Only a year after the successful introduction of Richmond Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta (Postmortem), Cornwell tries for the Big Book, with mostly outstanding results. Gifted writer Beryl Madison fled her home for Key West after a series of threatening phone calls. But the night she returned, she turned off her burglar alarm and opened her door to her killer. Why did she let him in? What's the significance of the odd assortment of microscopic threads (carpet fibers?) found on her body? What's the connection between her murder and that of burned-out writer Cary Harper, the former mentor whose house she's lived in for so many years, and what did his sister Sterling Harper burn in her fireplace the night she died? And how has self-professed clairvoyant Al Hunt been able to make such accurate predictions about the case? These riddles would keep Kay Scarpetta busy even if she didn't have to deal with former lover Mark James, who arrives from Chicago to pump her about the case on behalf of unsavory lawyer Robert Sparacino and then vanishes without a trace (his firm in Chicago says they've never heard of him), leaving Kay to face Sparacino's accusations that her office lost or stole Beryl Madison's last manuscript. Kay's given improbably plenipotentiary powers, and she needs them all to track down the connections between Sparacino's scams, the Harper family secrets, and the hospital where Al Hunt was abused as a child. As nerve-wracking as Postmortem, but much more intricate and wide-ranging: a giant step forward for Cornwell.