By Elizabeth Lowell
""When you read this, I'll be dead...."
These are the troubling words Serena Charters's grandmother has written on a note accompanying four pages of a centuries-old illuminated manuscript delivered after the old woman's passing. That the strange inheritance has considerable worth seems obvious -- but what Serena doesn't realize is how many secrets it hides...and how many lives it has already cost. Seeking answers, she turns for professional help to Rarities Unlimited, and specifically to Erik North, a reclusive manuscript appraiser with a passion for the past, its people, and its treasures. But Erik's careful examination of the vellum pages and the agonized jottings of a medieval scribe is raising perplexing questions -- about the true importance of Serena's legacy, the possible location of the remainder of the lost manuscript...and the senseless murder of an eccentric old woman in the blistering beat of California's Mojave Desert.