From Edgar Award-winning author Patricia Cornwell comes the latest in the murder mystery tales of Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta. After months of menacing phone calls and a feeling that her every move is being watched, a terrifying message scratched into reclusive writer Beryl Madison's car forces her to flee. But the very night she returns home to Richmond, she deactivates her burglar alarm and opens the door -- to her murderer.
The book bounces back and forth between these stories. Along the way there are many, many subplots. Almost a ridiculous number of them, actually. And some of them are completely unnecessary to the story, and seem almost silly. For instance, we discover that Dr. Marcus has an interesting phobia. But other than a couple chapters dedicated to this issue, we never hear about it again. Since it had nothing to do with either of the major storylines, it was a total waste time. Then there's a plot involving Marino and the dead girl's mother. Can you say "inappropriate"?? There's the tension between Lucy and her partner, Rudy, which is never really explained. And there's even tension between Kay and Lucy that's never really explained. Basically, there are far too many things that are touched upon, but never followed up.
At 11.05 one December evening in Richmond, Virginia, convicted murderer Ronnie Joe Waddell is pronounced dead in the electric chair. At the morgue Dr Kay Scarpetta waits for Waddell's body. Preparing to perform a post-mortem before the subject is dead is a strange feeling, but Scarpetta has been here before. And Waddell's death is not the only newsworthy event on this freezing night: the grotesquely wounded body of a young boy is found propped against a rubbish skip. To Scarpetta the two cases seem unrelated, until she recalls that the body of Waddell's victim had been arranged in a strikingly similar position .
Physically and psychologically bruised by her encounter with the killer Chandonne, Dr Kay Scarpetta has to leave her home in the hands of the police team investigating the attack. She finds shelter with an old friend, Anna Zenner, but it is not the haven of security she needs when she discovers that Anna has been sub-poenaed to appear before a Grand Jury which is investigating Scarpetta for murder. Kay knows she is being framed and she also knows she can trust no-one. Meanwhile it appears that Chandonne killed a woman in New York before his murderous spree in Virginia, but when Scarpetta looks more closely into that case with the NY prosectuor Jaime Berger, proof of his guilt is far from certain - in fact she begins to believe that he may not be the perpetrator of any of the crimes he is accused of.
A sadistic serial killer, the weapon a deadly virus Dublin, Ireland and Richmond, Virginia: separated by thousands of miles - linked by murder. For Dr Kay Scarpetta a lecture stint in Ireland provides the perfect opportunity to find out if the murders on both sides of the Atlantic are indeed connected. Five dismembered, beheaded bodies were found in Ireland five years ago - now four have been discovered in the States. But the tenth corpse in Virginia is different. There are vital discrepancies, and an indication that the elderly victim was already seriously ill.
When the bodies of young courting couples start turning up in remote woodlands areas, Dr Kay Scarpetta's task as Chief Medical Examiner is made more difficult by the effects of the elements. Eight times she must write that the cause of death is undetermined. But when the latest girl goes missing turns out to be the daughter of one of the most powerful women in America, Kay finds herself prey to political pressure and press harassment. As she starts to investigate, she finds that vital evidence is being withheld from her - or even faked. And all the time a cunning, sadistic killer is still at large .
Black Mountain, North Carolina: a sleepy little town where the local police deal with one homicide a year, if they're unlucky, and where people are still getting used to the idea of locking their doors at night.
But violent death is no respecter of venue, and the discovery of the corpse of the corpse of an 11-year-old girl sends shock waves through the community. Dr Kay Scarpetta, Chief medical Examiner on a similar case in Virginia, is called in to apply her forensic skills to this latest atrocity, but the apparent simplicity of the case proves something of a poisoned chalice - until Scarpetta finds enlightenment through the curious pathologists' playground known as the Body Farm .
A farmhouse destroyed by fire. A body amongst the ruins. Dr Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner and consulting pathologist for the federal law enforcement agency ATF, is called out to a farmhouse in Virginia which has been destroyed by fire. In the ruins of the house she finds a body which tells a story of a violent and grisly murder. The fire has come at the same time as another, even more incendiary horror: Carrie Grethen, a killer who nearly destroyed the lives of Scarpetta and those closest to her, has escaped from a forensic psychiatric hospital.
Woman have died, brutalised and strangled in their own bedroom. There is no pattern: the killer appears to strike at random - but always early on Saturday mornings. So when Dr Kay Scarpetta, chief medical officer, is awakened at 2.33 am, she knows the news is bad: there is a fourth victim. And she fears now for those that will follow unless she can dig up new forensic evidence to aid the police. But not everyone is pleased to see a woman in this powerful job. Someone may even want to ruin her career and reputation.
It is the week before Christmas. A tanking economy has prompted Dr. Kay Scarpetta-despite her busy schedule and her continuing work as the senior forensic analyst for CNN- to offer her services pro bono to New York City's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. In no time at all, her increased visibility seems to precipitate a string of unexpected and unsettling events. She is asked live on the air about the sensational case of Hannah Starr, who has vanished and is presumed dead. Moments later during the same telecast, she receives a startling call-in from a former psychiatric patient of Benton Wesley's. When she returns after the show to the apartment where she and Benton live, she finds an ominous package-possibly a bomb-waiting for her at the front desk.