Having survived brushes with ruthless killers, human monsters and treacherous colleagues of every stripe (Red Mist, 2011, etc.), forensic pathologist Dr. Kay Scarpetta limps into her 20th case to encounter more of the same.
Scarpetta’s latest casts her as Zeno trying to overtake the tortoise. Before she can track the provenance of the video that’s been emailed to her—a video apparently featuring footage of missing University of Alberta paleontologist Emma Shubert’s severed ear—she has to testify, however unwillingly, for the defense in Channing Lott’s trial for the murder of his vanished wife. Before she can leave for court, she has to examine the mummified remains of an unidentified woman who’s been spotted in Boston Harbor—an examination that has to begin instantly, before the deterioration delayed by the corpse’s long period of climate-controlled storage resumes at top speed. But before Scarpetta can get the corpse on a slab, it’ll have to be gently cut loose from the leatherback turtle who’s gotten tangled up with it, an animal whose endangered species status gives it priority over a mere human cadaver. The first half of this sprawling, ambitious tale may make the reader feel like Zeno as well, constantly struggling to catch up to what Scarpetta already knows about the latest round of traumas posed by her husband, Benton Wesley, her niece, Lucy Farinelli, and her investigator, Pete Marino. It’s not till the second half, when Cornwell hunkers down to tie all these cases together, that excitement rises even as disbelief creeps in.
An ingenious murder method, more hours in the mortuary and forensics lab than usual, an uncharacteristically muffled killer, and all the trademark battles among the regulars and every potential ally who gets in their way.