A lethal medical thriller, bringing back forensic pathologist Joanna Blalock of Los Angeles Memorial Hospital (Deadly Exposure, 1998, etc.), that for sheer tonnage of pathological detail outweighs Patricia Cornwell’s medical exams of the shot and chopped, stabbed and stewed'and other hastily departed. Goldberg, a clinical professor at UCLA Medical Center, always plots ingeniously for the first half or maybe two-thirds of his novels, then falls into standard fare for his windups. An assassination plot is being mounted against the president, who will be visiting L.A. to dedicate a new medical institute at Memorial and award Medals of Freedom to Joanna and two other doctors for heroic services rendered in the far north. Joanna, who has split with LAPD homicide detective Jake Sinclair, is verging on engagement to multimillionaire banker Paul du Maurier when a huge explosion killing at least 20 people seals her off from du Maurier and teams her again with Sinclair. The bomb is clearly the work of terrorists'but was it an accidental “work incident,” or the rehearsal for an even bigger bang? And if it is, where will the second explosion take place? Joanna’s skills are tested to the max as she tries to reassemble body parts, get a fix on the bombers (who used a vastly intensified version of C-4 for their deed), and forecast their big political victim. When too many clues leak out, Joanna’s own lab is bombed to destroy evidence. The villains, no secret from the reader, are part of a fanatical paramilitary group that, feeling insulted and injured by the US government, now wants to cut off the serpent’s head. A gripping tale that sails along on the wings of Joanna’s Holmesian genius for gory and relentless deductive detail right up to the routine ending, which calls off all moral dilemmas to put Joanna in peril.