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Kay Scarpetta is starting over with a unique private forensic pathology practice in Charleston, South Carolina. And the death of a sixteen-year-old tennis star will usher in a string of murders more baffling—and terrifying—than any that have come before.
Florida is full of human predators, and they all give Dr Kay Scarpetta the opportunity and the means to do what she does best - persuading the dead to speak to her. And in Boston, Benton Wesley is working on a secret case involving convicted killers. It is a project which gives Scarpetta deep disquiet, as does the behaviour of her niece, Lucy, who is spending too much time in cheap bars looking for casual pick-ups. The Academy is called when a woman's body is found in Boston. She has been tortured, sexually abused, her body tattooed with handprints. The same sort of handprints Lucy had seen on the flesh of her latest pick-up. Meanwhile, Scarpetta and Marino are investigating the disappearance of a family in Florida, called in by a concerned neighbour, but as they search and find the tell-tale signs of abduction rather than disappearance, they also discover that someone had assumed the identity of the caller, and she is now dead. They've been set up, and it becomes clear that someone is tracking their every move.
The 'book of the dead' is the morgue log, the ledger in which all cases are entered by hand. For Kay Scarpetta, however, it is about to have a new meaning. Fresh from her bruising battle with a psychopath in Florida, Scarpetta decides it's time for a change of pace. Moving to the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, she opens a unique private forensic pathology practice, one in which she and her colleagues offer expert crime scene investigation and autopsies to communities lacking local access to competent death investigation and modern technology. It seems like an ideal situation, until the murders and other violent deaths begin. A woman is ritualistically murdered in her multi-million-dollar beach home. The body of an abused young boy is found dumped in a desolate marsh. A sixteen-year-old tennis star is found nude and mutilated near Piazza Navona in Rome. Scarpetta has dealt with many brutal and unusual crimes before, but never a string of them as baffling, or as terrifying, as the ones before her now. Before she is through, that book of the dead will contain many names - and the pen may be poised to write her own.
Dr. Kay Scarpetta plunges into the murky depths of a ship graveyard to recover the very human remains of Ted Eddings, an investigative reporter. Together with her niece Lucy and police captain Pete Marino, Scarpetta will follow the scents of death and violence to the heart of sinister darkness. *San Francisco Chronicle
#1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Cornwell returns with the remarkable twenty-fourth thriller in her popular high-stakes series starring medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta. In the quiet of twilight, on an early autumn day, twenty-six-year-old Elisa Vandersteel is killed while riding her bicycle along the Charles River. It appears she was struck by lightning—except the weather is perfectly clear with not a cloud in sight. Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the Cambridge Forensic Center’s director and chief, decides at the scene that this is no accidental Act of God. Her investigation becomes complicated when she begins receiving a flurry of bizarre poems from an anonymous cyberbully who calls himself Tailend Charlie. Though subsequent lab results support Scarpetta’s conclusions, the threatening messages don’t stop. When the tenth poem arrives exactly twenty-four hours after Elisa’s death, Scarpetta begins to suspect the harasser is involved, and sounds the alarm to her investigative partner Pete Marino and her husband, FBI analyst Benton Wesley. She also enlists the help of her niece, Lucy. But to Scarpetta’s surprise, tracking the slippery Tailend Charlie is nearly impossible, even for someone as brilliant as her niece. Also, Lucy can’t explain how this anonymous nemesis could have access to private information. To make matters worse, a venomous media is whipping the public into a frenzy, questioning the seasoned forensics chief’s judgment and "a quack cause of death on a par with spontaneous combustion."
Under cover of night in Richmond, Virginia, a human monster strikes, leaving a gruesome trail of stranglings that has paralyzed the city. Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta suspects the worst: a deliberate campaign by a brilliant serial killer whose signature offers precious few clues. With an unerring eye, she calls on the latest advances in forensic research to unmask the madman. But this investigation will test Kay like no other, because it's being sabotaged from within and someone wants her dead.
A psychopath with an intimate knowledge of death has an even more intimate knowledge of Kay Scarpetta-and many different plans to kill her.

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