Those people who pick up 'At Risk', thinking it is Patricia Cornwell's latest instalment in the long-running forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta series, won't be happy. But, if they can set their disappointment aside, what they'll discover is an engrossing, although short, novel.

Originally serialised in The New York Times, 'At Risk' introduces a new anti-hero, Massachusetts State Police investigator Winston Garano. Ordered to use modern DNA profiling to look into a 20-year-old murder by his politically-minded boss, high-powered District Attorney Monique Lamont, Win is not too happy but he's not in a position to refuse. He starts work, with some unofficial help from his insomniac colleague Delma Sykes and his fortune-telling grandmother but, after Win saves Monique from a vicious attack things turn much darker.

While it doesn't involve Scarpetta and her cohorts, 'At Risk' is peopled with an interesting new set of characters. Unfortunately the length of the book - a very slim 180 pages - doesn't allow Cornwell time to put enough flesh on their bones. Not one of her best but still an enjoyable read.

Caroline Hennessy