A serial killer is on the loose in Richmond, Virginia. Three women have died, brutalised and strangled in their own bedroom. There is no pattern: the killer appears to strike at random - but always early on Saturday mornings. So when Dr Kay Scarpetta, chief medical officer, is awakened at 2.33 am, she knows the news is bad: there is a fourth ...
A serial killer is on the loose in Richmond, Virginia. Three women have died, brutalised and strangled in their own bedroom. There is no pattern: the killer appears to strike at random - but always early on Saturday mornings. So when Dr Kay Scarpetta, chief medical officer, is awakened at 2.33 am, she knows the news is bad: there is a fourth victim. And she fears now for those that will follow unless she can dig up new forensic evidence to aid the police. But not everyone is pleased to see a woman in this powerful job. Someone may even want to ruin her career and reputation ...
I am a bookworm I guess you could say. Patricia Cornwell writes books that keep you guessing, and interested. I can usually sit and read one in one sitting. I work in the medical field and these books are right down my alley. I have all of her books in this series and hope there are more to come.
Mar 12, 2009
An interesting book with some compelling figures, but it fits somewhat strangely into the genre.
The main character is Kate Scarpetta, the Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Virginia (think "Quincy"). A driven, brilliant MD/JD, she coordinates with the crude, slovenly, but surprisingly smart local homicide detective and the slick, icy FBI agent who always seems to get involved in her cases, to untangle complicated webs of intrigue while juggling a duplicitous ex-lover, a conniving investigative reporter, her 10-year-old computer-whiz niece, her devoted and motherly office assistant . . . you get the picture.
The characters are somewhat clicheic, but still interesting. The cases are complicated enough to be engaging. But still, I was left with a disjointed feeling after reading several volumes in the series.
First of all, though Scarpetta is a forensic pathologist, she spends almost no time in the lab, and the cases hinge only minimally on the technicalities of forensic science. So if you're wanting a modern techno-procedural, these don't seem to be the books for you. Second, she spends large amounts of time driving around interviewing witnesses, retrieving documents, cajoling reluctant hermits to part with their secrets, and, inevitably, getting into gunfights. Needless to say, this is nothing like what medical examiners actually do - but that raises the question why Scarpetta needs to be an ME, since her actual job seems to have so little to do with the plots of the stories. (She could more convincingly be just a regular detective, with the forensic stuff - as little as it is - provided by a supporting character as necessary.) The technical details of the books, involving both medical science and computers, are often self-consciously displayed but slightly incorrect, which jars. And, finally, the complicated plots are often resolved in a somewhat perfunctory manner, which again jars after so much effort is spent assembling the clues.
The strength of this series is in its characterizations, not its plotting nor, surprisingly, the technical details it appears to emphasize. Readers can decide for themselves whether the cast - each of whom can be annoying in their own way - is enticing enough to follow for long. A strong female protagonist given to commenting on the politics of women in the professions and police work provides an interesting point of view; the books are otherwise straightforward potboilers.
"Postmortem" - the first volume in the series - focuses on a serial killer who preys on single women but leaves almost no clues. (It is loosely based on Virginia's real-life "South Side Strangler" case.) It effectively introduces the recurring characters in the series, but then sacrifices the detection angle for a dramatic plot when the killer begins stalking the ME herself. In the end, it's a good book of its type, but not much different from many others.
Publishers Weekly, 1989-11-10 Cornwell, a former reporter who has worked in a medical examiner's office, sets her first mystery in Richmond, Va. Chief medical officer for the commonwealth of Virginia, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the narrator, dwells on her efforts to identify ``Mr. Nobody,'' the strangler of young women. The doctor devotes days and nights to gathering computer data and forensic clues to the killer, although she's hampered by male officials anxious to prove themselves superior to a woman. Predictably, Scarpetta's toil pays off, but not before the strangler attacks her; a reformed male chauvinist, conveniently nearby, saves her. Although readers may be naturally disposed to admire Scarpetta and find the novel's scientific aspect interesting, they are likely to be put off by her self-aggrandizement and interminable complaints, annoying flaws in an otherwise promising debut. (Jan.)
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