A farmhouse destroyed by fire. A body amongst the ruins.
Dr Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner and consulting pathologist for the federal law enforcement agency ATF, is called out to a farmhouse in Virginia which has been destroyed by fire. In the ruins of the house she finds a body which tells a story of a violent and grisly murder. The fire has come at the same time as another, even more incendiary horror: Carrie Grethen, a killer who nearly destroyed the lives of Scarpetta and those closest to her, has escaped from a forensic psychiatric hospital. Her whereabouts is unknown, but her ultimate destination is not, for Carrie has begun to communicate with Scarpetta, conveying her deadly - if cryptic - plans for revenge. Chillingly mesmeric in tone, labyrinthine in structure, POINT OF ORIGIN is Patricia Cornwell at her most dazzling.
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.