Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a celebrity forensic pathologist, is asked by the New York DA's office to interview Oscar Bane, the prime suspect in the death of his girlfriend. Terri Bridges. Bane would not cooperate with the NYPD unless he met with Scarpetta because he does not trust police and doctors. He makes an exception of Scarpetta whom he saw on CNN.
In the interview which takes place at Bellevue Hospital where was admitted voluntarily for his own protection Bane describes his relationship with Bridges whom he met online a year ago. They had been seeing each other every Saturday for the past three months. He had found her body when he arrived for a New Year's Eve dinner. Her assailant attacked him and fled. Bane noticed that he started receiving mysterious emails after they met. He made a CD to show he was being monitored.
Bridges was a graduate student at an online college where Bane was an instructor. She had eighteen email addresses, spent most of her time online and was phobic about germs. She recently was given a sick dog which she gave to a neighbor because she could not tolerate its messiness.
Scarpetta then becomes two narratives: the NY DA's office effort to find the murderer and the story of Bane and Bridges. Pete Marino, a detective hired by DA Jaime Berger interviews Shrew, a gossip column blogger and neighbor of Bridges to whom Bridges gave the sick dog.Shrew provides more information about Bridges.
Marino is a rival of NYPD detective Mike Morales who is staking out Bridge's apartment. Marino had sexually assaulted Scarpetta when they lived in South Carolina. They had known each other since Richmond, Virginia where Scarpetta was Chief Medical Examiner and Marino a captain with the Richmond Police. They resigned after a politically sensitive case and moved to South Carolina. Scarpetta then moved to Massachusetts and she married her boyfriend of twenty years, former FBI profiler Benton Wesley. He was now on the staff of McLean Hospital outside of Boston while Scarpetta was the Chief Medical Examiner for an area northeast of Boston. Both had appointments as Visiting Lecturers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York where they had an apartment because of their frequent visits.
Marino is preoccupied about the assault and has not seen Scarpetta since then. He moved to New York and went into therapy. The incident is known to Lucy Farinelli, Scarpetta's neice and a forensic investigator specializing in computer security systems, who also is hired as a consultant by prosecutor Berger. As a result Marino and Farinelli have a strained relationship.
Farinelli is checking into Bridge's and Bane's computers and eventually tracks down names and people known to Shrew as well. She and Marino wonder if the NY murder is linked to some unsolved out-of-state cases as well. They convey their information to Berger who has been meeting with Benton Wesley, who is providing her with psychological information about the case.
Marino's dislike of Morales worsens as he becomes suspicious of Morales' behavior during the stake-out.He also meets with Scarpetta who minimizes the extent of the assault.
Bane remains the suspect until the end. Shrew attempts to return the dog to a pet shop whose owner was suspected of animal abuse. Eventually the owner is linked to Shrew's boss at the gossip blog.The boss had been filing false information about celebrities. Scarpetta herself became a topic for Bridges, Shrew and Bane. Shrew is murdered when she knows too much.
The climax of Scarpetta takes place at Berger's apartment, she and Farinelli are watching a video recording of the murder on her TV. They see that detective Morales is the murderer. He met Bridges when she complained to him about Bane whom she wanted checked out before she got into any relationship with him. He sent Bane tracking logs and other emails thus making Bane suspicious. Morales managed to implant a tracking device on Bane when Bane saw a dermatologist for a skin rash. Morales was working in the office under another name.
Scarpetta plans to join them. When she reaches the apartment lobby, she finds Morales who puts a gun to her head. They go up to the apartment where Morales ties up Berger and Scarpetta. He shoots Farinelli when she comes out of a shower. Meanwhile Marino also arrives at the apartment. Morales threatened to shoot Scarpetta if Marino fires at him. Just at that moment the wounded Farinelli finds another gun and kills Morales. She survives.
Best part of story, including ending:
Author's tone and name-dropping. Her names are inaccurate and/or misleading.
Best scene in story:
Marino's interview of Shrew.
Opinion about the main character:
Scarpetta is wooden.