Cornwell’s piecemeal approach to her heroine’s daunting job is more realistic than compelling.

AUTOPSY

Back in her post as Virginia’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Kay Scarpetta finds things just as messy among the living as the dead.

Even though her killer has cut off her hands, the corpse du jour is soon identified as that of Gwen Hainey, a biomedical engineer from Thor Laboratories, who just happened to live two doors down from Scarpetta’s sister, Dorothy, and her husband, ex-cop shamus Pete Marino. Called out to assist U.S. Park Police investigator August Ryan, Scarpetta, urged on by Officer Blaise Fruge—whose mother, Dr. Greta Fruge, is a toxicologist Scarpetta came to trust before she left Virginia for Boston—connects Hainey’s murder with the months-old death of Cammie Ramada, a jogger who was drowned only a short distance away. Dr. Elvin Reddy, Scarpetta’s politically minded predecessor, short-circuited the earlier investigation by ruling the death an accident even though it was highly unusual for him to get involved directly at all. As she battles Reddy, largely through Maggie Cutbush, the British secretary he left behind to undermine his successor, Scarpetta has other worries as well. In a development that will remind fans of Cornwell’s non-Scarpetta thriller Quantum (2019), she’s called to the White House to conduct what turns out to be a long-distance autopsy by proxy on a pair of astronauts aboard a Thor orbiting laboratory who’ve apparently been killed by a barrage of space debris. And she’s poisoned by a bottle of Bordeaux she was given by irreproachable Gabriella Honoré, the first female secretary general of Interpol. After the usual professional infighting, all these separate cases are wound up with a series of casual snaps that will leave you gasping, and not in a good way.

Cornwell’s piecemeal approach to her heroine’s daunting job is more realistic than compelling.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-311219-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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Plenty of pain for the characters, plenty of thrills for the reader.

CITY ON FIRE

A blistering novel filled with anger and bite.

Danny Ryan is a dockworker in Providence, Rhode Island, who’s “faithful like a dog” to his wife, Terri, of the rival Murphy clan, and sometimes does some less-than-legal errands for his father-in-law, John. He wants more out of his life and wants to “not owe nobody nothing,” but nobody ever leaves Dogtown. One day at the beach, he sees “the goddess who came out of the sea” and who “has a voice like sex.” Terri's brother Liam Murphy accidentally-on-purpose touches the woman’s breast, which sets off a chain reaction of events in which bullets fly and f-bombs and their ilk swarm like cicadas on nearly every page. You know, you just don’t touch a made guy’s woman, and the goddess is going out with Paulie Moretti. The Providence press gleefully reports the other-side-of-the-tracks bloodletting among men who supplement their wages with hijacking trucks and boosting heroin. So Danny wants out with his wife and son, but—well, it’s complicated. Chances are they’ll have to live and die in Dogtown. And, oh yeah, Danny loathes his rich mother, who tries so hard to make amends for abandoning him. The characters are as vividly described as some of them are vile: One guy “never met a job he couldn’t lose.” John Murphy is “the king of an empire that died a long time ago. The light of a long-dead star.” At the ocean, Danny observes that the “whitecaps look like the beards of sad old men.” A Murphy declares, “That Ryan blood….It’s cursed.” But the Murphy blood isn’t exactly touched by angels either. And then there are the Morettis, all of them trapped in a cycle of crime and violence, just looking for an excuse to go to war. One difference between Danny and some of the others is he’s never killed anybody. Yet. Meanwhile, a planned heist might just solve some financial problems for whoever survives all the betrayals.

Plenty of pain for the characters, plenty of thrills for the reader.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-285119-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Fast-paced fun that’s fraught with peril. The Bells are such a nice couple.

THE SABOTEURS

Malign forces want to slow completion of the Panama Canal, but Isaac Bell has plenty to say about that in his 12th tale of derring-do.

In 1914, the U.S. is digging an enormous ditch across the mosquito-infested isthmus of Panama, with “mechanical dragons wreathed in steam” ripping out eight tons at a time in the Culebra Cut. Horrific incidents happen, and they’re not always accidents. A mysterious terrorist group called Viboras Rojas, or Red Vipers, seems responsible for an explosion that kills dozens and delays the canal’s construction. Isaac Bell of the Van Dorn Detective Agency is sent there to investigate, and a team of wild horses wouldn’t keep his wife, Marion, from coming along. Bell keeps mighty busy. Within days, he’s “thwarted an assassination attempt and brought a mad bomber to heel,” and he’s just getting started. The detective is exceptionally observant and ingenious. How he survives a catastrophic landslide is such a combination of quick thinking and luck that readers will hold their breath as they turn the pages, only realizing later how unlikely it all is. Meanwhile, Germany conspires with Argentina to severely delay the canal’s opening—Argentina would lose plenty of oceangoing commerce, and as it girds for war in Europe, Germany fears America’s rise as a global power. The proximate villain is Otto Dreissen, who correctly believes that former President Teddy Roosevelt won’t be able to resist traveling to see “the most transformative engineering feat in history…dangers be damned”—and there is danger, since the kaiser has authorized Roosevelt's assassination. But first Dreissen must arrange an “accident” for Bell, the “man with the nine lives of a cat.” Poor Otto. He should know it’s not that easy to kill off a series hero. Nor a series hero’s wife, even when she’s dangling from a dirigible. A bonus tip to readers: Stay away from manchineel trees and superheated steam.

Fast-paced fun that’s fraught with peril. The Bells are such a nice couple.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-19122-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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