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Returning home from Ireland, where she had been called in to examine the remains of a murder victim whose body was marked by the signature of a cunning serial killer, medical examiner Kay Scarpetta is shocked when another body turns up, this time in a Virginia landfill. Lit Guild, Doubleday, & Mystery Guild Main.
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Virginia Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta has a bloody puzzle on her hands: five headless, limbless cadavers in Ireland, plus four similar victims in a landfill back home. Is a serial butcher loose in Virginia? That's what the panicked public thinks, thanks to a local TV reporter who got the leaked news from her boyfriend, Scarpetta's vile rival, Investigator Percy Ring. But the butchered bodies are so many red herrings intended to throw idiots like Ring off the track. Instead of a run-of-the-mill serial killer, we're dealing with a shadowy figure who has plans involving mutant smallpox, mass murder, and messing with Scarpetta's mind by e-mailing her gory photos of the murder scenes, along with cryptic AOL chat-room messages. The coolest innovation: Scarpetta's gorgeous genius niece, Lucy, equips her with a DataGlove and a VPL Eyephone, and she takes a creepy virtual tour of the e-mailed crime scene.
Unnatural Exposure boasts brisk storytelling, crackling dialogue, evocative prose about forensic-science sleuthing, and crisp character sketches, both of familiar characters like Scarpetta's gruff partner Pete Marino and bit players like the landfill employee falsely accused by Ring. Plus, let's face it: serial killers are old hat. Cornwell's most vivid villains are highly plausible backstabbing colleagues like Ring, who plots to destroy Lucy's FBI career by outing her as a lesbian. Some readers object to the rather abrupt ending, but, hey, it's less jarring than Hannibal's, and it's the logical culmination of Cornwell's philosophy about human nature. To illuminate the novel's finale, read Cornwell's remarks on paranoia in her Amazon.com interview. --Tim AppeloFrom the Inside Flap:
"In this return to the luridly fascinating world of Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Cornwell delivers the goods."
When the body of an elderly woman is found dismembered in a Virginia landfill, forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta initially believes that the clues mirror that of a serial killer she's encountered before. But upon further investigation she discovers puzzling pox-like eruptions on the woman's body that, perhaps, point in another direction.
The killer then contacts Scarpetta via e-mail, and she enlists the aid of her computer-savvy niece, Lucy, to help track this monster through cyberspace. When Scarpetta learns that the Virginia victim was exposed to a high-tech virus that might unleash an epidemic, she begins to realize that she's dealing with a sophisticated and devious mind.
Her investigation leads her to the government's biological defense facility in Utah and to Atlanta's Center for Disease Control--and eventually to quarantine, when it's discovered that Scarpetta has been exposed to this often fatal virus. Along the way, she's forced to deal with the unscrupulous ambitions of a slick FBI agent, Lucy's problems, and her own turbulent feelings for Agent Wesley Benton.
Taut with unrelieved tension and continual surprises, Unnatural Exposure is the case of Kay Scarpetta's life--and a triumph for Patricia Cornwell.
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