Patricia Cornwell — the author of the hugely popular Kay Scarpetta novels — is back with the second book in her blockbuster new series that kicked off last year with Quantum. Spin, which comes out Jan. 12, is another heart-pounder featuring Captain Calli Chase, a NASA test pilot, quantum physicist and cybercrime investigator who in the previous novel was drawn into a frantic, high-stakes search for her missing twin sister, Carme.
In the excerpt below, Calli has left NASA Langley in the wee hours of the morning during a driving snowstorm when her vehicle's navigation system, apparently hacked, directs her away from home and toward an abandoned motel on the outskirts of her coastal Virginia hometown. She worries it's a trap but hopes it might lead to a reunion with Carme (they call each other “Sisto"). So begins another adventure that will take readers from NASA to the White House and even outer space.
An excerpt from Cornwell's upcoming thriller Spin:
I slow down at the intersection of Beach and Hall when the engine switches off for seemingly no reason.
"What the . . . ?"
I'm sitting dead as a doornail in the middle of the road, the snow swirling around my white Silverado. When just as inexplicably, my truck turns back on with a roar.
"Holy shhhhh . . . !"
The doors relock, the heat and defrost resuming as the radio is muted, and the satellite map fills the display on the dash. The GPS tracking app announces that I can begin my route, showing me the address of the final destination, one I didn't enter and haven't visited forever.
My police truck has been hacked, the navigation controlled remotely. But that doesn't mean I have to do as it says. I don't have to follow the highlighted route. But there's no way I won't when it might be an illuminated tether that connects to my sister. What we called a mirror flash, a signal between us when we were kids, only we used radio transmitters and antennas, nothing visible.
It's also possible that someone else is sending me a message, setting up a trap. My years of training, my instincts dictate that I should head directly back to NASA. I should call for help along the way, reaching out to my mother, to Fran, to Dick, to someone.
But nothing's going to stop me from driving as directed, the app's female voice heading me south toward the Chesapeake Bay on Old Buckroe Road, a stretch that means something to my sister and me.
On my right, the Hampton Soccer Park is blanketed white like a Christmas card, undisturbed by the usual kids on sleds and folks walking their dogs. No one is around to sully or churn things up as I drive faster, more urgently than before, now passing Buckroe Bait & Tackle & Seafood, an awkward name for a favorite haunt. The OPEN sign is turned off in the window, the huge white-painted fish on red brick almost invisible in the blizzard.
There's nothing going on at the Brass Lantern where Carme was fearless at karaoke and I cleaned up at darts, every business closed and dark.
Hijacked by suggestion is the way I'd describe it as I follow the route back to our old beachfront hangout. The closer I get, the more memories flash like crazy . . .
The office with its rattling air conditioner fogging up the plate glass window . . .
The pink check-in counter with its locked cash drawer . . .
The ice machine, rusty steel ash can and blue-painted bench out front where Mrs. Skidmore would sit and smoke, keeping an eagle eye on our activities . . .
She was always in the area when we swam in the overchlorinated pool, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows in the cookout area with its picnic tables and rusting grills, or horsed around on the tawny strip of beach that vanishes at high tide. There wasn't much for parents to worry about when high school friends rented a room for the day, rather much like a cabana.
Nothing scandalous went on, no sneaking off with your latest crush, nipping alcohol or stealing a smoke. We weren't going to get away with much with Mrs. Skidmore on the prowl. We also never knew when Mom herself might show up with Bojangles’ biscuits and Hardee's hamburgers or Krispy Kreme donuts.
"You've reached your destination,” the GPS announces, the Point Comfort Inn dark and deserted up ahead, no sign of recent habitation, snow and ice everywhere.
Grandly named for what it is, the 1950s stucco motel is white with pink trim, a front office and a cellblock of 11 small rooms in a row. Rates are cheap, and as is often true, you get what you pay for. In other words, not much, at least that was the case in the good ole days when Carme and I were regulars.
Maintenance was the owner (Mrs. Skidmore) showing up with her tackle box of tools. Security was the piece she carried (a .357 Magnum that she could shoot like Annie Oakley). Housekeeping was local kids on summer break who didn't exactly take pride in their work, and there was no laundry service or amenities, only the smallest bar of soap.
Forget a restaurant or gift shop, although in the early years there were vending machines and a pay phone out front near the electric bug zapper. Nothing much has changed except for the wear and tear of time and coastal weather.
The bulky ice machine has been there forever, white with ICE in tall frosted blue letters, and as I turn into the parking lot, I barely make out the big boxy shape on the patio to the left of the office.
The awning that runs the length of the building flaps in the wind like mad, the blue canvas more faded and tattered. Plywood has been nailed over the windows, the place buttoned up for the winter.
But someone was here recently based on tire tracks in and out, and I release the thumb lock on my holster. I'm sliding out my Glock when suddenly headlights swing in behind me. A huge SUV guns into the parking lot, after me like a shark.
"WHAT THE F . . . !” and I can't believe I let this happen.
Hitting the brakes, throwing my truck into park and ducking down in the seat, I could radio for backup but no one will respond in time as I find myself trapped between the SUV and the motel. Unless I can take off into a hover, I'm not going anywhere. Letting my guard down, I'm cornered with no backup plan, and pistol in hand, I inchworm over the console as fast as I can into the passenger's seat.
Barely opening the door, I'm slithering out when BANG! BANG! and ejected cartridge cases clink-clink against pavement or concrete. Followed by nothing, the wind blowing, the snow stinging my face as I crouch behind the rear right tire of my truck. Listening. Watching. Waiting for the slightest sound or stirring.
My heart hammers, my pistol aimed, finger on the trigger, ready to double tap, two rounds center mass . . .
"Sisto?” the familiar voice is dampened by the wind, close by at 2 o'clock.
I don't move.
Excerpted from Spin by Patricia Cornwell with permission from the publisher, Thomas & Mercer. Copyright © 2021 by Cornwell Entertainment, Incorporated. All rights reserved.
Available on Jan. 12, 2021, at Amazon.com, Bookshop.org (where your purchase supports independent bookstores), Barnes & Noble (bn.com) and wherever else books are sold.