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Literature / Cemetery Dance

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Cemetery Dance is a novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child first published in 2009. It is part of their informal Agent Pendergast series.

When a dear friend is murdered, Pendergast must put together the pieces to bring the perpetrator to justice. But while it first appears to be an Open-and-Shut Case, things become complicated when the accused murderer turns out to have been dead for ten days before committing the crime. Strange fetishes, voodoo spells, and rumors of animal sacrifices leads Pendergast and D'Agosta on a journey into dark magic, zombiis and cults as they search for the truth behind their friend's death.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Agent Mulder: Pendergast, unusually, acts as if the voodoo is real. He explains that it's just like Pascal's Wager; if the voodoo isn't real, acting like it does will do him no harm. It's implied that Pendergast's more likely to accept the supernatural after the events in The Wheel of Darkness.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: Humans for Other Animals
  • Big Bad: Alexander Esteban turns out to be behind the whole murder scheme.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Esteban lambasts Pendergast for his ecologically unfriendly vehicle and touts the moral high ground of vegetarianism. Pendergast finds the wrappings for a rack of lamb in his garbage. Turns out Esteban was just using the animal rights group to further his agenda, and it's implied the lamb was used for zombie makeup.
  • Call-Back:
  • Covers Always Spoil: The synopsis on the back cover outright stated that Smithback is killed and his death is being investigated.
  • Defiant to the End: Smithback puts up one hell of a fight even after being stabbed several times. D'agosta and the police find his bloody handprints on a cutlery drawer, trying to get a knife of his own
  • Disney Death: After Esteban's death, it's revealed that despite being protected by a bullet-proof vest Pendergast was still shot, and he's seen collapsing from blood loss. The next chapter picks up some time later with the characters acting seriously grim and D'Agosta notably commenting on if only he'd been able to keep him from getting shot, suggesting that Pendergast has died. After about two pages it's then revealed that D'Agosta's sitting right next to Pendergast's hospital bed, revealing he's alive and on his way to recovery.
  • Due to the Dead: Pendergast says goodbye to the murdered Bill Smithback by way of a quiet tea ceremony in an indoor zen garden in his apartment building.
  • Eye Scream: Nora winds up ripping out one of Esteban's eyes right out of its socket.
  • Genre Blind: Colin Fearing really should have realized that if Esteban had been willing to betray Caitlyn then he'd probably be willing to do so to him as well. Lampshaded by Pendergast at the end.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: While attempting to escape Pendergast and Nora, Esteban accidentally activates one of his own traps: a guillotine.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: The voodoo in the novel is very well researched but much of it turns out to be Hollywood-style tricks.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Despite primarily using Smithback's death as an excuse to get a hot scoop, Caitlyn Kidd seems to genuinely want to help Nora catch his murderer. Turns out she's also a former criminal and right now she's just following Esteban's orders and is using the Ville as a scapegoat for Nora to focus. Unfortunately for Caitlyn, Esteban had no intention of paying her...
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The housing department. Their idea of an "quick" eviction of The Ville would take several years.
  • Police Are Useless: The police in charge of controlling the protestors are woefully unprepared and unable to do anything to stop them from becoming a mob. Chislett received several warnings he chose to ignore.
  • Powderkeg Crowd: The protests against The Ville.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Margo Green has exited the story again. Nora recalls she's on a hiatus and won't be back for several more months.
    • Nora herself looks to be making an exit by the end of the novel.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Esteban orchestrates all the zombii attacks with special effects makeup after faking deaths. Subverted at the end, The Ville actually has a zombii, but they never sent it out after people.
  • Sequel Hook: At the very end Pendergast is visited by a lawyer named Ogilby who has a very important message for him, thus setting up the beginning of Fever Dream.
  • Straw Vegetarian: Esteban is of the "better than you" variety.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Smithback dies less than ten pages into the book.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The story is told from a third-person perspective that usually follows the viewpoint of one person in each section. One of these sections was from the point of view of the Big Bad, before he's actually revealed as such. Another is from the perspective of an accomplice. Neither scene gives any indication of their real plan.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Esteban disposes of both Caitlyn Kidd and Colin Fearing after they serve there respective purposes.