In this return to the luridly fascinating world of Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Cornwell delivers the goods her fans love best. Moving from serial dismemberment to a high-tech virus that threatens a pox-like epidemic, this eighth appearance (following last year's Cause of Death) of the compulsive forensics pathologist who is Virginia's Medical Examiner and a consultant to the FBI ranges from Dublin to Richmond, Va., making stops at a tiny barrier island in the Chesapeake Bay and the government's huge biological defense facility in Dugway, Utah. Tours of Graceland in Memphis and Atlanta's Center for Disease Control are added before the closing in London. The dismembered corpse of an elderly woman found in a Virginia landfill doesn't quite fit the profile of earlier dismemberments; also puzzling is the pattern of pustules found on the torso. As Scarpetta follows the forensics clues, she faces the unscrupled ambitions of a slick FBI agent; the difficulties encountered by Lucy, her beloved niece, computer genius and a lesbian; her own exposure to the unidentified, sometimes fatal virus (and subsequent quarantine); and the turbulent ambivalence of her feelings for Agent Wesley Benton. Fully as satisfying as previous Kay Scarpetta novels, this one is built on a sturdy workmanlike plot and doles out rewards in the gory, high-tech details, allowing readers to overlook the lapses of Cornwell's non-Scarpetta venture in this year's earlier Hornet's Nest. 1,000,000 first printing; $750,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections. (July)
Kay Scarpetta grapples with a serial killer who contacts her via the Internet in this latest from crime novelist Cornwell, who is involved in some headline-making scandal of her own: In a recent trial, she was named as the former lover of a woman whose husband attempted to murder her in a rage over the affair.