The sixth book in the Kay Scarpetta series, from No. 1 bestselling author Patricia Cornwell.
'America's most chilling writer of crime fiction' The Times
Christmas had never been a particularly good time for Dr Kay Scarpetta. Although a holiday for most, it always seem to heighten the alienation felt by society's violent fringe; and that usually means more work for Scarpetta, Virginia's Chief Medical Examiner. The body was naked, female and found propped against a fountain in a bleak area of New York's Central Park. Her apparent manner of death points to a modus operandi that is chillingly familiar: the gunshot wound to the head, the sections of skin excised from the body, the displayed corpse - all suggest that Temple Brooks Gault, Scarpetta's nemesis, is back at work.
Calling on all her reserves of courage and skill, and the able assistance of colleagues Marino and Wesley, Scarpetta must track this most dangerous of killers in pursuit of survival as well as justice - heading inexorably to an electrifying climax amid the dark, menacing labyrinths of the New York subway.
Praise for the groundbreaking series:
'One of the best crime writers writing today' Guardian
'Devilishly clever' Sunday Times
'The top gun in this field' Daily Telegraph
'Forget the pretenders. Cornwell reigns' Mirror
'The Agatha Christie of the DNA age' Express
Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta plays a tense cat-and-mouse game with a serial killer, an old enemy, in her sixth outing (following The Body Farm), and he has her badly rattled. The story begins as a rotten Christmas for Scarpetta: Temple Gault has struck again, leaving a naked, apparently homeless girl shot in Central Park on Christmas Eve; Scarpetta, as the FBI's consulting pathologist, is called in. Later, a transit cop is found shot in a subway tunnel, and, back home in Richmond, Va., the body of a crooked local sheriff is delivered to Scarpetta's own morgue by the elusive, brilliant Gault. The normally unflappable Scarpetta finds herself hyperventilating and nearly shooting her own niece. In the end, some ingenious forensic detective work and a visit to the killer's agonized family set up a high-tech climax back in the New York subway, which Gault treats as the Phantom of the Opera did the sewers of Paris. There's something faintly unconvincing about Gault (in a competitive field, it's tough to create a really horrific serial killer), and Scarpetta, stuck with her own family troubles and involved in a rather glum affair with a colleague, seems to be running low on energy. Still, this is a compelling, fast-moving tale, written in a highly compressed style, and only readers who know that Cornwell can do better are likely to complain. Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Mystery Guild selections.