Before he killed the woman Dr. Kay Scarpetta knows only as Jane, Scarpetta's nemesis Temple Gault (Cruel and Unusual, 1993) took his victim to the shark exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, walked her through the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, and made her strip despite the Christmas Eve weather. And then? The dead woman's body provides the most eloquent testimony, and Scarpetta--dragged away from cutting up a Richmond drug-dealer to consult with the FBI's Investigative Support Unit--is the ideal interpreter of Gault's handiwork. But Gault is always a lengthening step ahead of her. He's already stolen her Amex card and broken into CAIN, the Crime Artificial Intelligence Network pioneered by Lucy, Scarpetta's brilliant niece. As Gault's footfalls grow louder--in one particularly macabre sequence he delivers the corpse of his latest victim directly to Scarpetta's morgue--it's obvious that he has his eye on Scarpetta and Lucy. Their only defense: Scarpetta's uncannily revealing analysis of telltale physical evidence ranging from a set of gold foil dental fillings to a pair of jungle boots. When Cornwell drops the helter-skelter subplots of The Body Farm (1994) and keeps Scarpetta's endless fights with Lucy, lover Benton Wesley, and neanderthal pal Capt. Pete Marino in the background, nobody can make the details of forensic investigation as riveting--right up to the moment when the killer's ""transected femoral artery hemorrhaged to the rhythm of his horrible heart."" Take that, Hannibal Lecter!