It's good to sit down with old friends around the holidays, even if one is a trouble magnet. In fact, that's a lot of the allure of Cornwell's best-known character. Dr. Kay Scarpetta has evolved again, as have her retinue of family, friends
and co-workers, and the week before Christmas brings enough drama to tie a pretzel in knots. The shifting viewpoints won't matter to Cornwell fans, who are getting a thrilling, page-turning mystery.

Married -- perhaps not always comfortably -- to former FBI profiler Benton Wesley, Kay has been working pro bono for New York's Chief Medical Examiner's office. The season of goodwill has Kay investigating the disappearance of high-profile financial adviser Hannah Starr and the murder of waitress and dedicated runner Toni Darien -- and that doesn't even count her stint as senior forensic analyst for CNN, or that a producer is thinking of giving her her own show, The Scarpetta Factor.

Wesley, meanwhile, is caught in his own tangled web. There's a patient who may be trying to hurt Kay and a mob figure from his past that might still want him dead. (PUTNAM, Nov., 512 pp., $27.95)

Reviewed by: 
Pat Cooper