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Five dismembered beheaded bodies had been found in Ireland years ago -- now four have been discovered in Virginia. Following Kay Scarpetta's return from Ireland, a fifth corpse is found. However, there is some indication that the elderly victim had already been seriously ill, and there are other discrepancies. Although it is suggested that this is a copycat murder, Kay is not convinced, nor is she happy. She is not happy about how exactly the victim died. Above all, she is not happy with the strange messages that start appearing on her computer. Unhappiness turns to terror when the eleventh body shows up -- the circumstances of the death broadcast a clear message to the world. The killer is armed with a terrifying and lethal weapon -- smallpox, the virulent disease that the world had believed eradicated. Suddenly, a local murder hunt turns into a national emergency; everyone is at risk. But the killer is prepared to answer to only one person -- Dr. Kay Scarpetta.

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