Pioneering pathologist Kay Scarpetta (Trace, 2004, etc.) goes up against a wraithlike killer whose self-appointed mission is to “relieve others of their suffering.”
Practice, practice, practice. If only 16-year-old South Carolina tennis phenom Drew Martin had stuck to the court instead of going off to Rome to party, her tortured corpse wouldn’t be baffling the Italian authorities, headed inexplicably by medico legale Capt. Ottorino Poma, and the International Investigative Response team, which includes both Scarpetta and her lover, forensic psychologist Benton Wesley. But the young woman’s murder and the gruesome forensic riddles it poses are something of a sideshow to the main event: the obligatory maundering of the continuing cast. Wesley still won’t leave Boston for the woman he tepidly insists he loves. Scarpetta’s niece, computer whiz Lucy Farinelli, continues to be jealously protective of her aunt. Scarpetta’s investigator, Pete Marino, is so besotted by the trailer-trash pickup who’s pushing his buttons that he does some terrible things. And Scarpetta herself is threatened by every misfit in the known universe, from a disgruntled mortician to oracular TV shrink Marilyn Self. Cornwell’s trademark forensics have long since been matched by Karin Slaughter and CSI. What’s most distinctive about this venerable franchise is the kitchen-sink plotting; the soap-opera melodrama that prevents any given volume from coming to a satisfying end; and the emphasis on titanic battles between Scarpetta and a series of Antichrists.
Proceed at your own risk.