Yet another demonstration that the murderous enemies of forensic pathologist Dr. Kay Scarpetta aren’t neutralized by life imprisonment or death. Especially not death.
After Dawn Kincaid was jailed for attacking Scarpetta in her own garage and nearly killing her, you’d think she’d be out of the picture. No such luck: Claiming self-defense, she’s commenced legal action against Scarpetta for attempted murder. Meanwhile, Kathleen Lawler, the mother who conceived Dawn by seducing 12-year-old Jack Fielding, Scarpetta’s late assistant, has invited Scarpetta to the Georgia Prison for Women, where she’s serving 10 years for DUI manslaughter, to chat. Their talk, like much of this tale’s overextended first half, is creepy but inconclusive, and Scarpetta comes away wondering what she’s gotten into this time—or what she failed to get out of last time (Port Mortuary, 2010, etc.). The pivotal figures turn out to be two women who never appear: Lola Daggette, GPFW’s celebrity inmate, who maintains her innocence even though she’s doing life for the slaughter of Savannah physician Clarence Jordan and his family, and Barrie Lou Rivers, the Deli Devil who fed arsenic to 17 patrons of her sandwich stand, 9 of them fatally, then choked to death in her cell hours before her date with the executioner’s needle. Working with her usual posse—her husband, profiler Benton Wesley; her hot-tempered investigator Pete Marino; and her niece Lucy, whose latest dead lover, Manhattan Sex Crimes prosecutor Jaime Berger, gives her a personal stake in the case—Scarpetta, working feverishly in the story’s much more rewarding second half, unearths the connections among a series of conveniently timed suicides in GPFW. She may even close the books on this set of monsters for good.
Cornwell at her worst, Cornwell at her best, but mainly Cornwell at her most.