Trace, p.1Patricia Cornwell
The heart-stopping new Dr. Kay Scarpetta thriller from America’s #1 bestselling crime writer.
Dr. Kay Scarpetta, now freelancing from South Florida, returns to the city that turned its back on her five years ago. Richmond, Virginia’s recently appointed chief medical examiner claims that he needs Scarpetta’s help to solve a perplexing crime. When she arrives, however, Scarpetta finds that nothing is as she expected: Her former lab is in the final stages of demolition; the inept chief isn’t the one who requested her after all; her old assistant chief has developed personal problems that he won’t reveal; and a glamorous FBI agent, whom Scarpetta dislikes instantly, meddles with the case.
Deprived of assistance from colleagues Benton and Lucy, who are embroiled in what appears to be an unrelated attempted rape by a stalker, Scarpetta is faced with investigating the death of a fourteen-year-old girl, working with the smallest pieces of evidence—traces that only the most thorough hunters can identify. She must follow the twisting leads and track the strange details in order to make the dead speak—and to reveal the sad truth that may be more than even she can bear…
“In bringing her capital series back home, Patricia Cornwell taps its core strengths.”
—New York Daily News
“Cornwell can generate willies with subtle poetic turns.”
“Fun [and] flamboyant.”
“[An] innovative series.”
—The New York Times
“Trace is rich and satisfying, with Cornwell sprinkling a trail of tantalizing bread crumbs for the Scarpetta faithful, who are always hungry for the next installment.”
—The Associated Press
“Will cheer fans… the old Scarpetta comes through.”
“Traces of the smart, dynamic, yet vulnerable Scarpetta of the early novels are in evidence here, and Cornwell has better control of her plot and characters…The mystery is intriguing, there’s plenty of forensic detail, and the ending…opens the way for Scarpetta and her associates to proceed in any direction that calls to them.”
“Patricia Cornwell is one of today’s best writers.”
Praise for more of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels…
“[A] grisly fast-paced thriller… utterly chilling.”
“Patricia Cornwell is on target—and spectacularly so—with her latest Kay Scarpetta thriller, a story so compelling that even longtime readers will be stunned by its twists and turns.”
“Gruesome and suspenseful.”
—New York Daily News
The Last Precinct
“Ignites on the first page… Cornwell has created a character so real, so compelling, so driven that this reader has to remind herself regularly that Scarpetta is just a product of an author’s imagination.”
“Plots within plots, fraught atmosphere and unrelenting suspense keep readers on tenterhooks while one trap after another springs under unwary feet. Cunningly designed, ingeniously laid out, composed with Cornwellian skill, this far-from-the-Last Precinct is a model of the art.”
—Los Angeles Times
“The most unexpected of the Kay Scarpetta novels so far… Compelling…Terrific.”
—The Miami Herald
“Brainteasing… one of the most savage killers of her career…[a] hair-raising tale with a French twist.”
“The author’s darkest and perhaps best… a fast-paced, first-rate thriller.”
—The San Francisco Examiner
Point of Origin
“Cornwell lights a fire under familiar characters— and sparks her hottest adventure in years.”
“Packed with action and suspense.”
—Rocky Mountain News
Titles by Patricia Cornwell
THE LAST PRECINCT
POINT OF ORIGIN
CAUSE OF DEATH
FROM POTTER’S FIELD
THE BODY FARM
CRUEL & UNUSUAL
ALL THAT REMAINS
BODY OF EVIDENCE
Andy Brazil Series
ISLE OF DOGS
PORTRAIT OF A KILLER: JACK THE RIPPER—CASE CLOSED
RUTH, A PORTRAIT: THE STORY OF RUTH BELL GRAHAM
(also published as A TIME FOR REMEMBERING:
THE STORY OF RUTH BELL GRAHAM)
FOOD TO DIE FOR: SECRETS FROM KAY SCARPETTA’S KITCHEN
LIFE’S LITTLE FABLE
SCARPETTA’S WINTER TABLE
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with Cornwell Enterprises, Inc.
Copyright © 2004 by Cornwell Enterprises, Inc.
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The “B” d
Ruth and Billy Graham.
I know no others like you, and I love you.
My thanks to Julia Cameron
for guiding me along the Artist’s Way.
Charlie and Marty.
All of you make it possible.
YELLOW BULLDOZERS hack earth and stone in an old city block that has seen more death than most modern wars, and Kay Scarpetta slows her rental SUV almost to a stop. Shaken by the destruction ahead, she stares at the mustard-colored machines savaging her past.
“Someone should have told me,” she says.
Her intention this gray December morning was innocent enough. All she wanted was to indulge in a little nostalgia and drive past her old building, not having a clue that it was being torn down. Someone could have told her. The polite and kind thing would have been to mention it, at least say, Oh, by the way, that building where you used to work when you were young and full of hopes and dreams and believed in love, well, that old building you still miss and feel deeply about is being torn down.
A bulldozer lurches, its blade raised for the attack, and the noisy mechanical violence seems a warning, a dangerous alert. I should have listened, she thinks as she looks at the cracked and gouged concrete. The front of her old building is missing half of its face. When she was asked to come back to Richmond she should have paid attention to her feelings.
“I’ve got a case I’m hoping you might help me with,” explained Dr. Joel Marcus, the current chief medical examiner of Virginia, the man who took her place. It was just yesterday afternoon when he called her on the phone and she ignored her feelings.
“Of course, Dr. Marcus,” she said to him over the phone as she moved around in the kitchen of her South Florida home. “What can I do for you?”
“A fourteen-year-old girl was found dead in bed. This was two weeks ago, about noon. She’d been sick with the flu.”
Scarpetta should have asked Dr. Marcus why he was calling her. Why her? But she wasn’t paying attention to her feelings. “She was home from school?” she said.
“Alone?” She stirred a concoction of bourbon, honey, and olive oil, the phone tucked under her chin.
“Who found her and what’s the cause of death?” She poured the marinade over a lean sirloin steak inside a plastic freezer bag.
“Her mother found her. There’s no obvious cause of death,” he said. “Nothing suspicious except that her findings, or lack of them, indicate she shouldn’t be dead.”
Scarpetta tucked the plastic bag of meat and marinade inside the refrigerator and opened the drawer of potatoes, then shut it, changing her mind. She’d make whole-grain bread instead of potatoes. She couldn’t stand still, much less sit, and she was unnerved and trying very hard not to sound unnerved. Why was he calling her? She should have asked him.
“Who lived in the house with her?” Scarpetta asked.
“I’d rather go over the details with you in person,” Dr. Marcus replied. “This is a very sensitive situation.”
At first Scarpetta almost said that she was leaving for a two-week trip to Aspen, but those words never came out and they were no longer true. She wasn’t going to Aspen. She’d been planning on going, for months she had, but she wasn’t going and she isn’t going. She couldn’t bring herself to lie about it, and instead used the professional excuse that she couldn’t come to Richmond because she was in the midst of reviewing a difficult case, a very difficult death by hanging that the family refuses to accept as a suicide.
“What’s the problem with the hanging?” asked Dr. Marcus, and the more he talked, the less she heard him. “Racial?”
“He climbed a tree, put a rope around his neck, and handcuffed himself behind his back so he couldn’t change his mind,” she replied, opening a cabinet door in her bright, cheerful kitchen. “When he stepped off the branch and dropped, his C-2 fractured and the rope pushed up his scalp in back, distorting his face, so it looked like he was frowning, as if he were in pain. Try explaining that and the handcuffs to his family in Mississippi, deep down there in Mississippi, where camouflage is normal and gay men are not.”
“I’ve never been to Mississippi,” Dr. Marcus said blandly, and maybe what he really meant was he didn’t care about the hanging or any tragedy that had no direct impact on his life, but that wasn’t what she heard, because she wasn’t listening.
“I’d like to help you,” she told him as she opened a new bottle of unfiltered olive oil, even though it wasn’t necessary to open it right that minute. “But it’s probably not a good idea for me to get involved in any case of yours.”
She was angry but denied it as she moved about her large, well-equipped kitchen of stainless-steel appliances and polished granite countertops and big bright views of the Intracoastal Waterway. She was angry about Aspen but denied it. She was just angry, and she didn’t want to bluntly remind Dr. Marcus that she was fired from the same job he now enjoyed, which is why she left Virginia with no plans for ever coming back. But a long silence from him forced her to go on and say that she didn’t leave Richmond under amicable conditions and certainly he must know it.
“Kay, that was a long time ago,” he replied, and she was professional and respectful enough to call him Dr. Marcus, and here he was calling her Kay. She was startled by how offended she was by his calling her Kay, but she told herself he was friendly and personal while she was touchy and overly sensitive, and maybe she was jealous of him and wished him failure, accusing herself of the worst pettiness of all. It was understandable that he would call her Kay instead of Dr. Scarpetta, she told herself, refusing to pay attention to her feelings.
“We have a different governor,” he went on. “It’s likely she doesn’t even know who you are.”
Now he was implying that Scarpetta is so unimportant and unsuccessful that the governor has never heard of her. Dr. Marcus was insulting her. Nonsense, she countered herself.
“Our new governor is rather much consumed with the Commonwealth’s enormous budget deficit and all the potential terrorist targets we’ve got here in Virginia…”
Scarpetta scolded herself for her negative reaction to the man who succeeded her. All he wanted was help with a difficult case, and why shouldn’t he tra
“…nuclear power plants, numerous military bases, the FBI Academy, a not-so-secret CIA training camp, the Federal Reserve. You won’t have any problem with the governor, Kay. She’s too ambitious, actually, too focused on her Washington aspirations, the truth be told, to care about what’s going on in my office.” Dr. Marcus went on in his smooth southern accent, trying to disabuse Scarpetta of the idea that her riding back into town after being ridden out of it five years earlier would cause controversy or even be noticed. She wasn’t really convinced, but she was thinking about Aspen. She was thinking about Benton, about his being in Aspen without her. She has time on her hands, she was thinking, so she could take on another case because she suddenly has more time.
Scarpetta drives slowly around the block where she was headquartered in an early stage of her life that now seems as finished as something can be. Puffs of dust drift up as machines assault the carcass of her old building like giant yellow insects. Metal blades and buckets clank and thud against concrete and dirt. Trucks and earth-moving machines roll and jerk. Tires crush and steel belts rip.
“Well,” Scarpetta says, “I’m glad I’m seeing this. But someone should have told me.”
Pete Marino, her passenger, silently stares at the razing of the squat, dingy building at the outer limits of the banking district.
Trace by Patricia Cornwell / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes