Tag Archives: Patricia Cornwell

You’ll Lose A Good Thing

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Flesh and Blood Cornwell (Amazon)

Flesh and Blood: A Scarpetta Novel by Patricia Cornwell, Book #22 of the Series (William Morrow, $15.99, 369 pages)

Kay Scarpetta and her husband, Benton Wesley, are readying for a Florida vacation. She’s a medical examiner in Massachusetts and he’s an FBI profiler. Kay is called to a murder scene less than a mile from their 1800s home in Cambridge near the Harvard campus.

Kay and Benton manage to take their trip but the time they spend in Florida is anything but relaxing. Work interferes, as usual, and Detective Pete Marino of the Cambridge Police Department is drawn into the scary events that follow. There are terse conversations between Kay and Pete, which is par for this series ever since Pete quit his job at Kay’s crime lab. Loyalty seems to be the issue.

Long established grudges and proclivities on the part of all the main characters often get in the way of the crime solving. This book is consistent with the prior installments of the series. The story line has progressed over time; however, the mistrust and anger felt by the characters can be off-putting. When you add Carrie Grethen, the ultimate personification of twisted evil, pain and suffering are the outcome.

Author Cornwell’s stream of consciousness writing is sometimes difficult to follow. Her need to show off for readers with criminal and medical procedural details may be fascinating for first-time readers. After a few books it can be more than a bit boring.

Flesh and Blood back cover

Recommended strictly for highly loyal Patricia Cornwell fans and medical mystery enthusiasts.

Depraved Heart Cornwell

Depraved Heart: A Scarpetta Novel by Patricia Cornwell, Book #23 of the Series (William Morrow, $28.99, 466 pages)

A heavy-duty autobiography introducing Dr. Kay Scarpetta hits the reader in the opening pages of this book. The story line picks up two months after the conclusion of Flesh and Blood. Kay is back on the job in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The housekeeper has found the naked body of a Hollywood celebrity’s daughter on the marble floor of an impressive home not far from where Kay and Benton live. It could be an accidental fall from a ladder, but who changes light bulbs when they’re naked? Perhaps it’s a staged scene to cover up a murder. As usual there are plenty of gory details elaborately described by Kay as she sifts through possible clues in the house.

Thus begins another agonizing trek through Kay’s tortured relationships with Detective Pete Marino, niece Lucy and super villain, Carrie Grethen. Lucy, genius inventor and tech wizard, and her partner Janet have settled into an enormous estate with their adopted son. The place is loaded with enough electronic spy equipment to make a tech-loving reader drool.

Lucy, ever the rebel, is the target of FBI scrutiny and harassment. She is sure that Carrie is behind the full-on invasion of the estate that, surprise, occurs in tandem with the discovery of the naked young woman. A series of flashbacks experienced by Kay via videos sent to her cell phone connects the reader to the time when Lucy and Carrie were at the FBI Academy. It’s complicated and sometimes difficult to follow.

By now, you might have caught on that this reviewer won’t be jumping on the next installment in the series. Sometimes more is too much!

Patricia Cornwell

Recommended strictly for Patricia Cornwell fans and medical mystery enthusiasts.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publisher.

Flesh and Blood was released in a trade paperback version on January 5, 2016.

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It Takes Two

Writing Teams Present Prequels to Their Mystery Series

A Fine Summer’s Day: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery by Charles Todd (HarperLuxe, $26.99, 368 pages)

A Fine Summer's Day

Just months before the outbreak of the Great War, Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard anticipates a wonderful future with a beautiful woman. The peril that his country will face isn’t yet a concern. His life as an inspector is satisfying and he uses his instincts while he chases after killers.

At the outset of the book, a series of events are presented to the reader in order to establish their gravity as they coalesce into the tale that unfolds thereafter. Rutledge is a 24-year-old who sees a great life ahead for himself, his fiance, Jean, and his beloved sister, Frances. Together they will become a new family after the loss of his parents. The notion of those left behind, surviving family members, runs through the book.

The mother and son writing team billed as Charles Todd has produced a prequel of sorts, or perhaps a reflection of the pre-World War I challenges and choices faced by Rutledge. Unique to this writing team is the balance between male and female points of view and characterizations.

The resulting tale reads not as neutral, but rather as a subtle balance between points of view. The plot is enriched by myriad details – be they scenery, modes of transportation, clothing, manners or class distinctions specific to the time period in which this complex English mystery occurs.

Highly recommended.

The Breaking Point: A Body Farm Novel by Jefferson Bass (William Morrow, $26.99, 373 pages)

Breaking Point cover

As the 10th novel in the series opens, Dr. Bill Brockton is in his element at the Body Farm located at the University of Tennessee. Offering wry humor to FBI agents studying decomposition to aid them in solving crimes. The time is June 18, 2004. This tells the reader that a flashback/prequel is about to unfold.

Brockton, for lovers of mysteries who have not yet discovered the series, is a warm, caring man whose unlikely expertise brings him into startling crime scene investigations as he assists law enforcement agencies all over the USA. He exhibits reverence and respect for the bodies entrusted to his first-of-its-kind research facility.

The crime scene this time around is a fiery private plane crash site in southern California. The victim is a philanthropist who Brockton and his equally talented wife, Kathleen Walker Brockton, Ph.D., have supported with both financial and personal time and effort donations. The loss of this man is not the only one to be endured in the tale.

The writing duo, Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson, are head and shoulders above other writers of the same genre (i.e., Patricia Cornwell). This novel puts a lock on their ability to engage their readers with facts, gore (though tempered just this side of grossness) and compassion for the suffering of mankind.

The Breaking Point is a deeply moving tale that fills in the events in the years preceding the rest of the books in this fascinating and educational series. Family, trust, caring and civic duty make their presence notable in a struggle between good and evil of many sorts. No spoilers here out of respect for the talent this awesome twosome display in book after book.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

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Gimme Shelter

Trail of Blood: A Novel of Suspense by Lisa Black (Harper Reprint Edition; $7.99; 432 pages)

Who knew that Cleveland, Ohio could be so interesting?   Lisa Black, a member of the National Academy of Forensic Sciences, proves that there’s more to Cleveland than the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.   Her third Theresa MacLean book is not only set in this Midwestern city, it features some really gory murders that are based in fact.   Black’s main character is a forensic scientist who happens to belong to a family with a history of crime fighting all the way back to her grandfather.

When present day murders bear a striking similarity to Cleveland’s most horrific killing spree during the 1930s and 40s, the city police and coroner’s offices are summoned to cut short the present day nightmare.   Theresa and her cop cousin Frank are at the center of the action.   Yes, Theresa takes more than her share of risks; however, she also uses her instincts to get out of peril.   There are plenty of false leads and hints to keep the reader guessing right up to the end of the book.

There are several other mystery/thriller series written by expert authors that feature main characters with similar talents.   The most notable of these is the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell.   Black unfolds Trail of Blood as a more personal story with less ostentatious criminology and more good-old-fashioned shoe leather detecting than does Cornwell.   In addition, the story is actually told in multiple time frames, current day and 75 years ago.

Black is excellent at keeping it real.   The mix of accurate historic details, a map up front in the beginning of the book and a detailed timeline of the original murders set this book apart from the rest of the pack.

Well recommended for fans of thriller novels that actually have more than just gore to offer.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Trail of Blood was released in a Mass Market  Paperback version on July 26, 2011.“Quite simply, one of the best storytellers around.”   Tess Gerritsen, author of the Rizzoli & Isles novels.   Lisa Black’s new novel, Defensive Wounds, will be released on September 27, 2011.

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Midnight Rambler

Trail of Blood by Lisa Black (William Morrow; $24.99; 400 pages)

Who knew that Cleveland, Ohio could be so interesting?   Lisa Black, a member of the National Academy of Forensic Sciences, proves that there’s more to Cleveland than the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.   Her third Theresa MacLean book is not only set in this Midwestern city, it features some really gory murders that are based in fact.   Black’s main character is a forensic scientist who happens to belong to a family with a history of crime fighting all the way back to her grandfather.

When present day murders bear a striking similarity to Cleveland’s most horrific killing spree during the 1930s and 40s, the city police and coroner’s offices are summoned to cut short the present day nightmare.   Theresa and her cop cousin Frank are at the center of the action.   Yes, Theresa takes more than her share of risks; however, she also uses her instincts to get out of peril.   There are plenty of false leads and hints to keep the reader guessing right up to the end of the book.

There are several other mystery/thriller series written by expert authors that feature main characters with similar talents.   The most notable of these is the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell.   Black unfolds Trail of Blood as a more personal story with less ostentatious criminology and more good-old-fashioned shoe leather detecting than does Cornwell.   In addition, the story is actually told in two time frames, current day and 75 years ago.  

Black is excellent at keeping it real.   The mix of accurate historic details, a map up front in the beginning of the book and a detailed timeline of the original murders set this book apart from the rest of the pack.

Well recommended to fans of thriller novels that actually have more than gore to offer.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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