Excerpt: 'Book of the Dead'

"Sand from Ostia would have basalt in it," Scarpetta says. "Other components from volcanic activity. I believe all of you have a copy of the spectral fingerprint of the sand recovered from the body and a spectral fingerprint of sand from a beach area in Ostia." The sounds of paper rustling in the theater. Small flashlights click on. "Both analyzed with Raman spectroscopy, using an ¬eight-¬point-¬milliwatt red laser. As you can see, sand from the local beaches of Ostia and sand found in Drew Martin's eye sockets have very different spectral fingerprints. With the scanning electron microscope, we can see the sand's morphology, and backscattered electron imaging shows us the GSR particles ¬we're talking about."

"The beaches of Ostia are very popular with tourists," Captain Poma says. "But not so much this time of year. People from here and the tourists usually wait until it's warmer. Late May, even June. Then many people from Rome especially crowd them, since the drive is maybe thirty, maybe forty minutes. It's not for me," as if anybody asked his personal feelings about the beaches of Ostia. "I find the black sand of the beaches ugly, and I would never go in the water."

"I think what's important here is where is the sand from, which seems to be a mystery," Benton says, and it's late afternoon now and everyone is getting restless. "And why sand at all? The choice of ¬sand—¬this specific ¬sand—¬means something to the killer, and it may tell us where Drew was murdered, or perhaps where her killer is from or spends time."

"Yes, yes," Captain Poma says with a hint of impatience. "And the eyes and very terrible wounds mean something to the killer. And thankfully, these details ¬aren't known to the public. ¬We've managed to keep them away from journalists. So if there is another similar murder, we will know it ¬isn't a copy."

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