Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta is the star witness in a polarising case that’s creating civil unrest, when the sister of the presiding judge is murdered under strange circumstances. The body shows no sign of physical violence and there are also dead plants, insects and small animals. As Scarpetta begins her investigation, she meets resistance from an old enemy who wants to destroy her career and a trail of clues that are strange and very sinister.
Patricia Cornwell is a master of this mystery thriller type of story and it seems strange to me that I haven’t reviewed her books before. I was really looking forward to reading this one, and it did not disappoint. The first book in the Kay Scarpetta series came out back in 1990. The main character is an attractive blonde who works as the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia. At this point in the series, her ex cop partner is married to her sister, her niece works for the FBI and her husband is an FBI profiler. It’s funny, because it all sounds pretty dramatic and unlikely, but in the series, it works. Cornwell herself was working at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond when she wrote the first book and this knowledge adds the realism that really elevates these books. The forensic techniques used are always up to date.
You can start this series anywhere and it will all make sense to you, though like with a lot of series, it can be nice to watch the characters growth.
Obviously at this point, Cornwell is a master of the form, and her book starts in the court room and gets going immediately, being evenly paced throughout. I think my favourite parts were the investigative, forensic elements, and the mystery plot, but the thriller and espionage type elements are woven in really well and make for an exciting read. Something I really liked about this book is that it feels relevant and up to date without being too on the nose. It was still escapism and great reading, even as it mentioned or used things like covid and social isolation, the American political divide, fake news, the Havana Syndrome and domestic terrorism and protest. Sometimes authors throw these things in books and they feel so earnest and cheesey, and really don’t add anything to the story, often slow the plot down or, perhaps worst of all, don’t allow you to sink into the world of the book. But it’s handled so well here, just giving the book a sense of reality.
Overall, I enjoyed this a lot. It made me want to read more books in this series. It’s very flowing fiction with unique characters that are well rounded from years of development. The case is interesting, the political machinations of the different agencies and people Kay has to work with added an extra level of complication and tension, and I liked that the book felt based in realism. Very entertaining.
Read It If: fans of mystery or thriller books will like this, and of course, fans of the series. Very entertaining and escapist, while also being relevant and researched.
Thank you to the publisher for the copy of this book for review.