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Cornwells ninth novel in the Kay Scarpetta series finds Scarpetta, Benton Wesley, Pete Marino, and Scarpettas niece, Lucy, investigating a series of arson cases also involving human victims. To further complicate the plot, Scarpettas old nemesis, Carrie Grethen, featured in Cruel and Unusual (Scribner, 1993; Avon, 1995. reprint) and From Potters Field (LJ 8/95), has escaped from a maximum-security psychiatric facility and is threatening Scarpetta and those close to her. Though this new work contains many of the characteristics of Cornwells best Scarpetta novelswell-drawn characters, nail-biting suspense, and shocking plot twistsScarpetta herself seems to be growing increasingly weary of it all, and the series seems to be losing momentum. It will be interesting to see where Cornwell takes it next. Still, readers who have enjoyed Cornwells other installments should like this one, too. Recommended for public libraries and popular reading collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/99.]Leslie Madden, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib. & Information Ctr., Atlanta

Cornwell fans who relish her Kay Scarpetta stories for the postmortem findings will welcome this tale of twisted minds and the gory havoc they cause. Acronym fans will also be pleased. This tale opens with the complete destruction by fire of a Virginia horse farm, the owner of which was said to be in London. As consultant to the FBI and the ATF's NRT (that's the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' National Response Team), Scarpetta joins the investigation on site and discovers some remains of a young woman in the master bath. Although the origin of the fire remains a mystery, research turns up two similar unsolved incidents from years earlier, female victims who were dead before the accompanying conflagration. Another fire disguising another murder, and the escape of Carrie Grethen, evil woman partner of Scarpetta's now dead archenemy Temple Gault, from a New York City hospital for the criminally insane, ups Scarpetta's anxiety level about both her beloved, brilliant niece, Lucy, who was seduced by Grethen in The Body Farm, and her lover, psychological profiler Benton Wesley. A third fire covers a third personally devastating death before Scarpetta is able to finger Grethen's new diabolical partner and survive a harrowing finale in a helicopter. Although Cornwell repeatedly tells us how anxious, strung out or devastated Scarpetta feels in the face of Grethen's evil threats, there's very little dramatization of these powerfully emotional conditions. The author is convincing mainly in the delivery of chilling forensic details. One million first printing; $750,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Mystery Guild main selections; simultaneous Putnam Berkley audio. (July)

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