A quadriplegic criminalist hunts the most elusive quarry of his career: a serial killer who leaves clues at each crime scene allowing the cops to head off the next murder--if they can decode them in time. With nothing left to live for since an accident ended his forensic career and his marriage, bearish Lincoln Rhyme has made an appointment with Dr. William Berger, of the suicide-friendly Lethe Society. But Rhyme's old NYPD colleague, Det. Lon Sellitto, just happens to breeze in, uninvited and unwelcome, minutes before Berger does, and talks Rhyme out of suicide and into spearheading the hunt for Unsub 823, the demonic cabbie whose fares often face nightmarish scenarios of torture and death. Though he shows no mercy to his victims, Unsub 823 obligingly salts each crime scene with cryptic clues to his next, clues that whet Rhyme's jaundiced appetite and give him the hope of saving currency trader T.J. Colfax, German emigrâ€še Monelle Gerger, elderly William Everett, and widowed Carole Ganz and her daughter. It's not long before Rhyme's blood is pumping again, and he's persuaded beautiful Amelia Sachs, the Major Crimes officer who preserved the first crime scene long enough to gather a few precious scraps of evidence, to put off her medical transfer to Public Affairs and become his eyes, ears, and nose at each gory scene. Working feverishly against a series of impossible deadlines, Sachs and Rhyme piece together a profile of the perp's appearance, his lodgings, his car, his habits, and the idâ€še fixe that drives him: He believes he's the Bone Collector, a demented ghoul who preyed on New York's dead and near-dead at the turn of the century, determined to free his victims from this mortal coil by stripping them to ageless bone. Dearer (A Maiden's Grave, 1995, etc.) marries forensic work that would do Patricia Cornwell proud to a turbocharged plot that puts Benzedrine to shame.