Cornwell's popular medical examiner, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, is back in Richmond, VA, where she was once the chief. Kay is surprised that the new M.E., Dr. Joel Marcus, wants her assistance reviewing the autopsy of 14-year-old Gilly Paulsson, who apparently died from flu complications.

Kay's investigation is mired in suspicious complications: Gilly's mother sadistically seduces Kay's sidekick, former cop Pete Marino, and odd trace evidence is found on a construction worker killed while demolishing the former M.E. office.

In a gripping subplot, Kay's niece Lucy investigates the attempted murder of her employee, Henri. Kay's lover, Benton, goes to Aspen with Henri to try to uncover the truth, while Lucy discovers that her South Florida home has had a security breach and her life may be in danger.

This master of intrigue will keep you glued to the pages of this fast-paced, smoothly plotted novel, in which seemingly unrelated events become clues as the pieces of this puzzle fall into place. With the ever-increasing popularity of television forensic shows, Cornwell's following should be at an all-time high. (Sep., 435 pp., $26.95)
Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick