The creator of Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta (Chaos, 2016, etc.) peers into space and finds just as much skulduggery there.
Less than nine hours from now, a pair of astronauts, Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer, are scheduled to install a Low Earth Atmospheric Reader in the International Space Station. Only a handful of people with NASA know that LEAR isn’t really LEAR; its status as a quantum machine, America’s opening bid to establish a world-dominating quantum internet, is top secret. One of those people is federal special agent Capt. Calli Chase, “a nerdy scientist whose hobby is to moonlight as a security guard” for NASA Protective Services. That’s a great skill set for her to have, for hours before the installation is set to begin, and shortly after electrical engineer Vera Young, an outside contractor, reports her ID badge stolen, someone or something trips an alarm in the deep-sunk “Yellow Submarine” tunnel linking NASA buildings 1110 and 1111. As a winter storm and a partial government shutdown inch toward the site, Calli and Maj. Fran Lacey, a multiphobic officer of the NASA police, investigate the suspicious site and find no reason the alarm should have gone off. In the meantime, though, there’s potentially more disturbing news: Vera Young seems to have hanged herself after dousing her body in bleach—a possible-crime scene that gives Cornwell a chance to show off her trademark forensics. If Vera didn’t kill herself, who did? Could it have been her sister, Neva Rong, the CEO of Pandora Space Systems? Or Calli’s own twin sister, Carme, a wraithlike, teasingly equivocal figure whose presence Calli keeps sensing even when she’s nowhere to be found? Fans mourning Scarpetta’s absence will console themselves with a death grip on the myriad technical details, an equally strong, even more tormented heroine, and the determined neglect of the remaining characters.
In place of human interest, savor all those acronyms: HIRF, FOD-1, EVA, OEM, TLC, PSS, DARPA, PONGS, PRCH, STM, SPIRNet.