Dr. Aloysius Xingú Leng Pendergast is a Special Agent with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. He is assigned to the New Orleans office of the FBI, but frequently travels the world investigating serial killings of a supernatural bent.
Pendergast was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Linnaeus and Isabella Pendergast. He was raised in the Pendergast family's Maison de la Rochenoire on Dauphine Street with his brother Diogenes, often spending summers at the family estates of Penumbra Plantation and Ravenscry.
He studied Anthropology at Harvard University (graduating summa cum laude) and received dual doctorates in Classics and Philosophy from Balliol College, a constituent college of the University of Oxford, although he prefers the title "Special Agent" to that of "Doctor." Independently wealthy through inheritance and investment, he draws a salary of just one dollar per year from the FBI.
Pendergast has a highly classified military background, including a special forces stint in the secretive Ghost Company, during which he earned several medals for bravery under fire and high-value covert actions.
His interests encompass a wide variety of vastly differing walks of life, mostly focusing on the enlightenment of the human mind, body, and soul. He spent a year in Tibet with the monks of the Gsalrig Chongg monastery, studying the deep meditative art of Chongg Ran, which he subsequently developed into a particularly advanced technique called a memory crossing. The technique enables him to reconstruct a scene in his mind with such clarity that he can experience it in four dimensions, listening to conversations and making connections that would not be obvious from reading or looking at photographs.
Pendergast is a widower. He met Helen Esterhazy after meeting her at an event at the Audubon Museum in New Orleans, and they were married within two years. She was presumed killed after just two years of marriage by a man-eating lion while they were on safari in Africa.
Shortly after the Africa incident, Pendergast accepted an offer from his friend and former Ghost Company operator Mike Decker and joined the New Orleans field office of the FBI.
Appearance and Mannerisms
Pendergast is described as tall and slender, though it is revealed that he is fit, graceful in movement and physically powerful despite his slight frame. His coloring is pale enough that many people refer to him as "corpse-like" or jokingly as "albino". He has platinum blond hair and pale, silvery gray-ice-blue eyes.
Pendergast invariably dresses in black Hardy Amies suits hand-tailored from a special blend of wool not made since the 1950s, paired with handmade Charvet or Jay Kos ties; he is consequently described by many characters as looking like a "fashionable undertaker." He has a strong Deep South accent and his voice is described as low and mellifluous. Vincent D'Agosta's initial impression was that Pendergast looked like Andy Warhol.
He is generally described as being stoically aloof and eccentric, though his ineffable politeness and unerring intellect imbue him with an irresistible charm or enigmatic sense of danger if the occasion should call for it. Being a polymath Pendergast is well-learned in many subjects, he converses easily with doctors, scientists, intellectuals, vagabonds, highly specialized masters of specific disciplines, and people of a wide variety of language and culture alike. He is a master of psychological manipulation, disguise, and improvisation, and a polyglot, demonstrating mastery of French, Italian, Latin, Greek, Portuguese and Cantonese; he is also semi-fluent in Mandarin and has some knowledge of Japanese.
Pendergast appreciates the finer things in life, including expensive cuisine and wines. Food and drink he enjoys include Château Pétrus wine, antipasto, green tea of only the purest and most spiritual kind, gelato, and steak tartare. He has a great distaste for opera. His interests encompass a wide variety of vastly differing walks of life, yet all focus on the enlightenment of the human mind, body, and soul. He spent a year in Tibet studying the deep meditative art of Chongg Ran, taught to him by the monks of the Gsalrig Chongg monastery.
His weapons of choice are several custom 1911 handguns, including Les Baer and Wilson Combat models. He has also used a Colt Anaconda .45 revolver in Relic and an experimental Anschluss GmbH 9mm in Reliquary, and carried a Walther PPK .32 as a backup sidearm during the Helen Trilogy. His collection also boasts a Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade Compact .45 and a Signature Grade Colt 1911 .45ACP tuned by pistolsmith Hilton Yam. He is exceptionally skilled in close quarters combat as well.
Pendergast maintains an apartment at The Dakota in New York City, and later inherited an internally renovated Beaux Arts mansion near Harlem from his great-granduncle following the events of The Cabinet of Curiosities.
Though he is a scrupulously scientific man, he wears a sort of talisman or amulet on a chain, that consists of his own modified version of the Pendergast family crest: a lidless eye over two moons, one new and one full, with a phoenix rising (the original featured a lion couchant).
Pendergast carries a variety of hidden tools, such as lock picks, flashlights of various sizes, test tubes, syringes, and forensic chemicals.
In Relic, Pendergast worked closely with Lt. Vincent D'Agosta on the Museum Beast Murders case. Pendergast remained in contact with D'Agosta after the case and the two became close friends. D'Agosta frequently assists Pendergast at the expense of his own career, to the perennial annoyance of his girlfriend and later fiancée, Laura Hayward.
Pendergast collaborates less often with Hayward, who is herself an NYPD homicide detective.
In Still Life with Crows, Pendergast met Kansas teenager Corrie Swanson. She acted as his assistant, and in return for her service he sent her to Philips-Exeter Academy to finish high school. Upon graduation, Corrie enrolled at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and she and Pendergast remained friends, with Pendergast acting as Corrie's mentor.
Thanks to Mike Decker's influence, the FBI has mostly taken a hands-off approach to Pendergast as his career progressed, allowing him to select his own assignments and shielding him from reprimand for all but the most grievous infractions. When Decker was murdered in his home during the events of Dance of Death, Howard Longstreet assumed the responsibility of protecting the controversial agent.
After inheriting his great-great-uncle Enoch Leng's mansion following The Cabinet of Curiosities, Pendergast discovered a young girl living in the house. The girl, Constance Greene, had been adopted by Pendergast's uncle and used as a test subject for various life-extending compounds. As a result, she barely aged for over 100 years until Leng's death. Pendergast adopted Greene as his ward. She often helps him with research, as her long life has given her time to read extensively and become fluent in many languages.
Pendergast had a troubled relationship with his younger brother Diogenes. Diogenes is as brilliant as his older brother, but following a childhood accident that left him with brain damage and heterochromia, he took up a life of crime. He reemerged in Brimstone and began a killing spree that ended with Diogenes framing his brother for murder. Pendergast and Diogenes's struggle continued through Dance of Death and The Book of the Dead (the "Diogenes Triology") and ended when Diogenes fell into a volcano in Sicily.
Pendergast was married to a woman named Helen prior to the events of Relic, but she was killed in a hunting accident in Africa. In the "Helen Trilogy" (Fever Dream, Cold Vengeance, and Two Graves), Pendergast learned that her death was not an accident and followed a trail that eventually brought him to Helen, who was alive and in hiding. He was reunited with her briefly before she was killed by the Covenant, and Pendergast later found out that he and Helen had twin boys, Alban and Tristram (Two Graves).
Pendergast's complicated relationship with Constance Greene reached a boiling point during what started as a simple freelance investigation into a stolen wine collection in Maine. While celebrating the solving of the theft with an extremely rare bottle from the recovered collection, a moment of rare vulnerability led to a passionate kiss. Pendergast quickly recovered, however, and retreated emotionally, prompting Constance to flee in angry humiliation as she realized the man she loved would never allow himself to requite her feelings.
She returned to New York alone after Pendergast's apparent drowning and confined herself to the depths of the Riverside Mansion's subterranean basement.
The return of Diogenes Pendergast—who had killed Mike Decker and framed Aloysius for it—sparked the interest of Howard Longstreet, Pendergast's protective superior in the FBI and former Ghost Company commanding officer. When Pendergast refused to allow Longstreet to kill Diogenes to satisfy a blood oath sworn to Decker, Longstreet reluctantly agreed but renounced his protection of Pendergast's FBI career, declaring their relationship over.
The tortuous relationship between Pendergast and Constance took another turn as Pendergast, faced with his impending death, could think only of Constance, who had left New York for Tibet. When he emerged from the mortal encounter alive, he realized he was, in fact, in love with her, and traveled to the Tibetan monastery to ask her to return with him to New York, to which she agreed.
Following Longstreet's death in City of Endless Night, Pendergast's new FBI supervisor Walter Pickett vowed to continue allowing the agent's case selection and methods, with the caveat that Pendergast now work with a partner, Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon. Their first case was a series of bizarre murders in Florida tied to a string of old suicides. Though the pair developed a begrudging respect for one another, Coldmoon—perhaps sensing that Pendergast still preferred to work alone—requested a new partner once the case had been closed.
Their separation lasted roughly two weeks, as another uniquely macabre incident in south Florida prompted Pickett to bring in a vacationing Pendergast, strongly suggesting that he contact Coldmoon for assistance. A reluctant Pendergast begrudgingly accepted, and eventually set off to recruit an even more reluctant Coldmoon, who had requested an assignment to Colorado. Pendergast, who had enlisted the help of an oceanographer and her assistant, managed to get himself captured, the assistant killed, and the oceanographer maimed, before being rescued by Coldmoon. They were both promptly recaptured, and had to be saved by Constance Greene.