Mystery & Suspense
From America's #1 bestselling crime writers comes the extraordinary new Kay Scarpetta novel.
Leaving behind her private forensic pathology practice in Charleston, South Carolina, Kay Scarpetta accepts an assignment in New York City, where the NYPD has asked her to examine an injured man on Bellevue Hospital's psychiatric prison ward. The handcuffed and chained patient, Oscar Bane, has specifically asked for her, and when she literally has her gloved hands on him, he begins to talkand the story he has to tell turns out to be one of the most bizarre she has ever heard.
The injuries, he says, were sustained in the course of a murder . . . that he did not commit. Is Bane a criminally insane stalker who has fixed on Scarpetta? Or is his paranoid tale true, and it is he who is being spied on, followed and stalked by the actual killer? The one thing Scarpetta knows for certain is that a woman has been tortured and murderedand more violent deaths will follow. Gradually, an inexplicable and horrifying truth emerges: Whoever is committing the crimes knows where his prey is at all times. Is it a person, a government? And what is the connection between the victims?
In the days that follow, Scarpetta; her forensic psychologist husband, Benton Wesley; and her niece, Lucy, who has recently formed her own forensic computer investigation firm in New York, will undertake a harrowing chase through cyberspace and the all-too-real streets of the cityan odyssey that will take them at once to places they never knew, and much, much too close to home.
Throughout, Cornwell delivers shocking twists and turns, and the kind of cutting-edge technology that only she can provide. Once again, she proves her exceptional ability to entertain and enthrall.
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Read the first chapter from Scarpetta:
Brain tissue clung like wet, gray lint to the sleeves of Dr. Kay Scarpetta's surgical gown, and the front of it was splashed with blood. Stryker saws whined, running water drummed, and bone dust sifted through the air like flour. Three tables were full. More bodies were on the way. It was Tuesday, January 1, New Year's Day.
She didn't need to rush toxicology to know her patient had been drinking before he pulled the shotgun's trigger with his toe. The instant she'd opened him up, she detected the putrid, pungent smell of booze as it breaks down in the body. When she was a forensic pathology resident long years ago, she used to wonder if giving substance abusers a tour of the morgue might shock them into sobriety. If she showed them a head opened up like an egg cup, let them catch the stench of postmortem champagne, maybe they'd switch to Perrier. If only it worked that way.
She watched her deputy chief, Jack Fielding, lift the shimmering block of organs from the chest cavity of a university student robbed and shot at an ATM, and waited for his outburst. During this morning's staff conference, he's made the incensed comment that the victim was the same age as his daughter, both of them were track stars and pre-med. Nothing good happened when Fielding personalized a case.
"We're not sharpening knives anymore?" he yelled.
The oscillating blade of a Stryker saw screamed, the morgue assistant opening a skull and yelling back, "Do I look busy?"
Fielding tossed the surgical knife back on his cart with a loud clatter. "How am I supposed to get anything fucking done around here?"
"Good God, somebody get him a Xanax or something." The morgue assistant pried off the skill cap with a chisel.
Scarpetta placed a lung on a scale, using a smartpen to jot down the weight on a smart notepad. There as a ballpoint pen, clipboard, or paper form in sight. When she got upstairs, all she'd have to do was download what she wrote or sketched into her computer, but technology had no remedy for her fluent thoughts, and she still dictated them after she was done and her gloves were off. Hers were a modern medical examiner's office, upgraded with what she considered essential in a world she no longer recognized, where the public believed everything "forensic" it saw on TV, and violence was a societal problem but a war.
She began sectioning the lung, making a mental note that it was typically formed with smooth, glistening visceral pleurae, and an atelectatic dusky red parenchyma. Minimal quantity of pink froth. Otherwise lacked discrete gross lesion, and the pulmonary vasculature was without note. She paused when her administrative assistant, Bryce, walked in, a look of disdain and avoidance on his youthful face. He wasn't squeamish about what went on in here, just offended for every reason one might be, and he snatched several paper towels from a dispenser. Covering his band, he picked up the receiver of the black wall phone, where one line was lit up.
"Benton, you still with me?" he said into the phone. "She's right here holding a very big knife. I'm sure she told you today's specials? The Tufts student is the worst, her life worth two hundred bucks. The Bloods or the Crips, some gang piece of shit, you should see him on video surveillance. All over the news. Jack shouldn't be doing that case. Does anybody ask me? About to blow an aneurysm. And the suicide, yup. Comes home from Iraq without a scratch. He's fine. Have a happy holiday and a nice life."
Scarpetta pushed back her face shield. She pulled off her bloody gloves and dropped them in a bright red biohazard can. She scrubbed her hands in a deep steel sink.
"Bad weather inside and out." Bryce chatted to Benton, who wasn't fond of chatting. "A full house and Jack's irritable depression, did I mention that? Maybe we should do an intervention. Maybe a weekend getaway at that Harvard hospital of yours? We probably could qualify for a family plan...?"
Scarpetta took the receiver from him, removed the paper towels, and dropped them into the trash.
"Stop picking on Jack," she said to Bryce.
"I think he's in steroids again, and that's why he's so cranky."
She turned her back to him and everything else.
"What's happened?" she said to Benton.
They had talked at dawn. For him to call again several hours later while she was in the autopsy suite didn't bode anything thing good.
"I'm afraid we've got a situation," he said.