Excerpt from Cornwell’s forthcoming ‘Dust’

I sit up in bed and sort through files inside the master suite of our nineteenth-century home that was built by a well-known transcendentalist.

I start with the suicide Marino mentioned. Three days ago, on Sunday, December 16, twenty-six-year-old Sakura Yamagata stepped off the roof of her nineteen-story Cambridge apartment building, and her cause of death is what I’d expect in such a violent event. Multiple blunt-force traumatic injuries, her brain avulsed from the cranial cavity. Her heart, liver, spleen, and lungs lacerated. The bones of her face, her ribs, arms, legs, and pelvis extensively fractured.

I sort through 8-by-10 scene photographs that include shocked people gawking, many of them in gym clothes and hugging themselves against the cold, and a distinguished gray-haired man in a suit and tie who looks defeated and dazed. In one of the photographs, he’s next to Marino, who’s pointing and talking, and in another the gray-haired man is crouched by the body, his head bent and tragic and with the same utterly defeated look on his face.


It’s obvious he had a relationship with Sakura Yamagata, and I imagined the frightened reaction of people using the fitness center on the first floor, looking out at the exact moment her body struck. It thudded hard, like a heavy sandbag, as one witness described it in a news report included in the case file. Tissue and blood spattered the plate-glass windows, teeth and fragmented parts scattered as far as fifty feet from the site of impact. Her head and face were damaged beyond visual recognition.

Reprinted by arrangement with G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC. Copyright 2013 by Cornwell Entertainment Inc.