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Perhaps it is a blessing when Jasmine Dent dies in her sleep-at last an end has come to the suffering of a body horribly ravaged by disease. It may well have been suicide; she had certainly expressed her willingness to speed the inevitable. But small inconsistencies lead her neighbor, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, to a startling conclusion: Dent was murdered. But if not for mercy, why would someone destroy a life already doomed? As Kincaid and his appealing assistant Sergeant Gemma James sift through the dead woman's strange history, a troubling puzzle emerges: a bizarre amalgam of charity and crime-and of the blinding passions that can drive the human animal to perform cruel and inhuman acts.