4 stars (out of 5)
Just maybe (I hope, I hope), the Patricia Cornwell I used to know and love is back - finally! Frankly, I've grown a bit weary of the trials and travails of Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta of late - she who is put-upon by everyone, long-suffering and over-thinks everything from why her FBI profiler husband Benton Wesley's pinkie finger twitched to the right instead of the left to why her dog Sock refused to do his morning poo in the usual spot.
This one - the 21st in the series - started out in that vein, making me groan out loud, "Please, not again!" But very soon, thankfully, it moved away from the angst to focus on a great plot that held my interest all the way to the end. It begins as Scarpetta is called in to check out a female body that's been wrapped in an unusual cloth and seemingly positioned in an odd way. Turns out she's the plaintiff in a $100 million lawsuit against a big financial management firm that was supposed to begin in a week.
Coincidence? Not likely; but of course, there'd be no story if the motive were that simple. In fact, Scarpetta and her hubby, he who is being ostracized openly by his FBI boss, suspect the murder is connected to a series of others done by a person known as the Capital Murderer. As Scarpetta and her team, including Detective Pete Marino (with whom Scarpetta has a long-time but muddled relationship that Marino apparently wishes were more than professional) get down to the nitty gritty of the investigation, they begin to think people in high places don't want them to get the low-down on the case.
All the regulars get in on the act to one degree or another, including Scarpetta's niece Lucy and her partner Janet (though perhaps to a lesser degree than in some of the more recent novels, which isn't necessarily a bad thing). This is one of Cornwell's best, IMHO, and now - for the first time in a few years - I'm really looking forward to the next installment.
Dust by Patricia Cornwell (Putnam Adult, November 2013); 529 pp.