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.  


Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15802-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.


A lukewarm would-be potboiler of uninvolving intrigue about a kooky quartet of conspiracy theorists—one by the name of “Oliver Stone”—who witness the murder of a federal agent.

Almost 8,000 Americans have died in attacks on U.S. soil. Rocket-propelled grenades have pierced the White House, there’s been another prison fiasco in Afghanistan, a dozen soldiers are dying every day and the war has opened a new front on the Syrian border. Thus the author’s bleak imagining of the near future. Throughout, Baldacci (Hour Game, 2004, etc.) drops reliable twists, revealing the federal agent murder to be—surprise—a minuscule piece of a much bigger plot involving snipers, nukes, a presidential kidnapping and an even gloomier vision of the future. Baldacci is not a particularly graceful writer, e.g., “Like all Secret Service agents, his suits were designed a little big in the chest, to disguise the bulge of the weapon.” Worse is the author’s chronic inability to draw convincing characters. Scooby-Doo had villains more complicated than these; distinctive quirks of the characters, such as one wearing 19th-century clothing, make them only mildly interesting. Baldacci himself seems only partly engaged in the task here. He writes as if he imagines his typical reader to be a business traveler staring down a long layover.

Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2005

ISBN: 0-446-57738-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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