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Literature / Book of the Dead

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Book of the Dead is a novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child first published in 2006. It is part of their informal Agent Pendergast series and the third and final novel in the Diogenes trilogy arc.

Pendergast is locked in a high security prison, awaiting trial for the crimes his brother has committed. D'Agosta's career as an NYPD officer is all but over after his assistance to Pendergast. Margo still fights for her life in intensive care after narrowly escaping Diogenes. Life must go on though, and Nora Kelley is put in charge of putting together a high profile exhibit for the museum, reopening The Tomb of Senef — a complete Egyptian tomb that was transported to the museum brick by brick — at the behest of a donor who suddenly gives the museum ten million dollars for this sole purpose. As she and her colleagues work to restore the tomb on schedule, strange rumors of the tomb's curse and bloody past start to circulate, and terrible things begin to happen to the people working the restoration.


All the while, D'Agosta gathers Pendergast's friends to enact a daring rescue from an impenetrable prison.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: Glinn specifically chose the prisoner Pendergast has to kill to get out of prison because of his heinous crimes. He deserved to die, so it wasn't all that wrong to kill him.
  • Attempted Rape: Adrian attacks Nora in her office in retaliation for her spurning his advances. He rips open her shirt and is about to choke her unconscious when help arrives.
  • Ballroom Blitz: The opening of the Tomb of Senef is a high society social event.
  • Battle Butler: Proctor is instrumental in the plot to break Pendergast out of prison.
    The man was no mere chauffeur — D'Agosta had figured that out as soon as he saw him break down and stow away a CAR-15/XM-117 Commando in less than sixty seconds — but he could never seem to penetrate Proctor's Jeeves-like opacity.
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  • Bewildering Punishment: Until he remembers The Event, Pendergast has no explanations for his brother's seething hatred of him.
  • Big Eater: Both Smithback and Viola. Smithback is rather pleased when he notices her gorging on the buffet table as whole-heartedly as he is.
  • Big "NO!": Bulke lets out an increasing string of these when he's set upon by Lipper in the museum's attic.
  • Break the Cutie: Diogenes attempts to completely shatter Constance and get her to commit suicide. The worst part: unlike the other parts of his plan, this one is specifically just for the hell of it.
  • Break the Haughty: FBI Agent Coffey makes clear that he considers the warden and the entire guard staff of Herkmoor Prison to be beneath him in the chain of command and threatens them all with the worst kind of punishment for disobeying his "orders". When the warden says he has Coffey on tape, threatening two of his guards and inadvertently precipitating Pendergast's escape attempt, Coffey collapses into a chair and whimpers that they can clear up this "misunderstanding" without informing Coffey's own superiors... and then another guard calls the warden and tells him that it wasn't an attempt; Pendergast has in fact escaped.
  • Brown Note: The light and sound show Diogenes creates is designed to induce brain damage and insanity in the viewer.
  • Butt-Monkey: Smithback gets maimed again thanks to his involvement with Pendergast. He comes out sporting a sulfuric acid scar this time.
  • The Casanova: While stewing to himself over Nora's rejection, Adrian tells himself there are tons of eager interns and low level women back at the British Museum who are very receptive to him.
  • The Chessmaster: Diogenes is pulling the strings the whole time as the unassuming Dr. Menzies.
  • Clear Their Name: Smithback and Hayward team up to find the evidence that Pendergast was framed.
  • Climactic Volcano Backdrop: Constance and Diogenes have their final confrontation at the Sciara del Fuoco on Stromboli. Diogenes invokes the trope, as he leads the fight there so he can use the dangerous area (which he knows well) as an advantage.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When first venturing to the Tomb of Senef, Adrian, Nora and Menzies note a stain on the frescoed walls. It's blood from the Mbwun attacks.
    • When arriving at the opening gala, Smithback notes the presence of Wanda Meursault, the actress who used the Sacred Images opening controversy to boost her exposure.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Diogenes describes Constance's immortality this way.
  • Cute Bookworm: Constance has had over a century to read, and she's put the time to good use.
  • Designated Bullet: Constance hunts Diogenes with the scalpel he gave her to kill herself.
  • Disney Villain Death: Constance throws Diogenes into the Sciara del Fuoco.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Comstock Pendergast placed a single shot derringer in his magic lantern box intended for the victim to put themselves out of their misery. Whatever horrible things were in the show, it was enough to cause a seven-year-old to prefer death.
    • Diogenes masterminds a seduction of Constance simply to drive her to kill herself.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Smithback figures out that Diogenes is Menzies when he has to duck into the closet at his house and notices two distinct types of jackets that no one person would ever mix.
  • Evil Brit: Played with. At first, Adrian is just a Handsome Lech who relentlessly hits on Nora, but after his brain is damaged by the sound and light show, he has no inhibition filter and tries to rape and kill Nora for spurning his advances.
  • Fate Worse than Death: What the hieroglyphs on the Tomb of Senef promise anyone who violates it.
  • Foreshadowing: Smithback wryly notes that with all the important people at the opening, "If somebody nuked the joint[...] the repercussions wouldn't just be national — they'd be global."
  • Frame-Up: Pendergast is in prison for crimes Diogenes committed and pinned on him.
  • Fright Death Trap: Comstock Pendergast's magic lantern show was designed to scare the victim to death, cause them to go insane or commit suicide. Diogenes recreates the device in The Tomb of Senef to do the same.
  • Genius Cripple: Glinn.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Diogenes thinks that his plan to get Constance to kill herself is simple and straightforward. Instead, he gives her a new reason to live — to take her revenge on him.
  • Great Escape: D'Agosta and some of Pendergast's surviving friends concoct an elaborate prison break to free Pendergast.
  • Handsome Lech: Adrian makes constant passes at Nora and is not deterred by the fact that she is married.
  • Happily Married: Nora firmly tells Adrian she's happily married and has no interest in him.
  • Heroic BSoD: Mary Johnson is found in a corner, staring at the ceiling and crying freely after she discovers DeMeo's body.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: Diogenes decides to turn the tables on Constance after he figures out he's being followed. It backfires.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Diogenes exploits this feeling in Constance, pretending to be a kindred soul.
  • Ironic Echo: While trying to have Pendergast murdered, Agent Coffey threatens the guards with demotion and transfer to North Dakota. When everything comes crashing down on him, Coffey is heavily demoted and transferred to North Dakota.
  • Irrational Hatred: Diogenes for Pendergast.
  • It's Personal: Agent Coffey hates Pendergast so much, he's willing to do anything to destroy him.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Diogenes' need to destroy everything and everyone close to his brother leads to him bringing about the one person who eventually causes his death.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Inverted. Diogenes assumes that Aloysius feels this way about The Event. He never knew that Aloysius had blocked out the memory so that he was unable to apologize or take responsibility for what happened. His later, fervent denials that he ever did anything to hurt Diogenes simply furthered this conviction.
    • When Pendergast is "complimenting" Coffey on his handling of the Museum crisis in The Relic, Coffey squirms for a moment at the memory, before hastily thinking that he's always been too hard on himself, and no one could have been expected to handle that situation well.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: While attempting to warm his way to Constance, Diogenes actually does tell a few truths regarding himself — including the general area his home is located in. Guess how Constance is able to find him and corner him near the end?
  • No Name Given/Last-Name Basis: D'Agosta tries to get Proctor to be less formal with him, but he won't even give him his first name.
  • No Sense of Humor: No matter how hard D'Agosta tries to joke or talk with Proctor during their stakeout of the prison, he flatly replies with a word or two at a time.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Diogenes seduces Constance using many speeches about how alike they are and setting himself up as a kindred soul to her. He even fakes suicide scars so she will relate to him.
  • Meaningful Name: The fat museum guard's name is Bulke.
  • Nepotism: While being interrogated by Agent Coffey, Pendergast says that another agent with Coffey's record would have been drummed out of the Bureau years ago, and remarks on Coffey's remarkable "good luck" in having a retired U.S. Senator for a father-in-law.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Pendergast learns that the Tomb of Senef is a sound and light show, he makes the connection to The Event and realizes Diogenes's plan.
    • Diogenes gets one as he attempts to make his escape on a train and discovers that Constance has come on board his car with a gun aimed right at his face.
  • Place Worse Than Death: Coffey threatens the prison guards with being transferred to North Dakota.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If only Diogenes had known that Aloysius had suppressed his memories of the incident that drove the former crazy, he might have been more forgiving. Instead, he naturally assumed his brother was actively lying about his role to escape blame.
  • The Power of Hate: Constance finds her reason to keep living.
  • Prison Rape: Agent Coffey sets Pendergast up to be raped by the most brutal gang in the prison as a way to soften him up for a confession.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Agent Rabiner to Agent Coffey.
  • Properly Paranoid: Mary Johnson muses to herself about the curse of the Tomb of Senef as she goes to make her rounds inside. She tells herself she's being silly and then comes across the mutilated corpse of DeMeo.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Agent Coffey's threat of demotion and transfer to North Dakota, which he ends up receiving himself.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The last 100 or so pages are devoted to Constance relentlessly hunting Diogenes all over the Earth after completely mind screwing her earlier in the novel.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Lipper and DeMeo.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The files on the Tomb of Senef from the 1930s suggest that it was sealed because of mysterious deaths and rumors of curses that surrounded it.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Invertedthe last person Constance wants to remember is Diogenes.
  • Stealth Insult: Under the pretense of pleading for mercy, Pendergast begins a long series of "compliments" to FBI Agent Coffey on his own stellar career achievements; before he is done, the guard in the cell is snickering at Coffey's expense, and Coffey stonily tells him to turn off the tape recorder.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Pendergast has no memory of The Event which made his brother evil, to the point that he honestly insists that it did not happen and that Diogenes was simply "born bad". The horrors that he saw happen to his brother in the magic lantern box were so traumatic that he repressed the entire memory of going into the sub-basement with his brother. When he awoke from the ordeal, he believed his parents' story about his brother being sick with scarlet fever. Diogenes believed that he was simply denying that he had done anything to him and had no remorse, causing his undying hatred of his older brother.
  • Unlucky Extra: Larry Enderby. This is his second appearance (having found Margo after her attack in Dance of Death). Captain Hayward recognizes him during the opening of the Tomb of Senef and thinks to herself that the poor guy has terrible luck.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Diogenes suffers one when Constance goes after him. He tries to flee, tail between his legs... and fails.
  • Villainous Lineage: Diogenes was born with the natural inclination towards insanity and evil that runs in the Pendergast line.
  • Wham Line: The final line of the book — Constance reveals that she's pregnant with Diogenes' child.
  • Woman Scorned: Constance takes Diogenes' seduction and betrayal of her very personally.