Kay Scarpetta is a world-renowned forensic pathologist. She and her husband Benton, a psychologist with the US Secret Service, have returned to Virginia. They are based close to the Pentagon in a post-covid divided world. As Kay is wrapping up a long day in the office with plans to head home to Niece’s birthday party, her secretary stops her and tells her she needs to meet with a local investigator. They call Kay to the scene of a dead body that is laying across the railway tracks, with her throat cut to her spine and her hands removed. The dead woman turns out to be a neighbor of her sister and the identity is quickly resolved, but the actual murder is not.
With Kay’s new position still fragile, Marino, Dorothy’s husband and Kay’s brother-in-law, offers her support, and Kay dubs him her Forensic Operations Specialist, giving him access to case information and the opportunity to investigate once more. It turns out this is not the first murder of its kind, with the first occurring close to Kay Scarpetta’s new home. But she finds out that the original Medical Examiner, whose duties she has taken over, has covered it up. Saddled with his former assistant, Maggie, who is still devoted to him, Kay Scarpetta will find many obstacles to the actual truth.
Almost simultaneously, there are two murders that occur in a top-secret lab in outer space and Kay is called to the White House to help Biden and Harris find out what happened. As she starts the new investigation, an apparent serial killer strikes again, this time dangerously close to home.
With it being my first book in the series, it hooked me from the first chapter. The author pulls you into her descriptions of a divided America, which feels timely but familiar. All the characters Cornwell has created all have unique personalities. Lucy, Kay’s niece, has lost her partner and adopted daughter to Covid and now talks to her AI sim over the computer. Something that I never knew existed. We also learn what happens when a murder occurs in space with no gravity. The scene is graphic but fascinating. This is a well written read with wonderful characters, and filled with information and facts that are engrossing. The ending may feel abrupt but is also gratifying. This reader can’t wait to go back and read the first 24.