‘Kay Scarpetta is back, and this time she’s right in the path of danger…’
[ About the Book ]
World-renowned forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta and her husband Benton, a psychologist with the US Secret Service, have returned to Virginia. They are headquartered five miles from the Pentagon in a post-pandemic world that’s been torn by civil and political unrest.
Just weeks into the job, Scarpetta is called to a railway track where a woman’s body has been shockingly displayed, her throat cut down to the spine. But the trail of clues will lead Scarpetta back to her own neighbourhood.
At the same time, a catastrophe occurs in a top-secret lab in outer space, endangering the scientists aboard. Scarpetta is summoned to the White House to find out what happened. As she starts the new investigation, an apparent serial killer strikes again, this time dangerously close to home.
[ My Review ]
Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell was just published November 25th with Harper Collins and is described as a novel with ‘shocking twists, high-wire tension, and forensic detail’. It’s safe to say that most folk have heard of Kay Scarpetta since she burst onto the scene in 1990 in Postmortem as the medical examiner in Richmond, Virginia. Since then Patricia Cornwell has greatly added to the series, with Autopsy being book #25 featuring Kay Scarpetta.
Over the years Kay Scarpetta’s career has taken various twists and turns but, in Autopsy, she is right back in Virginia, as chief medical officer, having moved back there with her husband Benton and tech-savvy niece Lucy. The world is now a very different place after the initial chaos of the pandemic and Scarpetta, less than a month in her new role, is already clearly aware of the challenges that lie in store. Her secretary, Maggie, is certainly out to make Scarpetta’s life difficult with very snide remarks and very much overstepping the line of demarcation.
When Scarpetta moved back to Virginia, her old partner and friend Pete Marino moved there also with Scarpetta’s sister Dorothy, who he is now married to. A lot is riding on Scarpetta to make this return to her old stomping ground work but it isn’t long before she is forced to rethink her decision.
The body of a female is discovered brutally murdered and displayed near the railway tracks. Scarpetta is very uneasy about the case as details begin to emerge of who the victim was. A call to The White House sends Scarpetta’s suspicions into overdrive and as her forensic mind kicks into action, she immediately digs deeper, a lot deeper. Her professionalism is called to task on more than one occasion but Kay Scarpetta’s loyalty will always lie with the victim and her determination to uncover the truth will outweigh the reputation of any person no matter their position in society.
In parallel with these investigations, Scarpetta’s personal safety comes under threat when she becomes a target of a very sinister plot. Marino instantly steps up to protect Scarpetta as the enemy seems to be too close to comfort. There is a lot of simultaneous danger in Scarpetta’s neighbourhood and the community is frightened. I love Pete Marino and always have. He is a tough character with a very strong loyalty toward Kay Scarpetta and it’s great to see the two of them together doing their thing. Obviously Scarpetta is aware of her sister’s jealousy of their relationship so she does keep a little more distant than in the past but when she has need, Marino is always there. Lucy plays a smaller role this time as she is traumatised by shocking events in her own life, leaving her overwhelmed. Scarpetta is extremely concerned for Lucy, now a shadow of her former self, on edge and lost in her heartache and sorrow.
Unfortunately I had a few issues with Autopsy starting with the number of storylines running in parallel. This in itself is fine when they all eventually thread together, but for me it all read a little too jarring, with plots and sub-plots all very disjointed. In the past I have always enjoyed a Kay Scarpetta book but something unfortunately was missing this time to give it that extra edge. The final few chapters were like an after-thought, leaving me wondering about other threads in the book. It’s a strange one to review in many ways because all the ingredients were there and I do enjoy Patricia Cornwell’s writing but I struggled. Possibly because I have read some really riveting crime fiction books from across the globe and my mind has been more exposed to other authors writing in the same genre or maybe this one just wasn’t for me. I will always find something in a book that I like and in Autopsy it was Marino and Scarpetta. These two always bring something each to the table. It is a relationship that works.
Autopsy delves into some really interesting and complex areas like space and industrial espionage offering the reader some fascinating insights. It obviously covers forensic examinations, with lots of introspection from Scarpetta herself, and of course food is a very important theme throughout. A book I suspect will be discussed at many a book-club about the merits of continuing this series or otherwise. I for one wanted more oomph but just didn’t get it this time. Maybe next time…
[ Bio ]
Patricia Cornwell is recognized as one of the world’s top bestselling crime authors with novels translated into thirty-six languages in more than 120 countries. Her novels have won numerous prestigious awards including the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, Macavity, and the French Prix du Roman d’Aventure prize. Beyond the Scarpetta series, Patricia has written a definitive book about Jack the Ripper and a biography and has created two more fiction series among others. Cornwell, a licensed helicopter pilot and scuba diver, actively researches the cutting-edge forensic technologies that inform her work. She was born in Miami, grew up in Montreat, NC, and now lives and works in Boston.
Twitter – @1pcornwell