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Autopsy: Kay Scarpetta #25    by Patricia Cornwell order for
by Patricia Cornwell
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2021 (2021)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've enjoyed many of Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series, but have also missed quite a few, so dived into Autopsy (number twenty-five) with enthusiasm.

At this point, Kay has returned full circle to Virginia (where she began her career) as chief medical examiner. Unfortunately, the man she's replacing (Elvin Reddy) was incompetent and corrupt, and left quite a mess for her to sort out, and she's unsure of many of her staff, especially her secretary. There are plenty of obstructions and hostility. Worst of all, Reddy is now the new health commissioner for Virginia!

Kay is married to Dr. Benton Wesley and they live in an old estate in Old Town Alexandria. Devastated by the deaths of her partner Janet and their adopted son, Kay's brilliant niece Lucy is staying in their guesthouse, and spending time with an online avatar of Janet that they created together. Pete Marino, Kay's partner in many past investigations and now a PI, is married to her sister Dorothy and lives close by.

Kay hires Pete as a private contractor, a 'forensics operations specialist' to help investigate the murder of biomedical engineer Gwen Hainey, who lived close to Pete and Dorothy and whom they'd met. Kay has been appointed by the White House to be a member of the National Emergency Contingency Coalition. Benton is also involved, as a forensic psychologist with the U.S. Secret Service.

They're called to an emergency meeting about a disaster on a top secret orbiting laboratory/habitat, which one scientist has fled in a Soyuz spacecraft - his crewmates are unreachable. Are they injured? Two astronauts are sent to the lab and Kay works with them from Earth, trying to understand what really happened. This investigation turns out to be connected to Hainey's death, and that to an earlier one.

I appreciate these well developed characters (especially Kay, Lucy, Benton and Marino) and enjoy reading their often over the top adventures. Autopsy adds an intriguing space mystery to the usual blood, gore, forensic detail and morgue politics that form the background to this compelling series.

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