The "book of the dead" is the morgue log, a ledger in which all cases are entered by hand. For Kay Scarpetta, however, it is about to take on a new meaning. Read more...
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Patricia D. Cornwell
From America's # 1 bestselling crime writer comes the extraordinary new Dr. Kay Scarpetta novel.
The "book of the dead" is the morgue log, a ledger in which all cases are entered by hand. For Kay Scarpetta, however, it is about to take on a new meaning. Fresh from her bruising battle with a psychopath in Florida, Scarpetta decides it's time for a change of pace, not only personally and professionally but geographically. Moving to the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, she opens a unique private forensic pathology practice, one in which she and her colleagues-including Pete Marino and her niece, Lucy-offer expert crime-scene investigation and autopsy services to communities lacking local access to modern, competent death investigation technology.
It seems like an ideal situation, until the new battles start-with local politicians, with entrenched interests, with someone whose covert attempts at sabotage are clearly meant to run Scarpetta out of town. And that's before the murders and other violent deaths even begin.
A young man from a well-known family jumps off a water tower. A woman is found ritualistically murdered in her multimillion-dollar beach home. The body of an abused young boy is discovered dumped in a desolate marsh. Meanwhile, in distant New England, problems with a prominent patient at a Harvard-affiliated psychiatric hospital begin to hint at interconnections that are as hard to imagine as they are horrible.
Kay Scarpetta has dealt with many brutal and unusual crimes before, but never a string of them as baffling, or as terrifying, as the ones confronting her now. Beforeshe is through, that book of the dead will contain many names-and the pen may be poised to write in her own.
The first name in forensics. The last name in suspense. Once again, Patricia Cornwell proves her exceptional ability to entertain and enthrall.
- ISBN-13: 0399153934
- ISBN-10: 0399153934
- Publisher: Putnam Adult
- Publish Date: November 2007
- Page Count: 416
Is Cornwell's latest a return to form?
The pre-release publicity promotes Patricia Cornwell's latest Kay Scarpetta mystery (number 15 in the series), Book of the Dead, as her best in years, a return to the heady days of From Potter's Field and Body of Evidence.
So, is there some truth to the hype? Well, yes. And no. The story starts out dramatically enough: Scarpetta is summoned to Italy to consult on a high-profile murder case with a lovely young tennis star as the victim. So far, so good. The evidence is inconclusive, or at least contradictory; frustrated, Scarpetta returns to her South Carolina home. Here, she will hook up with longtime compatriot Marino, who has inexplicably given up police work to become Scarpetta's forensics lab lackey. He has also shaved his head and become a biker, complete with a pneumatic bimbo girlfriend. Much is made of Marino's unrequited puppy love for Scarpetta, acted out in increasingly childish attention-seeking vignettes which seem to be appreciated as such only by the bystanders, never by the principals. Regulars Benton Wesley (Scarpetta's boyfriend, resurrected from the dead a few books back) and Lucy (her devoted, Ferrari-driving lesbian niece) put in appearances as well. Oh, and let's not forget one of the villains of the piece: Scarpetta's longtime nemesis Dr. Marilyn Self (I always thought that character should have been named Dr. Jacqueline Hyde), once again up to no good. If you can put aside the over-the-top characterizations, though, Cornwell's plotting is up to form, and she leads the reader on a merry bicontinental chase toward an unexpected denouement.
So, the final grades: for grisly crime scene depiction, a solid A; for plot development, B+; for characters, a perhaps overly generous C-. The early Scarpetta novels rank among the best of the genre. Here's hoping that number 16 will mark a return to that form for Patricia Cornwell.
Bruce Tierney was weaned on the Hardy Boys. He writes from Saitama, Japan.