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by Patricia Cornwell
Thomas & Mercer, October 2019
338 pages
ISBN: 1542094062

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In a recent interview, Patricia Cornwell admits to being tired of writing when she finished the last Scarpetta novel, Chaos, in 2016. Fast forward to 2019 and Cornwell says in an interview, "I'd always wanted to write about a female James Bond character." In her brand new series featuring Captain Calli Chase – a NASA pilot, quantum physicist and cybercrime investigator – her approach to story telling has undergone a considerable shift.

In the series debut, QUANTUM, Capt Chase deals with the elements of an interesting mystery. An alert requires Callie and Fran, NASA police major, to check out cybersecurity equipment in an underground tunnel that she had just checked the day before when a security badge was reported missing. This time she finds blood spatter and takes swabs.

Within hours she joins Fran at the site of an alleged suicide. But the dead woman is the one who reported her badge missing the day before and after careful review it looks like a murder staged to appear as suicide. Vera Young is the victim and an employee of Pandora Space Systems.

Complicating matters is the fact that a storm that requires evacuation of unnecessary personnel is descending on the local area while NASA is preparing for a major event – the televised EVA to install an important instrument, LEAR, to the Space Station's research platform. Since LEAR is really a secret device, Callie's old boss, General Richard Melville, head of Space Force, is visiting and calls Callie to pick him up so they can talk.

General Melville wants to know if Calli knows where her twin Carme is since her sister may have had a run-in with a fellow who works for Pandora Space Systems and is now missing. In fact, the General checks out Calli's hand to see if he can feel the scar he knows about is there. He reminds her that she and Carme have traded places before – fooling a lot of folks.

Over the next few hours, Calli comes to understand that her sister has been secretly using Calli's ID to access Langley over the past few days.

Yes, the basic structure of a riveting mystery/thriller is present. However, the writing often gets in the way. Long passages of Calli's thoughts and observations don't advance the story or provide insight. The pace is uneven and the narrative often confusing and hard to follow. And while Cornwell throws in a close call in the last few pages, she ends with a cliffhanger that is beyond irritating. A very strange and somewhat exhausting read.

§ Ruth Castleberry has worked as an investigator for Pinkerton’s, a city desk assistant on the Charlotte News, free-lance writer, marketing/business strategy consultant, competitive intelligence practitioner and digital marketing consultant.

Reviewed by Ruth Castleberry, October 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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