From Potter’s Field by Patricia Cornwell – Book Review

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Temple Gaunt, the serial killer who first appeared in the Scarpetta novel Cruel and Unusual, has killed again, this time in New York. As more bodies pile up, Scarpetta starts to lose her usual, unflappable demeanor.

I’ve discovered a new favourite thing – reading bad reviews of Scarpetta novels. It’s a negative thing, but I just really like reading what inane things people write about when being negative. Really, do people expect high literature. We are talking here about a paperback where the author’s name is bigger than the title of the book. It is an airport book, a quick and fun read. That is what the audience wants from the book and that is exactly what is delivered.

Cornwell has created a series of characters that I want to know what will happen to them and how they will face the problems presented. The  ever-developing relationship between Scarpetta and her niece, Lucy; the relationship that always seems to be deteriorating between Scarpetta and Marino; the doomed romances and even the relationship to the victims and the criminals.

From Potter’s Field didn’t grab me as much as the previous novel, The Body Farm. But I think it was that it was relatively quickly revealed that Gaunt was not the killer in that one, and so the whodunit aspect was very strong, whereas in this, there’s no who.

I’m going to take a break from Scarpetta for a while. I will return just, not for a bit.

The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell – Book Review

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Emily Steiner, an 11-year-old in rural North Carolina, has been found dead, and it appears to be the work of serial killer Temple Gaunt. However, when Scarpetta, Marino and Wesley go to the town to investigate, things are not as they seem. Scarpetta’s niece, Lucy, is in training for the FBI, but it appears that she has broken into and sabotaged some of their highly classified computer stuff. Scarpetta wants to believe that Lucy is innocent, however the evidence seems strong.

Whilst I giggle at the obsolete nature of the computer talk, I really enjoyed this subplot. Lucy is a great character and if she were not in Scarpetta’s life, Scarpetta would have almost no personal relationships outside of work. The idea that their personal and professional lives are starting to overlap could have been a problem except that the relationship has been well and truly set up.

The twists involved in this were excellent – whilst it quickly became obvious that the key suspects were innocent, it took quite some time to reveal who the guilty party was.

Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell – Book Review

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After performing an autopsy on executed prisoner Ronnie Waddell, his prints are discovered at a crime scene. Of course a dead man could not have committed this crime, so Scarpetta must work with Detective Pete Marino and FBI Agent Benton Wesley to try to figure out how on earth this can have taken place. There are betrayals, challenges and misleading paths.

I went looking for other reviews of this novel just out of interest and have found that many people mention it is their least favourite of the Scarpetta novels. That’s quite interesting – I thought that the concept that Scarpetta did not know who to trust was good, although I guess it was not the most interesting way to do it. I liked the idea of the wrong man being executed, and when the whole scenario was revealed, I hadn’t guess much of it at all. Having said that, I did put the book down for days at a time, and was hesitant about picking it up, so perhaps it hadn’t fully engaged me.

The other thing it did which I didn’t totally love was that there was a large skip in time between this and the previous book, and there was a major event which was not explained until the end. I felt somewhat resentful about this.  I wanted to know what happened because I was enduring Scarpetta’s response to it.

All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell – Book Review

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All That Remains is the third in the Scarpetta series, following Chief Medical Examiner Doctor Kay Scarpetta and Detective Lieutenant Marino as they investigate a serial killer. This killer is a man who targets teenage couples, taking them from cars at rest stops along the highway, with their bodies discovered many months later. This case is different, though, as the female of the couple is the daughter of a federal politician. It is high-profile, and the FBI is holding any evidence tight, to the frustration of Scarpetta and Marino.

Having recently decided to re-read the whole series, I was surprised to already come across one I hadn’t read. It really makes a difference with these type of crime novels – I noticed with both Postmortem and Body of Evidence that I was remembering (or trying to remember) as much as I was reading them. However, this was all new to me, and it was compelling. My only criticism is that it is hard to tell how much time has passed from one novel to the next, in particular in relation to Scarpetta’s relationship with Mark James. It’s quickly revealed that they are no longer together (they got back together at the end of Body of Evidence) but it was annoying to have the details of this dragged out over most of the book. Incidentally, once you’ve read the book, the cover art (above) will really annoy you.

I’ve already picked up the next book from the library (actually the next three. It’s an omnibus) and cannot wait to see what is next.

Body of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell – Book Review

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Beryl Madison has been killed, murdered in an extremely violent chase in her own house. Prior to her death, she fled to Miami, fearful of a stalked. Yet, when she returned, she let him in. Why? Scarpetta needs to know.

I’m loving getting back in the Scarpetta series. She is a top character, although I question some of the decisions she makes regarding her old flame, Mark. The relationship between Scarpetta and Marino is solidifying into a grudging respect, if not an actual friendship. I like it and am heading immediately to the library for the third book, All That Remains.

Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell – Book Review

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Postmortem is the first of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels, following the life of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia. There are twenty-one books in the series, with the most recent, Dust, coming out at the end of this year. I’ve read a few, but not for ages, and thought it was time for a revisit.

There is a serial killer on the loose in Richmond, attacking women in their houses, raping, torturing and killing them. Scarpetta is attempting to find any clues to help Sergeant Pete Marino and the police to capture them whilst having to constantly prove herself professionally as she is the first woman in this position.

These books are so readable. The characters have started a bit clunky in this, the first novel, but I know that I get to love them a lot more as the series goes on. I think what I enjoyed the most about the novel is how dated it is – with references to computers without hard drives and floppy discs, plus the fact that DNA has only been used in a couple of court cases. How times have changed! In this novel, Scarpetta’s niece is just a young girl, and I’m aware of how her career develops as she grows. I can’t wait to experience these books again.