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The Burial Hour

Jeffery Deaver

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  Copyright (c) 2017 by Gunner Publications, LLC

  Cover design and photo of ropes by Jerry Todd. Background photo (c) enviromantic/Getty Images.

  Cover copyright (c) 2017 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and the value of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists to produce the creative works that enrich our culture.

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book without permission is a theft of the author's intellectual property. If you would like permission to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), please contact [email protected]. Thank you for your support of the author's rights.

  Grand Central Publishing

  Hachette Book Group

  1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104

  First Edition: April 2017

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  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Deaver, Jeffery, author.

  Title: The burial hour : a Lincoln Rhyme novel / Jeffery Deaver.

  Description: First edition. | New York : Grand Central Publishing, 2017.

  Identifiers: LCCN 2016054237 | ISBN 9781455536375 (hardcover) | ISBN 9781455571178 (large print) | ISBN 9781478906636 (audio book) | ISBN 9781478906643 (audio download) | ISBN 9781455536399 (ebook)

  Subjects: LCSH: Rhyme, Lincoln (Fictitious character)--Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION / Thrillers. | GSAFD: Mystery fiction. | Suspense fiction.

  Classification: LCC PS3554.E1755 B85 2017 | DDC 813/.54--dc23 LC record available at

  ISBNs: 978-1-45553637-5 (hardcover), 978-1-45553639-9 (ebook), 978-1-45557117-8 (large print), 978-1-5387-6033-8 (signed edition)




  Title Page



  Author's Note


  I: The Hangman's Waltz

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  II: In the Field of Truffles

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  III: The Aqueduct

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  IV: The Land of No Hope

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  V: Skulls and Bones

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  VI: The House of Rats

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  VII: The Sound of Sense

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Chapter 68

  Chapter 69

  Chapter 70

  Chapter 71

  VIII: The Dragonfly and the Gargoyle

  Chapter 72


  About the Author

  Also by Jeffery Deaver


  To the memory of my friend Giorgio Faletti.

  The world misses you.

  Author's Note

  While the Italian law enforcement agencies I refer to in this novel are real, I do hope the fine members of these organizations, many of whom I've met and whose company I've enjoyed, will forgive the minor adjustments I've made to their procedures and locales, which have been necessary for the timing and plotting of the story.

  And I wish to offer my particular thanks to musician and writer, translator and interpreter extraordinaire Seba Pezzani, without whose friendship, and diligence and devotion to the arts, this book could not have been written.

  The winter wind blows and the night is dark;

  Moans are heard in the linden-trees.

  Through the gloom, white skeletons pass,

  Running and leaping in their shrouds.

  --Henri Cazalis, "Danse Macabre"

  Monday, September 20


  The Hangman's Waltz

  Chapter 1


  "In a minute."

  They trooped doggedly along the quiet street on the Upper East Side, the sun low this cool autumn morning. Red leaves, yellow leaves spiraled from sparse branches.

  Mother and daughter, burdened with the baggage that children now carted to school.

  In my day...

  Claire was texting furiously. Her housekeeper had--wouldn't you know it?--gotten sick, no, possibly gotten sick, on the day of the dinner party! The party. And Alan had to work late. Possibly had to work late.

  As if I could ever count on him anyway.


  The response from her friend:

  Sorry, Carmellas busy tnight.

  Jesus. A tearful emoji accompanied the missive. Why not type the goddamn "o" in "tonight"? Did it save you a precious millisecond? And remember apostrophes?

  "But, Mommy..." A nine-year-old's singsongy tone.

  "A minute, Morgynn. You heard me." Claire's voice was a benign monotone. Not the least angry, not the least peeved or piqued. Thinking of the weekly sessions: Sitting in the chair, not lying back on the couch--the good doctor didn't even have a couch in his office--Claire attacked her nemeses, the anger and impatience, and she had studiously worked to avoid snapping or shouting when her daughter was annoying (even when she behaved that way intentionally, which, Claire calculated, was easily one-quarter of the girl's waking hours).

  And I'm doing a damn good job of keeping a lid on it.

  Reasonable. Mature. "A minute," she repeated, sensing the girl was about to speak.

  Claire slowed to a stop, flipping through her phone's address book, lost in the maelstrom of approaching disaster. It was early but the day would vanis
h fast and the party would be on her like a nearby Uber. Wasn't there someone, anyone, in the borough of Manhattan who might have decent help she could borrow to wait a party? A party for ten friggin' people! That was nothing. How hard could it be?

  She debated. Her sister?

  Nope. She wasn't invited.

  Sally from the club?

  Nope. Out of town. And a bitch, to boot.

  Morgynn had slowed and Claire was aware of her daughter turning around. Had she dropped something? Apparently so. She ran back to pick it up.

  Better not be her phone. She'd already broken one. The screen had cost $187 to fix.

  Honestly. Children.

  Then Claire was back to scrolling, praying for waitperson salvation. Look at all these names. Need to clean out this damn contact list. Don't know half these people. Don't like a good chunk of the rest. Off went another beseeching message.

  The child returned to her side and said firmly, "Mommy, look--"

  "Ssssh." Hissing now. But there was nothing wrong with an edge occasionally, of course, she told herself. It was a form of education. Children had to learn. Even the cutest of puppies needed collar-jerk correction from time to time.

  Another ding of iPhone.

  Another no.

  Goddamn it.

  Well, what about that woman that Terri from the office had used? Hispanic, or Latino...Latina. Whatever those people called themselves now. The cheerful woman had been the star of Terri's daughter's graduation party.

  Claire found Terri's number and dialed a voice call.


  "Terri! It's Claire. How are you?"

  A hesitation then Terri said, "Hi, there. How're you doing?"


  At which point Morgynn interrupted yet again. "Mommy!"

  Snap. Claire spun around and glared down at the petite blonde, hair in braids, wearing a snug pink leather Armani Junior jacket. She raged, "I am on the phone! Are you blind? What have I told you about that? When I'm on the phone? What is so f--" Okay, watch the language, she told herself. Claire offered a labored smile. "What's so...important, dear?"

  "I'm trying to tell you. This man back there?" The girl nodded up the street. "He came up to another man and hit him or something and pushed him in the trunk."


  Morgynn tossed a braid, which ended in a tiny bunny clip, off her shoulder. "He left this on the ground and then drove away." She held up a cord or thin rope. What was it?

  Claire gasped. In her daughter's petite hand was a miniature hangman's noose.

  Morgynn replied, "That's what's so--" She paused and her tiny lips curled into a smile of their own. "Important."

  Chapter 2


  Lincoln Rhyme was staring out the parlor window of his Central Park West town house. Two objects were in his immediate field of vision: a complicated Hewlett-Packard gas chromatograph and, outside the large nineteenth-century window, a peregrine falcon. The predatory birds were not uncommon in the city, where prey was plentiful. It was rare, however, for them to nest so low. Rhyme, as unsentimental as any scientist could be--especially the criminal forensic scientist that he was--nonetheless took a curious comfort in the creatures' presence. Over the years, he'd shared his abode with a number of generations of peregrines. Mom was here at the moment, a glorious thing, sumptuously feathered in brown and gray, with beak and claws that glistened like gunmetal.

  A man's calm, humorous voice filled the silence. "No. You and Amelia cannot go to Greenland."

  "Why not?" Rhyme asked Thom Reston, an edge to his tone. The slim but sturdy man had been his caregiver for about as long as the line of falcons had resided outside the old structure. A quadriplegic, Rhyme was largely paralyzed south of his shoulders, and Thom was his arms and legs and considerably more. He had been fired as often as he'd quit but here he was and, both knew in their hearts, here he would remain.

  "Because you need to go someplace romantic. Florida, California."

  "Cliche, cliche, cliche. Might as well go to Niagara Falls." Rhyme scowled.

  "What's wrong with that?"

  "I'm not even responding."

  "What does Amelia say?"

  "She left it up to me. Which was irritating. Doesn't she know I have better things to think about?"

  "You mentioned the Bahamas recently. You wanted to go back, you said."

  "That was true at the time. It's not true any longer. Can't one change one's mind? Hardly a crime."

  "What's the real reason for Greenland?"

  Rhyme's face--with its prominent nose and eyes like pistol muzzles--was predatory in its own right, much like the bird's. "What do you mean by that?"

  "Could it be that there's a practical reason you want to go to Greenland, a professional reason? A useful reason?"

  Rhyme glanced at the single-malt scotch bottle sitting just out of reach. He was largely paralyzed, yes. But surgery and daily exercise had returned to him some ability to move his right arm and hand. Fate had helped too. The beam that had tumbled upon his neck from a crime scene many years ago and severed and crushed many nerves had left a few outlying strands intact, if injured and confused. He could grasp objects--like single-malt scotch bottles, to pick a random example--but he could not rise from his complex wheelchair to fetch them if Thom, playing nursemaid, kept them out of goddamn reach.

  "Not cocktail hour yet," the aide announced, noting the arc of his boss's vision. "So, Greenland? 'Fess up."

  "It's underrated. Named 'Greenland' while much of it's barren. Not the least verdant. Compare Iceland. Quite green. I like the irony."

  "You're not answering."

  Rhyme sighed. He disliked being transparent and hugely disliked being caught being transparent. He would appeal to truth. "It seems that the Rigspolitiet, the Danish police, have been doing rather important research into a new system of horticultural spectrographic analysis in Greenland. A lab in Nuuk. That's the capital, by the way. You can situate a sample in a much narrower geographic area than with standard systems." Rhyme's brows rose involuntarily. "Nearly the cellular level. Imagine! We think all plants are the same--"

  "Not a sin of mine."

  Rhyme groused, "You know what I mean. This new technique can narrow down a target area to three meters!" He repeated, "Imagine."

  "I'm trying to. Greenland--no. And has Amelia actually deferred to you?"

  "She will. When I tell her about the spectrograph."

  "How about England? She'd love that. Is that show on still, the one she likes? Top Gear? I think the original is off the air but I heard there's a new version. She'd be great on it. They let people go out on the racetrack. She's always talking about driving a hundred and eighty miles an hour on the wrong side of the road."

  "England?" Rhyme mocked. "You've just lost your argument. Greenland and England offer the same degree of romance."

  "You'll find some disagreement there."

  "Not from the Greenlanders."

  Lincoln Rhyme did not travel much. The practical consequences of his disability added a layer of complication to journeys but physically, his doctors reported, there was no reason not to hit the road. His lungs were fine--he'd weaned himself off a ventilator years ago, the chest scar present but not prominent--and as long as such matters as the piss 'n' shit details--his words--and low-chafing clothing were attended to, there was little chance of being afflicted by the quad's bane: autonomic dysreflexia. A good portion of the world was disabled-accessible now--with most enterprises, from restaurants to bars to museums, offering ramps and special restrooms. (Rhyme and Sachs had shared a smile when Thom pointed out an article in the paper about a school that had recently installed a disabled ramp and bathroom; the place taught only one thing: tap dancing.) No, much of Rhyme's reluctance to travel and his reclusiveness were simply because he was, well, a recluse. By nature. Working in his laboratory--the parlor here, filled with equipment--and teaching and writing for scientific journals appealed to him far more than tired
sights polished for tourists.

  But, given what was on his and Sachs's agenda in the next few weeks, a trip outside Manhattan was necessary; even he admitted that one could not honeymoon in one's own hometown.

  Plans for trips to labs specializing in horticultural spectrometry, or locales of wooing romance, were, though, put on hold for the moment; the door buzzer sounded. Rhyme glanced at the security video and thought: Well.

  Thom rose and returned a moment later with a middle-aged man in a camel-tan suit, which he might have slept in, though he probably hadn't. He moved slowly but with little hesitation, and Rhyme thought that pretty soon he'd be able to discard the cane, which was, however, a pretty nifty accessory. Black with a silver head in the shape of an eagle.

  The man looked around the lab. "Quiet."

  "Is. A few small private jobs recently. Nothing fun. Nothing exciting. Nothing since the Steel Kiss killer." A recent perpetrator had taken to sabotaging household items and public conveyances--with tragic and occasionally gruesome results.

  NYPD detective Lon Sellitto, in the Major Cases Division, had been Rhyme's partner--before Rhyme had moved up to captain and taken over the Crime Scene Unit. Nowadays Sellitto would occasionally hire Rhyme to consult on cases in which special forensic expertise was needed.

  "What're you looking at? Tan is all I had." Sellitto waved toward his suit.

  "Daydreaming," Rhyme said. "I wasn't looking at anything."

  Not true, but he hadn't been regarding either the curious color of or the savage wrinkles in the suit. He was noting, with satisfaction, that Sellitto was recovering well following the attack on him by poison, which had caused major nerve and muscle damage--hence, the cane. While the detective was always fighting his weight, Rhyme thought he looked better on the portly side, like now. The sight of a gaunt, gray Lon Sellitto had been alarming.

  "Where's Amelia?" Sellitto asked.

  "In court. Testifying in the Gordon case. On the calendar first thing. Should be over with soon. Then she was going shopping. For our trip."

  "Buying herself a trousseau? What is that anyway?"

  Rhyme had no idea. "Something about weddings, clothing. I don't know. But she's got a dress already. Something frilly. Blue. Or maybe pink. Today she's shopping for me. What's so goddamn funny, Lon?"

  "Picturing you in a tuxedo."