Horatio Caine and his top-notch CSI: Miami gang investigate what appears to be an open-and-shut case of death by an act of God when they arrive at The Earthly Garden, a vegan restaurant where an employee has died by lightning strike. Only problem is, he died in the restaurant’s bathroom, and though the toilet is stainless steel, most of the plumbing is PVC plastic, which wouldn’t conduct electricity. This makes Caine wonder if this was truly an act of God, or an act of Man.
Fans of the television show won’t be let down by Donn Cortez’s convincing portrayal of Caine, Delko, Ryan Wolfe and the rest with CSI: Miami Cult Following. Caine’s wisecracks and sunglasses-manipulating self is here, and a sense of humor pervades the book. One would guess that it’s all part-and-parcel of the territory CSI folks deal in on a daily basis--death. But along with forensic science, this outing is mingled philosophy and religion, exploring how the manipulations of charismatic leaders can turn otherwise sane people into sheep-like cult members.
The cult of the CSI: Miami Cult Following’s title is called the “Vitality Method.” Coincidently (as if anything is ever a “coincidence” in either the CSI television show or the books written about it), Caine finds out that the owner of The Earthly Garden, Doctor Kurpal Sinhurma, happens to also be the self-help founder of the “Vitality Method” - and that the employees of the restaurant are members of his band of Merry Brainwashed Men/Women. Could there somehow be a connection to these facts and Phillip Mulrooney’s (the deceased employee’s) death? Gee, I dunno...
The plot thickens further when Horatio learns of the death of another cult follower, Ruth Carrell, by an arrow shot through the heart --talk about “giving love a bad name” (sorry, couldn’t resist that one) and the good Doctor’s involvement in the drug trade, namely hashish. This book has a pretty interesting storyline; one can easily imagine how it would make for a good two-hour made-for-television episode of the series. I have to admit that watching all of the CSI spinoffs and the original is one of my guilty pleasures. They are all, on the whole, fairly well-written for what they are, compressing what would ordinarily have to be many hours, days, or longer in the real world into an hour-long timeslot (minus commercial time), and there is real skill involved in getting everything just right. Donn Cortez has done a very good job of that with CSI: Miami Cult Following, and anyone who enjoys the series or who likes forensic-related mysteries in general should get a kick out of this novel.