When forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta’s husband, Benton Wesley, calls her for a psych consult, it is New Year’s Eve, the couple’s plans put on hold because of a New York City murder case. Oscar Banes is being held at Bellevue Hospital, refusing to speak to anyone other than Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the famous pathologist and frequent CNN guest expert. Banes’ girlfriend, Terri Bridges, has been ritually slaughtered in her apartment, Oscar the one to find her and the last to see her.
Both little people, Oscar and Terri had a serious relationship, but an adamantly innocent Banes is showing signs of extreme paranoia, convinced that his every move is being monitored. Scarpetta is in an uncomfortable position, responding to Oscar’s fears as a physician but deeply suspicious of the story he tells. To further complicate matters, since Scarpetta’s arrival in New York, the pathologist has been the focus of scandalous articles posted on an online gossip column, Gotham Gotcha.
There isn’t sufficient evidence to arrest Oscar, but the top NYC prosecutor is working closely with Benton, and certain people from Scarpetta’s recent troubled past have resurfaced in the city. Scarpetta’s niece, Lucy, is also an active participant in the investigation. A tech geek/genius, Lucy’s company is invaluable as a weapon on the latest frontier in criminal enterprise, investigating all forms of cyber-mischief from secret emails to the scandalous articles appearing on Gotham Gotcha.
Clearly, readers familiar with Scarpetta’s exploits will be more readily acquainted with these characters and their reactions to one another. Berger’s current investigator, Pete Marino, worked closely with Scarpetta for years but broke with her after a traumatic event that all but severed the relationship. There is the arrogant but effective cop Mike Morales, who appears particularly conversant with the crime scene and the potential landmines awaiting the prosecutor should she make a misstep.
Another offbeat character is the lonely widow Shrew, who lives across the street from the murdered woman. Shrew spends her days (and nights) devoted to an Internet job that has virtually cut her off from the rest of the world. Shrew is a critical part of the mystery, but her connections are more obscure, hidden in the drama of the murder scene.
The majority of the fascination of this novel centers on Terri’s bizarre death and the clues Scarpetta so carefully assembles, ruling out individuals as she works through forensics that indicate a number of conflicting DNA patterns. Events overtake the investigation, two more potential victims and a threat to a helpless and frightened woman, as Scarpetta comes face to face with her past. She must make peace if there is to be a speedy resolution.
In a complex jumble of flawed characters, Scarpetta, Benton, Berger, Lucy and Marino race against time, Oscar in the wind. Another grisly murder ratchets up the tension as villains are revealed; the prosecutor and the pathologist trapped with a sadistic killer with nothing to lose. Filled with the forensic details and random transgressions of a twisted mind, this thriller explores the dark side of Gotham and how private mistakes can have fatal consequences.