A woman has vanished while digging a dinosaur bone bed in the remote wilderness of Canada. Somehow, the only evidence has made its way to the inbox of Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta, over two thousand miles away in Boston. She has no idea why.
But as events unfold with alarming speed, Scarpetta begins to suspect the paleontologist's disappearance is connected to a series of crimes much closer to home: a gruesome murder, inexplicable tortures, and trace evidence from the last living creatures of the dinosaur age.
When she turns to those around her, Scarpetta finds that the danger and suspicion have penetrated even her closest circles. Her niece Lucy speaks in riddles. Her lead investigator Pete Marino and FBI husband Benton Wesley have secrets of their own. Feeling alone and betrayed, Scarpetta is tempted by someone from her past as she tracks a killer both cunning and cruel.
It's hard to believe that it's been 20 novels since Dr Kay Scarpetta first appeared (and she'll be in her 22nd come November 2014).
In that time, Patricia Cornwell has become one of the most successful crime-writers of all time.
For those not familiar with the series, the books centre around Dr Kay Scarpetta, a forensic medical examiner and are essentially forensic who-dunnits.
First the Good Stuff.
When it comes to writing forensics, Patricia Cornwell still sets the bar. This book, like most of the rest of the series, is full of meticulously researched, cutting-edge science and state-of-the-art technology married to a damn good mystery story.
For those reasons alone, the book is a cracking good read and I enjoyed it.
Now the not so good stuff.
Twenty years ago, Cornwell was lucky enough to hit upon a compelling lead character in her first novel, Postmortem. In addition to that, she surrounded her with a collection of intriguing support characters, most of whom have stayed with Scarpetta throughout the series, appearing in most of the novels.
Having hit upon a winning formula she's stuck with it - and I'm sorry to say it's getting a bit tired.
It's rather like a long-running soap opera that keeps on shoe-horning its favourite characters into increasingly implausible scenarios, rather than cutting them loose and bringing in new blood.
A check-list for a future Scarpetta novel might go something like this:
Pete Marino - does something really stupid that would normally get him fired/killed/arrested. Gets away with it.
Lucy - continues to live out a Bruce Wayne/Batman style fantasy life.
Scarpetta - employs/trusts someone really dodgy and is unable to spot what everyone else is telling her.
Benton - keeps secrets from Scarpetta.
I'm not saying don't read this book, far from it, Cornwell is a masterful writer writer of crime fiction and her very good Andy Brazil novels (Hornet's Nest, Southern Cross, Isle of Dogs) demonstrate that she isn't wedded to one character. Add to that her incredible knowledge of forensics and perhaps it's time for a new crime series and time to kill off Kay Scarpetta?
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My thoughts on some of the books that I have read lately.