Little, Brown, £17.99

Five years after her unceremonious departure from Richmond, Dr Kay Scarpetta, with Marino in tow, finds herself back in her old department having been asked to consult on a suspicious death.

With her once well-managed department in disarray and the replacement chief medical examiner, Dr Joel Marcus, less than happy to see her, Scarpetta is beginning to regret her decision to return.

Meanwhile, Scarpetta's niece, the hyper-intelligent and not very likeable Lucy Farinelli, has troubles of her own. A colleague and potential lover has been attacked at Lucy's swish Florida home and an enigmatic drawing of an eye has been left at the scene.

Victim Henri (short for Henrietta) has been sent to Aspen to be psychologically assessed, without Scarpetta's knowledge, by her boyfriend, Benton Wesley and both cases deny the semi-estranged lovers some quality time alone.

Is it possible that Lucy's break-in is linked to Scarpetta's murder case and that the former chief medical examiner somehow implicated in the case?

'Trace' is Patricia Cornwell's 13th Scarpetta novel and the book is fast paced, easy to read and has a decent plotline. However, none of its characters are particularly likeable. Minor characters are painted in an unsavoury light, Lucy is just plain annoying and Scarpetta is too perfect.

'Trace' also lacks the writing discipline of previous Scarpetta escapades and doesn't rank as one of Cornwell's best.

Joanne Ahern