentially boils her to death.
- Kill It with Water: Another victim is chained somewhere where he will be repeatedly slammed with waves and drown when the tide comes in.
- Mad Doctor: Of a sort - in his identity as Peter Taylor, he serves as Rhyme's doctor.
- Malevolent Masked Men: Wears a dark blue ski mask.
- Man Bites Man: Rhyme bites his throat out.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Stanton's goal is to get Rhyme out of his suicidal depression so that killing him will be satisfying. However, it's Rhyme's newfound urge to fight for his life that gets Stanton killed, and Rhyme goes on to put away or help kill dozens more dangerous killers.
- Race Against the Clock: He rarely kills anyone directly, instead leaving them in positions where they will die in bone-exposing agony unless Rhyme figures out where they are within a set amount of time.
- Revenge: The basis for his motive.
- Serial Killer
- Stripped to the Bone: He wants his victims to end up this way.
- Swarm of Rats: Utilizes the rats infesting New York's older areas in one of his attempted kills, cutting his victim open and letting the blood attract them.
The Coffin Dancer, aka Stephen Kall
A psychotic mercenary and main villain of The Coffin Dancer. An ex-soldier turned Professional Killer, he ventures to New York with a list of targets related to an airline company and sets about methodically eliminating them with bombs and high-powered weaponry. However, in reality, he is not the Coffin Dancer that is being searched for, and is merely a puppet of the other assassin.
- Abusive Parents: His father was a strict military man who physically and verbally abused him on a regular basis. Eventually, Stephen lashed out and caused his death.
- Armored Closet Gay: It turns out that he is a closeted gay man, and he develops an attraction to Jodie as the novel goes on. This gets him killed when he drops his guard.
- Asshole Victim: No tears are shed when the Coffin Dancer kills him.
- Big Bad: Of The Coffin Dancer. Except not really.
- Cold Sniper: He favors the use of a sniper rifle, and is anything but warm and friendly.
- Disc-One Final Boss: He is disposed of just before the climax reveals who the real Coffin Dancer is.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Shortly after his last perspective chapter, Jodie murders and dismembers him, leaving him positioned as just another Dancer victim. His corpse is identified with little fanfare mid-chapter just before Jodie reveals himself.
- Freudian Excuse: See Rape as Backstory. He also tied up his father and left him for dead in the woods, coming back to find him covered in maggots, which is why he is so fixated on "worms".
- Imaginary Enemy: One of his many recurring hallucinations is a pale face in a nearby window, which he imagines to be someone stalking him and witnessing his kills. It turns out the sighting that spawned this was of the Coffin Dancer monitoring him for use as a potential decoy.
- Killed Offscreen: Jodie, the real Coffin Dancer, lures him in and dismembers him just before he rides out to the safehouse.
- Master of Disguise: He is able to effectively change his outfit and some aspects of his appearance to infiltrate a location, but not to as great a level as Rhyme believes, resulting in several near-misses. This is a big hint that he isn't really the Coffin Dancer.
- One-Man Army: As a former soldier, he can effectively kill numerous people by himself, wield all manner of firearms and explosives, and escape unscathed from the most pitched firefights.
- Patricide: He accidentally killed his father with what was meant to be a harmless bit of revenge.
- Professional Killer: The first encountered in the series, and still ranks among the most formidable antagonists Rhyme has faced.
- Psycho for Hire: He may be quite competent, but he has vivid delusions about worms in his skin and pale faces watching him from the shadows.
- Rape as Backstory: If a secondhand account is to be believed, Stephen was raped by his father or the boys at his military school, or even both.
- Red Herring: He never does mention that tattoo the Dancer is known for, does he?
- Sociopathic Soldier: He used to be a soldier and uses his extensive training with all varieties of weaponry to accomplish his hits. He is also insanely imbalanced and delusional.
The Insect Boy, aka Garret Haldon
An insect-obsessed teenager and the town pariah where he lives. After several suspicious deaths he was implicated in, he suddenly kidnaps two women — his crush and a local nurse — and spirits them away into the forest. Rhyme and the state police track him down fairly quickly, but as he insists the murders were committed by "the man in tan overalls", Amelia starts doubting his guilt and is eventually driven to free him from prison.
- Abhorrent Admirer: Toward Mary Beth. Even after she finds out he's not such a bad guy, his behavior is still somewhat creepy and disturbing.
- Accidental Truth: His whole story about "the man in tan overalls" is fiction, made up so he would have an excuse to get Mary-Beth. However, there really is a secretive and murderous danger in the town — the police department.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Being a teenage boy, he does this every so often.
- Bee Afraid: He is linked to deaths involving beehives bursting and releasing swarms of bees on hapless victims. At one point, he was even spotted throwing one into a girl's face. It turns out that all of these sans the girl's murder, which was a Frame-Up by the police, were random accidents.
- Bug Catching: He has a massive collection of insects in his room.
- Clear My Name: The quest he embarks on once Amelia breaks him out of prison. He actually didn't care and was tricking Amelia with his story, but Rhyme figures out that he was innocent anyway.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: He's definitely not all there. A whiff of illegal pesticide while watching your family die in agony will do that to you.
- Dark and Troubled Past: His family died in a car accident when they slid off an icy road, and he watched them drive off without him for unknown reasons, giving him an additional sense of abandonment and survivor's guilt to contribute to his rage. However, his memories of the incident were actually distorted by a dose of toxic pesticide he accidentally inhaled. Said pesticide was used by Jim Bell's forces to poison his family's car, which was why they were shivering and refusing to open the door for him.
- Decoy Antagonist: He's presented as the Big Bad for the first third of the book, but Amelia finds this unlikely enough after his capture that she frees him and tries to help him hunt down the real threats.
- Double Subversion: After his destination is reached, he reveals that everything he told Amelia and the police was a lie and that he did it all to get to Mary-Beth. However, Rhyme puts together that he is still innocent of the murders and ultimately the victim of the situation.
- Frame-Up: He claims to have been framed for the violence in his town. He's right — the cops have been using him as a scapegoat for years.
- Good All Along: Amelia believes this, which is why she frees him. While he is guilty of kidnapping and several other petty crimes, he is not responsible for any of the murders being pinned on him by the corrupt police.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: It doesn't take much to make him blow up at someone.
- Shovel Strike: Just before kidnapping Mary Beth, he supposedly beat a fellow student to death with a shovel. It was actually one of Jim Bell's cronies who did this.
- Stalker with a Crush: Toward Mary Beth, leading to her abduction.
- Teens Are Monsters: He's an angry, vicious bully-turned-kidnapper supposedly responsible for multiple gruesome murders. However, while he is still guilty of having a rage streak, the rest is a subversion.
The Ghost, aka John Sung, aka Kwan Ang
A sadistic human trafficking snakehead notorious in the Chinese criminal underworld for being inhumanly skilled at his job. At the start of The Stone Monkey, he is located by Coast Guard forces directed by Rhyme and forced to blow up his ship; he then sets about tracking down and killing the surviving passengers on shore.
- Big Bad: Of The Stone Monkey.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: His MO is viciously cutting people up with a razor and letting them scream for a while before mercy-killing them with a pistol. Sometimes he doesn't use the pistol at all.
- Combat Pragmatist: He makes use of various objects and techniques in his bloody battle with Sonny Li.
- Dead Person Impersonation: He takes up the identity of Dr. John Sung, the man he executed on the beach just after landing.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: The cuts he and his men make are small and painful, and there are many, many of them.
- The Dragon: He has a personal assistant known as his bangshou, who hides out in the hold of his ship and acts as The Mole with the immigrants. Said bangshou is initially suspected to be Sonny Li, but is actually long dead by the time the Ghost gets to shore.
- Freudian Excuse: A mob of students killed his family during Mao's revolution, and he spent years afterward tracking down everyone involved and slowly killing them.
- Government Conspiracy: He is at the center of one; see Professional Killer.
- Hero Killer: Toward the end, he fights and murders Sonny Li, whose death Rhyme memorializes in a way that is occasionally brought up in future books.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: He would have raped Amelia after killing his targets if Rhyme hadn't figured out who he was and called her.
- Knife Nut: Usually uses a razor blade or another suitably sharp, small knife.
- Laser-Guided Karma: After arresting him, Rhyme narrowly prevents him from being extradited back to his corrupt home country and forces him to rot in prison for the rest of his life.
- Leave No Witnesses: His ultimate goal is finding and killing the immigrants who survived the explosion. Not because they're witnesses to the crime, but because he always meant for them to die.
- Professional Killer: The government of his home province is paying him to kill Chinese dissidents under the guise of a botched transport. Rhyme just made him detonate the bomb further from shore than he planned.
- Taoism: He believes in extreme patience and self-discipline, practices feng shui religiously, and prays to the archer god Yi when he needs support.
- The Triads and the Tongs: He is affiliated with them.
The Conjurer, aka Malerick, aka Arthur Loesser
An insane magician who comes to New York just as a popular circus is setting up in the city and starts murdering people with techniques based on famous magic tricks. His mastery of illusion, disguises, and escape artistry make him one of Rhyme's slipperiest foes.
- Big Bad: Of The Vanished Man.
- Boom, Headshot!: Using prosthetics and other special effects, he fakes being shot in the head during a struggle with a cop and escapes from prison before the medical examiners arrive.
- Dead Person Impersonation: He is actually Arthur Loesser, Erick Weir's talented apprentice.
- Double Subversion: Rhyme believes the magic-based revenge killings were all a distraction from Weir's job as a Professional Killer. In fact, the Professional Killer setup was organized to distract from the magic-based revenge killings.
- Escape Artist: So good at setting up elaborate escapes that he often appears to vanish into thin air as the police are cornering him.
- Faking the Dead: He escapes prison by tricking a cop into thinking he's been shot in the head.
- Half the Man He Used to Be: One of his victims is sawn in half to echo the classic "sawing a woman in half" illusion. Mercifully, it's implied that the blow to the head the Conjurer used to subdue this victim killed him before the sawing started.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: He is a master of lavish illusions and redirects his pursuers multiple times. Rhyme, Amelia, and Kara trick him by making it seem like his gas bomb detonated in the circus tent, causing him to drop his guard.
- Kill It with Fire: It quickly becomes apparent that he was seriously burned in a magic accident that also killed his wife. It actually killed Weir too, or at least sent him on the way to death.
- He also tries to burn Rhyme alive in his room, or at least makes it seem like this is what he wants.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Always dropping hints about his tricks/murders to his revered audience, sometimes in his head and sometimes out loud. Rhyme describes it as him looking at the wall and waving his hands around while talking, and its ascribed to his mental instability.
- Master of Disguise: He can make himself look like virtually anyone, even an old woman, with a bit of makeup and a change of clothing. Even his burn scars and wrinkles are part of a disguise.
- Professional Killer: He sets himself up to look like one when Rhyme figures out his connection to Jeddy Barnes. However, this is all a distraction, and he never cared about assassinating his target.
- Revenge: He appears to be killing in revenge against the circus for his scarring and his wife's death. Loesser is actually getting revenge for the loss of his beloved mentor.
An emotionless Professional Killer tasked with killing a girl for mysterious reasons.
- Small Role, Big Impact: He is just another single-book villain, but his attack on Pulaski resonates in every book to come and continues to cause him problems.
- Tap on the Head: Deconstructed when he clubs Ron Pulaski in the head to knock him out. The attack gives Pulaski a crippling brain injury that he barely recovers from and still continues to plague him with headaches and disorientation.
522, aka John Rollins, aka Peter Gordon
A tech-savvy sadist who uses personal information found in Internet databases to frame people for his thefts, rapes, and murders. When he frames Rhyme's brother Arthur, he draws the scrutiny of the detective.
- Abusive Parents: His parents abused him and neglected to address his clear mental problems, which eventually spiraled from compulsive hoarding into murderous sociopathy.
- Big Bad: Of The Broken Window.
- Big Brother Is Watching: He can see virtually everything and get anyone's personal information to suit his goals. This is because he works at SSD, who maintain a comprehensive database on every American citizen's private information in collaboration with the government.
- The Cracker: He hacks for the sole purpose of destroying lives and making his easier.
- Creepy Souvenir: His hoarding tendencies lead him to take property or body parts from his victims, which he then stores in his "Closet".
- Dead Person Impersonation / Faking the Dead: He destroyed his life as tech genius Peter Gordon and faked his own death, then murdered John Rollins and stole his identity, all for the sake of working with Andrew Sterling.
- For the Evulz: He doesn't have any particular reason for killing and framing whom he chooses to — he just likes to see people squirm. Even his dark past doesn't explain certain depths to which he sinks, such as stalking Robert Jorgensen — a total stranger — and systematically destroying everything he wants from life over the course of years.
- Frame-Up: After killing someone, he takes evidence from the crime scene and plants it at the home of an unsuspecting fall guy in such a way that the police have no reason to suspect anyone else.
- Freudian Excuse: His parents and the foster children they took in both abused him, exacerbating his already problematic hoarding tendencies and causing him to distance himself from other people.
- Hero-Worshipper: He sees Andrew Sterling as the pinnacle of technological innovation, and went so far as to fake his own death and create a new identity just to work in the same building as him.
- Karmic Death: The police burst into his Closet and shoot him just as he's about to kill Amelia.
- Psychopathic Manchild: He has an incredibly selfish, childlike outlook on life. When he finds that he is being investigated, his only worry is for his collection, and he lashes out in uncontrollable rage when he feels like this might be threatened.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Near the end, he acquires the information of all of his investigators and sets about methodically ruining them: Lon Sellitto gets positive drug test results and is suspended from active duty, Amelia has her beloved car repossessed and scrapped, and the electricity Rhyme relies on to function is cut off. He would have started doing even worse if Amelia hadn't found him.
- Trash of the Titans: 522 is a compulsive hoarder, and his beloved "Closet" is a labyrinth of trophies and junk, much of which is taken from his victims. Fittingly, this is where he dies.
- Trophy Room: The Closet, a sprawling maze of junk and souvenirs from his crimes.
Raymond Galt, aka The Watchmaker
A maniacal electrician who uses his knowledge of electricity to commit horrific murders, aiming to get his former employers to shut down New York's power grid. In reality, this is all a ruse by the Watchmaker, and Galt has been dead for some time.
- Big Bad: Of The Burning Wire, making the Watchmaker the direct Big Bad of two books thus far.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Galt was killed by the Watchmaker.
- Evil Luddite: He aims to blackmail the electricity company into depriving New York City of power in hopes that people will realize they don't need it to survive. Of course, it's all a cover.
- Freudian Excuse: Working on the power lines gave him cancer that is slowly killing him. That's what the Watchmaker wants everyone to think, at least.
- Lightning Gun: His first act of electrical terrorism sees him use a severed high-powered wire and creative sabotaging and redirection to create a massive arc flash, which shoots out and almost strikes a city bus.
- Shock and Awe: His kills harness electricity in various ways, from creating a Lightning Gun out of a prepared arc flash to frying an entire hotel lobby's worth of people out of nowhere.
- Walking Spoiler: It's extremely difficult to discuss his character because he's not a character, but a stolen identity for the Watchmaker.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: He never kills his victims with straight stabbing, instead subduing them with blows to the throat before flaying layer after layer of their skin away.
- Evil Chef: The one thing he loves more than killing is cooking, and he often uses techniques common in preparing meat dishes to torture his victims.
- Flaying Alive: He kills by shredding the skin from peoples' bodies with his assorted collection of knives.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: He relies heavily on palm-striking the throats of his victims to subdue them, which results in an Impaled Palm for him when Amelia positions her knife the right way.
- Impaled Palm: Amelia runs his hand through with her knife during their Knife Fight. It barely slows him down.
- Knife Fight: With Amelia in the climax.
- Knife Nut: He almost exclusively uses knives whenever possible and spends a lot of time thinking fondly about blades penetrating flesh.
- Professional Killer: Although contrary to what is initially believed, he is neither a government asset nor an independent contractor. He is actually the security chief of the company that makes the drone's payloads.
- Psycho for Hire: He may be doing his job for money, but his love of causing pain and his obsessive fixation on knives is abnormal even for an assassin.
- Supreme Chef: His dishes are apparently considered uniformly delicious. Jeffrey Deaver mentions in a note that he spent time researching gourmet recipes for him to mention.
- Weapon of Choice: Knives, obviously.
The Skin Collector, aka Seth McGuinn, aka Billy Haven
A young tattoo expert with a fixation on skin reminiscent of the Bone Collector's anatomical obsession. Like his predecessor, he prowls the dark tunnels and alleys of New York and ambushes his victims, drugging them to subdue them. Unlike his predecessor, rather than set up a Race Against the Clock for Rhyme and the other police, he tattoos messages on his victims' chests with poisoned ink, resulting in agonizing death.
- Asshole Victim: He's such a horrifically irredeemable monster, even by the standards of the series, that it's easy to cheer when he is hurt and killed.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Thanks to studying the work of Rhyme's go-to forensic reference Edmund Locard, researching Rhyme's case history, and being trained by the Watchmaker, he knows exactly what procedures Amelia will follow on investigating crime scenes and where Rhyme's mind will make connections.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: This malevolent, bigoted Serial Killer is Pam's charming boyfriend Seth.
- Criminal Mind Games: Like the Bone Collector, he is trying to directly engage Rhyme with his kills. However, unlike the Race Against the Clock structure of the Bone Collector's kills, he doesn't intend for Rhyme to decipher his message until the very end.
- Evil Mentor: He was trained by an old foe of Rhyme's: the Watchmaker. His resemblance to the Bone Collector is part intentional taunting and part coincidence.
- Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: On the outside, he's a handsome, perfectly friendly gentleman who cares for his girlfriend. On the inside, he's a demented murderer with twisted views on the way people should be.
- Faking the Dead: Tricks a homeless man into wearing his outfit and drilling into the targeted water system, which is still operating at full pressure to stop the poisoning plot. The hobo is torn apart by the pressure, while Billy makes it back to Pam's house.
- Human Notepad: His victims become this when he scrawls his messages on them.
- Karmic Death: Cut by Pam's box cutter and shot to death by the police.
- Malevolent Masked Men: He wears a ski mask like the Bone Collector, as well as a face guard used by tattoo artists.
- Master Poisoner: He is an expert with poisonous plants and chemicals, and he favors the use of them in his kills. This extends to his ultimate goal: poisoning New York City's water supply with botulin.
- Psychopathic Manchild: For all of his intelligence, he isn't nearly as composed and mature as the Bone Collector. When his militia's grand plan is stopped, he tries to force Pam to run away with him, essentially throwing a temper tantrum when she resists.
- Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: He belongs to a fanatical conservative militia, and his skin obsession is a reflection of his racist worldview.
- Self-Harm: He "attacks" and drugs himself so that nobody will suspect him.
- Stay in the Kitchen: He is shown to harbor archaic views on gender roles when he is describing to Pam what their life together will be like.
- Villainous Incest: He was coerced into a sexual relationship with his aunt at a young age and has kept it up well into his twenties.
- Yandere: He has a perverse obsession with "Lovely Girl", aka Pam Willoughby, whom he is dating. In the end, when his poisoning plot has been foiled, he tattoos Pam to mark her as his property and tries to force her into traveling the world with him.
The People's Guardian, aka Vernon Griffith
The main antagonist of The Steel Kiss. An anti-technology killer, he uses a smart remote to hack into household and industrial appliances with cloud connectivity and exploits them to cause brutal murders.
- Big Bad: Of The Steel Kiss. At least insofar as he is the main killer, but he isn't the mastermind behind the spree and is actually one of the most sympathetic characters in the story.
- Big Eater: Despite being rail-thin, he has an insatiable appetite.
- Drop the Hammer: Uses a ball-peen hammer for personal murders.
- Everything Is Online: The basis for his crimes, which he perpetrates by using a remote to hack specific cloud-connected products.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: His brother Peter is the most important person in his life, and one of the few people who can calm him with just a thought. It turns out that Peter actually died in high school, and Vernon has been continuously listening to voice mails and visiting his grave for years.
- Evil Luddite: He wages war because of his hatred for modern conveniences and the people who vainly buy and use them, who he refers to as "Shoppers". However, this is all a cover he came up with to poetically kill Alicia's targets, and "Shoppers" denotes the woodshop students who bullied him rather than purchasers of appliances.
- Freudian Excuse: He and his brother Peter were regularly bullied throughout their youth for their Marfan syndrome-affected physiques. At one point, two such bullies pretended to befriend Peter, only to set him up to unwittingly have sex with a drugged girl as revenge for her not sleeping with them, which he was filmed doing. He eventually killed himself because of this, scarring Vernon forever.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: He is prone to lashing out at the slightest irritation, usually resulting in the death of whoever earned his ire. This implicitly spawned from his youth, when he would fantasize about hurting and killing everyone who messed with him and his brother.
- Hidden Depths: He is a skilled and passionate wood carver capable of making detailed miniatures that are worth a lot of money on the market.
- Honey Trap: Alicia seduced him into working as an assassin for her in exchange for functioning as his girlfriend.
- Hypocrite: He is driven by his hatred for technology, but he himself purchases and makes use of tons of it, both for his killings and in his everyday life. Rhyme and Archer even point this out. This is because the technology hatred is part of Alicia's gambit, not Vernon's.
- Kids Are Cruel: He was mercilessly bullied in his youth for his unusual physique. As was his brother, who was ultimately Driven to Suicide because of it.
- Kill It with Fire: One of his victims has their oven hacked to cause a gas explosion, burning them to death.
- Knight Templar: His identity as the "People's Guardian" is meant to make people fear using technology and abandon it. He actually has nothing against technology and frequently makes use of it himself, but Alicia wants to project this image.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: Amelia and the police surprise him when he visits his brother's grave. He starts to get off his bench to run, then sits back down, puts his hands up, politely tells them everything they want to know, and goes to prison without a fuss.
- Nicknaming the Enemy: He refers to the people he kills disgustedly as "Shoppers". This is actually his term for woodshop students, not actual shoppers.
- Noodle People: His most distinguishing trait is his exceptional height, thinness, and long arms. Late in the book, he reveals that he has Marfan syndrome.
- Revenge by Proxy: In his cruelest moment, he angrily sets a (failed) Death Trap for Sachs mother out of anger at her for for constantly interfering with his attempts to kill people. Making this worse is that it wasn't even something Alicia asked him to do, but all of his own accord.
- Trademark Favorite Food: He really, really, really loves his White Castle sliders, and various witnesses report him gulping down dozens of them down. The first thing Rhyme and Amelia do that genuinely provokes his wrath is getting his description posted in the local White Castle.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: He's had a hard life, between the vicious bullying and his brother's suicide, and he chooses to lash out violently because of it. Even Rhyme openly feels sorry for him by the time he's hauled away.
The Composer AKA Stefan MerckAn escaped mental patient who appears in The Burial Hour, kidnapping people he leaves in Death Trap's and making audio files of them which he obsesses over.
- Alone with the Psycho: He gets a scene of this when he takes an attractive tourist to an isolated area under the guise of showing her something. Subverted since he isn't a killer and actually means her no harm, merely being interested in recording the sound her boots make when she walks.
- Aroused by Their Voice: Anything that arouses him is based in audio.
- Hearing Voices: A lot of his inner-monologues discuss the "Black Screams" he hears a lot.
- Insane = Violent: A schizophrenic who talks about wishing he cold hear the crucifixion of Jesus in person and abducts people. Ultimately subverted though. He's really being used by American spies to disguise their kidnapping of terrorist suspects who aren't meant to be killed, and they describe Stefan as a harmless guy deep down.
- Loves the Sound of Screaming: In fact, he records it and views it as art. althoguh it's not so much screaming as any sound that he finds beautiful.
- The Promised Land: He is convinced that his crimes are in service of the Greek God of music and that he will get to enter her realm afterwards. This is just his delusions interpretation of the intelligence agencies he's working for promising to put him in another mental hospital where he'll have access to music if he helps them, a promise they make good on at the end of the novel.
- Run for the Border: After the NYPD find his first victim he flees to Italy and continues his kidnappings there. Subverted with the reveal that this was his handlers plan all along, to engineer a fake kidnapping to send him fleeing the country so his activities in Italy wouldn't draw suspicion.
- Serial Killings, Specific Target: Rhyme eventually notices how 3 out of his 4 victims were Libyan immigrants, and it does indeed turn out that they aren't being picked at random.
- Wicked Cultured: He's pretty knowledgable about Greek myths and classical music.
The Promiser AKA Vladimir Rostov AKA Andrew KruegerA killer obsessed with diamonds murdering diamond cutters and engaged couples who dare to desecrate diamonds for rings. Or at least, that's what he wants people to think.
Miscellaneous Single-Book Characters
Tammie Jean "TJ" Colfax"The series first point of view character, and a Morgan-Stanley employee kidnapped by the Bone Collector and left handcuffed in front of a pipe due to shoot out scalding steam.
- Action Survivor: She doesn't survive but she makes a good effort. First TJ tries to break the window of the Bone Collector's taxi with a laptop to escape, and later she tries to saw through her handcuffs against a rusty bolt to escape the pipe.
- Buy Them Off: Tries to do this to the Bone Collector but he isn't after money and never ungags her anyway.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Rhyme and Amelia can't find her in time and the crime scene is pretty gruesome.
- Decoy Protagonist: She's the first character to appear in the series, getting a fair amount of characterization and attention in her efforts to escape her Death Trap, and surviving for over 100 pages but ultimately she can't get out of her handcuffs before the steam starts blasting and dies.
- Happy Place: Tries to calm herself thinking about her mother's kitchen.
- Kids Are Cruel: She and her brother would kick over ant hills as children, something which she looks back on with a sense of guilt as an adult.
- Morally Bankrupt Banker: Zigzagged. She's portrayed sympathetically and doesn't seem to have been unethical at work, but does think of herself as "The bitch of Morgan Stanley's third floor" when it comes to negotiations.
- Say Your Prayers: She does some praying throughout her page-time. Interestingly, it isn't for her own safety but that of her coworker (who was abducted with her, and unknown to TJ was murdered outright).
- Southern-Fried Genius: Grew up in the hills of Eastern Tennessee and is a noted financial player.
Captain Jim PollingThe police captain who first gets Rhyme the Bone Collector case and fights to keep him on it.
- The Atoner: The reason he's such an advocate for Rhyme throughout the novel is because he blames himself for Rhyme being paralyzed (he'd known that the subway Rhyme was investigating a crime scene in was dangerous but hadn't told him due to wanting the Cop Killer Rhyme was after too badly) and wants to give his old friend a purpose and reason to live after hearing about how miserable he's been since the accident. After learning this, Rhyme tells him that he knew the risks when he went in there.
- The Determinator: Polling is relentless while working a case, to the point of obsession, something that leaves him a bit guilty, given some of the lengths he goes to.Polling: I get a hard-on for some perp, I don't stop till the pricks bagged and tagged. I can't control it.
- Forgotten Fallen Friend: He's rarely, if ever, mentioned after the first book despite his major role and friendship with Rhyme.
- Friend on the Force: Plays this role to Rhyme for the first novel.
- Manly Men Can Hunt: He's an outdoorsman with an old scar from nicking himself with a hunting knife or fishing lure.
- Red Herring: Rhyme briefly worries that he might be the Bone Collector.
- Sacrificial Lion: He's stabbed to death by the Bone Collector in the final chapters, when the killer reveals his true identity.
- Small Role, Big Impact: He's a minor character in the scope of the series but he's the one who gets Rhyme the consulting job he holds in the later books.
The Bomber, aka Carol Ganz / Charlotte Willoughby
A Right-Wing Militia Fanatic Mad Bomber who detonates a bomb in an embassy at the end of The Bone Collector, killing numerous attendees. It's really Charlotte Willoughby, who was attacked and waylaid from her goal by the Bone Collector under the guise of Carol Ganz.
- Abusive Parents: She abuses and neglects Pam, and when told that she would have to give up her fanatical conspirators or never see her daughter again, she unhesitatingly chose the latter.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The sweet, innocent victim and loving mother is really an abusive, delusional crank.
- Chekhov's Gunman: After evading capture in The Bone Collector, they return a full nine years later for The Cold Moon.
- Mad Bomber
- Man Behind the Man: Returns in The Cold Moon as the Watchmaker's employer.
- Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The first depicted in the series and a representative of a particular militia branch that reappears several times.
- Walking Spoiler: You're not even supposed to know this character exists, let alone who they are.
Joe D'Oforio, aka Jodie, aka The Coffin Dancer
A homeless drug peddler who, by a strange twist of fate, holds Stephen Kall hostage at gunpoint just as the police are ready to track him down. After escaping together, Jodie ends up accompanying Stephen and assisting him in his ventures as the two rapidly develop a close bond. In reality, "Jodie" is the Coffin Dancer, and he was the one who hired Stephen, purposefully meeting him as part of his plan.
- Arch-Enemy: He was Rhyme's in the past after one of his bombs killed someone Rhyme loved.
- Batman Gambit: His entire plot hinges around Rhyme and the police being so worried about Stephen Kall that they send him — a supposedly coerced accomplice — and his targets to a secure safehouse where he can pick them off at his leisure. It almost works, too.
- Batter Up!: At one point, he tries to attack Amelia with a bat.
- Big Bad: The real antagonist of The Coffin Dancer.
- Book Safe: Jodie's Bible, which contains a large knife.
- The Chessmaster: How does he decide to eliminate his targets? He tracks down and anonymously hires another skilled Professional Killer for the same job, goes into deep cover as a homeless drug dealer for several weeks, sets up a seemingly random meeting with the other killer, stays with him to monitor his progress, and waits for the idea of a safehouse to come up before covertly disposing of the other killer and heading off to finish his task in an environment with no danger of intervention.
- Crazy Homeless People: He initially comes off this way, holding Stephen at gunpoint and generally seeming twitchy, but he warms up and normalizes quickly. Both of these attitudes are an act.
- Eye Scream: Amelia shoots him through the scope of his rifle, filling his eye with glass and bullet fragments.
- Fire-Forged Friends: With Stephen Kall. Unfortunately for Stephen, this is an act.
- Master of Disguise: The Coffin Dancer is most notorious for being able to completely change his appearance and blend in anywhere.
- No Name Given: He denies Rhyme's request for his real name.
- Professional Killer: He's the one Rhyme and Amelia have really been meaning to track, and the one the book is named for.
- Tattooed Crook: Jodie is a drug peddler and he has a tattoo on his arm. It's of The Grim Reaper dancing with a woman.
- The Spook: Nothing is ever revealed about his true identity or his past; he laughs in Rhyme's face when asked to reveal them.
- Walking Spoiler: He's more than just a random homeless man, to say the least.
- Weapon of Choice: While helping Stephen, he starts carrying a baseball bat. When he reveals himself, he uses a knife and a hunting rifle.
Business and operations manager for Hudson Air in The Coffin Dancer.
Roland Bell's cousin, the county sheriff where Garret Haldon lives. When Garret absconds with two local women just as Rhyme is arriving in the state for experimental surgery, Bell calls on Rhyme's help in consulting for the investigation.
- Big Bad: The real main antagonist of The Empty Chair, the mastermind behind the conspiracy and the murderer of Garret's family.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Friendly Southern Gentleman and veteran policeman on the outside, corrupt crook and remorseless murderer on the inside.
- Dirty Cop: The leader of a department full of them, and he was the one who initially took the deal with the pesticide company.
- Engineered Public Confession: Lincoln set up the entire confrontation with Bell to record Bell's confident motive speech and have him arrested in the sting operation.
- Evil All Along: He's not the nice, friendly sheriff he pretends to be.
- Faux Affably Evil: He maintains his charm and politeness even when he's pouring what he thinks is toxic pesticide on Lincoln's face.
- The Sheriff
- Southern Gentleman: Even more so than his cousin, due to continuously living in the Deep South rather than moving away.
- Walking Spoiler
A policewoman on Jim Bell's force present in both manhunts for Garret. During the second, she develops a vendetta against Amelia for accidentally shooting fellow cop Jesse Corn and develops the desire to kill her.
- A-Cup Angst: She lost her breasts to cancer and experiences some angst over their current size.
- Revenge: She wants revenge against Amelia for freeing Garret and killing Jesse Corn.
- Token Good Teammate: She is neither an Anti-Hero asshole like Mason nor a Dirty Cop like the rest of her department, making her the only pure-hearted person under Jim Bell.
Mary-Beth McConnellA local girl Garrett is obsessed with and a kidnapping victim.
- Brainy Brunette: She's described as a brunette and is an efficient archeological grad student who spends a lot of her captivity trying to find ways to escape.
- Disappeared Dad: Her dad died when she was young and her mom is overprotective.
- Living MacGuffin: She spends a lot of the story as a hostage or potential witness.
- Lust Object: to Garrett, who has pictures of her, including bending over while in a bikini top.
- Pink Means Feminine: She notes that she has on pink underwear at one point.
A rough, rude cop on Jim Bell's force. During the manhunt for Garret, he is dead set on killing the kid for reasons unknown.
- Anti-Hero: He wants Garret dead because he genuinely believes that the boy is a remorseless murderer, not because he is involved in Bell's conspiracy.
- Cowboy Cop: He goes into both manhunts looking to shoot Garret dead.
- Dirty Cop: Painted as one. Isn't actually one.
- Good All Along: Despite being set up as a Dirty Cop, his vendetta against Garret is for completely unrelated reasons to the conspiracy, which he is instrumental in exposing to Rhyme and the FBI.
- Red Herring: He has nothing to do with the pesticide conspiracy and the cover-up that resulted in Garret's family's deaths.
A local Gun Nut in Garret Haldon's town. When Garret escapes custody with Amelia, Rich and his friends secretly dog behind the police, ready to shoot the boy dead on sight and claim the bounty on his head.
- Asshole Victim: After interfering with the investigation and shooting Thom, he deserves what happens to him.
- Bee Afraid: Garret shoves him into the cabin's basement, tosses in a beehive, and locks the door.
- Climax Boss: The primary threat and Final Boss of the manhunt for Garret. However, Jim Bell and his ring of corrupt cops are the ultimate threat of the situation.
- Dragon with an Agenda: Rich is revealed to be a hired gun for Bell and Davett but screws up their plans by trying to collect the bounty on Garrett in his own time.
- Fat Bastard: Repeatedly described as obese and undeniably a bastard.
- Hero Killer: Not quite, but he shoots and nearly kills Thom.
- Karmic Death: Immediately after starting a devastating firefight outside Garret's cabin, he is shoved into its basement with a hive of angry bees and stung to death.
- Spanner in the Works: Both Garret and the police have their own hidden agendas with each other, but Rich's efforts to claim the bounty and deter the manhunt from unearthing his moonshine distillery result in a massive shootout as soon as Garret's cabin is discovered.
- Vigilante Man: He and his gang become vigilantes on the hunt for Garret.
Owner of a plant responsible for manufacturing carcinogenic pesticide.
- Greater-Scope Villain: He bribed the majority of the Sherriff's Department to help cover up the Hanlon family's murder and smuggle the pesticide across the border through the canal.
- Lack of Empathy: When confronted with the impact of his actions up close and shown the ugly details, he simply doesn't care.
- Villain with Good Publicity: He's a church Deacon and seen as a Benevolent Boss, while also acting quick to offer help to the police.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Rhyme vows to stay in town until he has enough to put him away but it's never explicitly confirmed if he succeeded.
Deputy NathanOne of the lower-ranking local deputies.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: He's first mentioned as having contaminated a crime scene by smoking, to Rhymes great irritations, but is also the department sharpshooter, and a level-headed, reliable man who helps arrest the villains.
- Friendly Sniper: He is a good rifle shot who resists orders to take a shot prematurely and is well-liked by others.
- Must Have Nicotine: He's been trying to stop smoking but just can't.
- Only One Name: Nathan is the only name he gets and it isn't even clear if its his first or last name.
Jesse CornAnother of Bell's deputies.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: He's described as a boyishly cute man who is the only deputy not resentful of Rhyme and Sachs arriving and is friendly with his fellow deputies and concerned about the kidnapping victims. He's really an accomplice of Bell involved in the murders and polluting, although he does seem to have a Villainous Friendship with his colleagues.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Amelia shoots him dead in the chaos of a firefight, leaving her horribly guilt stricken and facing possible charges. Then it turns out Jesse was indeed trying to kill her during that gun battle.
A Chinese police detective who stowed away aboard the Ghost's ship in the guise of a passenger in order to capture him. After the boat's destruction, he ends up joining Rhyme's investigative team, though he has wildly different methods to Rhyme.
- Asian Speekee Engrish: Dramatically downplayed, but he still has a very loose grasp on the English language that results in shades of the trope.
- Combat Pragmatist: As seen in his back-alley duel with the Ghost. Unfortunately, he finds himself outmatched.
- Cowboy Cop: He's willing to resort to threats and physical violence if it gets him closer to the Ghost.
- Due to the Dead: After the Ghost murders him, Rhyme has a small shrine erected in his room in memoriam. It is still there a few books later and has been occasionally mentioned in passing.
- Hardboiled Detective: To contrast Rhyme's By-the-Book Cop.
- It's Personal: The Ghost murdered a colleague and friend of Li's, fueling his obsession with catching him. His death in turn makes the hunt personal for Rhyme.
- Nice Guy: His mannerisms can be abrasive and his methods are different to what Rhyme prefers, but he is such a warm, friendly person that he grows on the investigative team — Rhyme in particular.
- Pyrrhic Victory: He succeeds in pointing Rhyme toward the Ghost's true identity and plan, resulting in the killer's capture, but only because he managed to get DNA evidence and soapstone fragments under his fingernails during his death.
- Red Herring: His first few chapters point to him being the Ghost's bangshou, but he is then revealed to be a cop hunting the Ghost.
- Sacrificial Lion: His death at the Ghost's hands is what makes the hunt personal for Rhyme.
Illegal Chinese immigrants and dissidents who are targets of the Ghost in The Stone Monkey.
- Cool Old Guy: Mr. Chang's father is a Papa Wolf whose very insightful and not afraid to take on and put up a very good fight against the Ghost and his men personally.
- Internal Reformist: Both patriarchs, argued for change in the communist policies, Chang for reasons of ideals and Wu due to feeling they were hurting business opportunities.
- Miles Gloriosus: Mr. Wu claims to have committed various acts of heroism during the sinking that really were done by Chang.
Captain SenThe captain of the ship with the illegal immigrants, and a man who genuinely cares for the welfare and future of his passengers.
- Not Quite Dead: He's assumed drowned when the ship goes down after saving a baby he hands to Sam Chang, but turns up alive in an air pocket later on when divers explore the ship.
A New York lawyer who becomes high-profile while prosecuting a man associated with Jeddy Barnes's militia group. It soon becomes apparent that Barnes has sent no less than three killers to assassinate him and cause a mistrial: a blackmailed priest, Hobbs Wentworth, and finally the Conjurer himself, who organized the plan and the approaches of the latter two.
- Butt-Monkey: Over the course of the novel, he is almost shot in his car, almost sniped by Hobbs Wentworth, receives numerous death threats that almost destroy his life, has his apartment breached by the Conjurer with his family nearby, and is led to believe that his young daughter ate poisoned chocolate that was meant to kill him. All for trying to do his job.
The leader of a racist, nationalist right-wing milita in The Vanished Man. He is plotting to kill Charles Grady in order to cause a mistrial that lets an associate of his militia go free. To this end, he hired the Conjurer, who made a complex assassination plan with him involving two other decoy killers and multiple fake-outs.
- Karma Houdini: He receives no clear punishment for masterminding the plot to kill Charles Grady.
- The Man Behind the Man: Appears to be this for the Conjurer, but even he is being deceived.
- Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The leader of a large group in New York state.
- Small Role, Big Impact: Despite never appearing in person, he is the one masterminding the various plots to kill Charles Grady and the Conjurer's pivotal Fall Guy.
Jeddy Barnes's dedicated enforcer, responsible for a number of slayings over the years. In The Vanished Man, he is assigned to take out Charles Grady if the Conjurer fails to.
- Beard of Evil: Has a thick beard and is part of a racist, murderous milita.
- Cold Sniper: In his final scene.
- The Dragon: To Jeddy Barnes.
- Faux Affably Evil: An unrepentant killer who entertains children with Sunday schools stories (that he makes up and that make Jesus into a more militant figure) and is always making notes whenever he thinks up a new one.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The instant he tries to shoot Charles Grady, his own bullets ricochet and kill him.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: He may look and act like a Deep South meathead, but he has an extensive knowledge of weaponry and has gotten away with multiple murders.
- Self-Disposing Villain: His burst fire ricochets off the reinforced glass window, tearing him apart.
William Ashberry, Jr.
President of the Hiram Sanford Foundation in The Twelfth Card.
An obese serial rapist whom the Watchmaker contacts and uses as his helper during The Cold Moon.
- BrotherSister Incest: As a teenager, he tied up and brutally raped his sister Sally-Anne over the course of several days. She has barely recovered in adulthood, and he still obsessively fixates on her as his one true love.
- Fat Bastard: An obese, delusional serial rapist.
- Laser-Guided Karma: He is tricked into trying to assault Kathryn Dance and arrested.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Despite his childlike characteristics, he has managed to remain out of the view of police for years.
- Off Stage Villainy: Never actually rapes anyone over the course of the novel, just in the backstory, with The watchmaker deliberately making sure that Vincent fails to rape anyone so that the police will have nothing to hold him on the first time they catch up with him.
- Psychopathic Manchild: One of the clearest examples in the series. Despite being involved in monstrous crimes, his inner narration and worldview resembles that of an actual child.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: In a book that features a ring of murderous Dirty Cops and introduces the remorseless Professional Killer who becomes Rhyme's Arch-Enemy, Vincent is still the most despicable character around.
- Sweet Tooth: Vincent frequently chows down on chocolate and other candies to stave off his real hunger.
Det. Art Snyder (Ret.)A recently retired detective who worked the case of a victim related to the vents of The Cold Moon who Amelia questions.
- Category Traitor: He's viewed as this by several of his old colleagues for helping with a case against corrupt cops, with Amelia striving to make up to him for that.
- Innocently Insensitive: He obliviously drops a bomb on Amelia that her dad was a Dirty Cop long ago during her visit. although it turns out he was undercover.
- Retired Badass: A retired cop with a decent career behind him.
Staff Sgt. Lucy RichterA Manhattan housewife who joined the army after 9-11 and is a potential victim of the Watchmaker and Vincent in The Cold Moon.
- Beware the Nice Ones: She's characterized as not a violet or aggressive person but one who was still stirred to join the army to do something about 9-11.
- Shellshocked Veteran: Her experiences overseas have clearly left her with her demons, although more in the "be pensive" way than the "lash out society" kind.
Vernon Griffith's girlfriend, a damaged and formerly abused woman who bends to his every whim.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The traumatized woman is really a domineering manipulator willing to callously end multiple innocent lives to get her revenge, and after getting what she wants, she has already prepared to kill the vulnerable, damaged man she was exploiting to commit the murders. All of the affection she showed him and the interest she had in his hobby are fake.
- Domestic Abuse: She is covered in scars and burns, and even had a bone in her arm twisted out, all thanks to her late husband. In reality, most of these injures were due to the car accident, while her husband accidentally broke her arm trying to pull her from the wreckage.
- Extreme Doormat: Her experience with abuse has left her so afraid to question or offend Vernon that she clams up even suggesting a meal. She is indeed doing this to avoid putting Vernon off, but it's to maintain their deal, not because she is afraid of him. Vernon is actually putty in her hands.
- Freudian Excuse: A defect in her car led it to malfunction and becoming a flaming wreck, horribly injuring her and killing her husband, and she was not properly recompensed in court due to being forced to settle.
- Honey Trap: She took advantage of Vernon after learning that he was a suitable killer by making him murder her targets in exchange for sex and companionship.
- Man Behind the Man: She is the real mastermind behind Vernon's anti-technology murders, though he was always a killer beforehand.
- Revenge: All of the people she has Vernon murder were in some way connected to the defect in her car, no matter how tangentially.
Juliette ArcherAn intern of Rhyme's during the "Steel Kiss" case and fellow wheelchair user.
- Commonality Connection: Downplayed. Her and Rhyme being fellow paraplegics is portrayed as significant but its more for her mind that he comes to appreciate her enough to let her work on the case.
- Glamorous Single Mother: She has an eleven year old son and is fairly pretty.
- Teacher's Pet: Subverted but she meet Rhyme in a criminology class and impresses him with her hard studying.
- Took a Level in Badass: She knocks out the culprit of the book during an attack.
Officer Ercole BenelliAn Italian forrestry officer who witnesses the second kidnapping of the Composer and becomes attached to the case.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He's a forestry officer who dresses the part and carries saws in his trunk but he is an alert and conscious officer with a good head for theory and the only one of the officers who is first on the scene to have read the Interpol alerts about The Composer.
- Farm Boy: A rural officer eager to prove his worth and rise onto better things.
- Native Guide: He's the local assigned to liaise with Rhyme and Sachs and show them around.
- That One Case: Played slightly for laughs in his feud with a dealer of counterfeit truffles.
Dante SpiroAn Italian prosecutor who commands the investigation into The Composer once he reaches Italy and buts heads with Rhyme.
- Badass Bureaucrat: Prior to the novel some organized crime figures he'd arrest sent two hitmen to kill him. Spiro overpowered one physically and shot the other with his own gun.
- Good Is Not Nice: To quote a lawyer involved in another case Rhyme gets involved in after arriving in Italy:Lawyer: The prosecutor is handling the case against Garry is a brilliant man, it's not disputed, but he can be difficult and vindictive and he is cold as ice.Lawyer: Santo Cielo! How did you know?
- Jurisdiction Friction: He and Rhyme spend a long time debating about whether or not Spiro will get to try the case in Italy once an arrest is made.
- Mean Boss: He's constantly shooting down Ercole's ideas and insulting him, At least until the end.
- Most Writers Are Writers: He turns out to be a big western fan who writes stories of his own.
- Pride: He could give Rhyme a run for his money there. Spiro resents his ideas being openly questioned. He also only allows Rhyme and Sachs on the case due to some reporters praising him for being a big enough man to ask for help from the experts most qualified and feeling he would lose face to go back on that.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: At the end of the day he is a shrewd man working for the interests of justice and willing to reward hard work.
- Shipper on Deck: Ultimately turns into one for Ercole and his love interest.
- Troubled Sympathetic Bigot: He has a deep grudge against Americans due to his grandfather being an Allied soldier who was mistaken for an Axis one by Americans and put into a prison camp with Nazi soldiers who saw him and his unit as traitors and tortured most of them to death while the guards stood and watched. The fact that the senior American officers responsible for the mistake refused to apologize didn't help. The lingering stress of this incident hurt his mother's mental health. Spiro himself admits that while he knows his resentment for Americans isn't entirely rational he has a hard time getting over it.
- Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Spiro comes across as fairly straight laced and mentions that due to her mental problems his mother sometimes showed up naked to pick him and his brother up from school.
Massimo RossiThe inspector working with Spiro on the Composer Case.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Initially presented as a reasonable, intelligent man who sees something in Ercole and gives him opportunities to advance, it is shown at the end that, He is a members of an Italian Alt-Right political group and has been sabotaging the case due to his own hatred of illegal immigrants, while setting Ercole up as The Scapegoat to take the blame for the case's failure. Ercole, Rhyme, Sach and even people who have know Rossi longer -such as his own, genuinely pleasant and highly competent Number Two Silvio- are completely taken in.
- Living Legend: He holds a great deal of respect among the Italian police community for his long string of big arrests.
- Perma-Stubble: Described as having a permeant stubble on his face.
- Too Many Babies: He and his wife have five children who apparently take up a lot of their time.
Beatrice RenzaThe forensic investigator on Rossi's team.
- Messy Hair: Its described as thick and wavy.
- Perpetual Frowner: Frowning may be too strong of a word but she rarely smiles due to her focus on the job.
- Shipper on Deck: Lets Ercole know that her attractive friend and colleague Daniela is single (albeit with a faint warning not to treat her badly), although it ultimately turns out Ercole doesn't like Daniela, but rather Beatrice herself.
Charlotte McKenzieAn embassy worker who requests Rhyme spend time on another case in his hunt for The Composer.
Edward Ackroyd AKA Andrew KruegerA gem company insurance appraiser who is consulted about several murders in a diamond shop in The Cutting Edge and brought onto the case as a consultant.
- Amoral Afrikaner: His true identity.
- Crossword Puzzle: His hobby.
- Detective Mole: He's a a professional mercenary and the real Promisor.
- Establishing Character Moment: Rhyme is impressed when he expresses concern about the three murder victims before the loss of the valuable diamonds and then shows some real passion and interest in his job. He deliberately engineered his act that way though.
- Identity Impersonator: There is a real Edward Ackroyd, alive and out of the country.
- Manly Gay: He's a fit man who used to be a Scotland Yard inspector and has a husband. Except no, not really, he lied about that because he sensed Rhyme would be more trusting and tolerant of a minority individual.
- Unwitting Pawn: He thinks he's been hired to destroy a geothermal plant under the guise of serial killings but really he's being set up to fail, and provide a distraction for a drug cartel to break their boss out of jail.