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Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Patricia Cornwell's most recent #1 bestsellers include Blow Fly, Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper--Case Closed, and Isle of.
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Now, once and for all, the case of Jack the Ripper is closed. Postmortem by Patricia Daniels Cornwell Book editions published between and in 24 languages and held by 5, WorldCat member libraries worldwide Dr. Kay Scarpetta, chief medical examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, investigates the deaths of three women found strangled in their bedrooms on Saturday mornings.
Cause of death by Patricia Daniels Cornwell Book 64 editions published between and in English and Japanese and held by 5, WorldCat member libraries worldwide In Norfolk, Virginia, a reporter is killed while scuba diving in the naval yard. As she investigates, chief medical examiner Kay Scarpetta uncovers a plot by a fascist militia to take over an atomic power plant. The body farm : a novel by Patricia Daniels Cornwell Book 92 editions published between and in 16 languages and held by 4, WorldCat member libraries worldwide Dr.
Kay Scarpetta, chief medical examiner for Virginia, investigates the sex murder of a girl by an escaped convict. The probe requires exhuming the body for a second autopsy. Lots of information on bodies and autopsies. By the author of Cruel and Unusual. The bone bed by Patricia Daniels Cornwell Book 72 editions published between and in 4 languages and held by 4, WorldCat member libraries worldwide An eminent paleontologist disappears from a dinosaur dig site, and Kay Scarpetta receives a grisly communication that gives her a dreadful reason to suspect this may become her next case.
She just may be on her own this time--against an enormously powerful and cunning enemy who seems impossible to defeat. Kay Scarpetta, chief medical examiner, matches wits with a sadistic killer who operates in the subway tunnels. After killing a transit policeman he infiltrates the FBI's computers and sends her taunting messages while continuing to kill.
The sixth suspense thriller in an award-winning series finds Dr.
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Kay Scarpetta matching wits with a sadistic killer who infiltrates the FBI's top-secret artificial-intelligence system and closes in on Scarpetta herself. Dust by Patricia Daniels Cornwell Book 67 editions published between and in 3 languages and held by 4, WorldCat member libraries worldwide "The new Kay Scarpetta novel After working one of the worst mass killings in U. Exhausted and ill, she's recovering at home when she receives an unsettling call. The body of a young woman has been discovered on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's rugby field.
The victim, a graduate student named Gail Shipman, is oddly draped in ivory linen and posed in a way that is too deliberate to be the killer's first strike. A preliminary examination in the sea of red mud where the body has been left also reveals a bizarre residue that fluoresces blood red, emerald green and sapphire blue. Physical evidence links the case to a series of uniquely weird homicides in Washington, D. The cases all connect and yet seem to conflict. Gail Shipman was murdered for financial gain-or was she? It will require the usual ensemble of characters to find out the truth, including Scarpetta's sidekick Pete Marino, who has undergone a drastic change in his life that places him center stage in a Cambridge investigation that puts everyone at risk" Red mist by Patricia Daniels Cornwell Book 64 editions published between and in 6 languages and held by 4, WorldCat member libraries worldwide Determined to find out what happened to her former deputy chief, Jack Fielding, murdered six months earlier, Kay Scarpetta travels to the Georgia Prison for Women, where an inmate has information not only on Fielding, but also on a string of grisly killings.
Audience Level. Related Identities. Associated Subjects. Women Women detectives Women pathologists Women physicians. Patricia Cornwell novelista y periodista de nacionalidad estadounidense. O, Cornwell demonstrates her grasp of this in her first novel by immediately creating a hint of antagonism between Scarpetta and Detective Pete Marino.
Adversarial relationships provide a good source of tension, so Cornwell plays that theme early in Postmortem by creating conflict between Scarpetta and a female news reporter. In real life, distrust between news media writers and police agencies is not uncommon. The dilemma is unavoidable.
Reporters work to satisfy a voracious appetite for instantaneous bulletins, preferably sensational ones. Law enforcement representatives must withhold any information that might compromise investigations. She stirs disharmony into the mix of already simmering suspicions soon after the curtain rises on this drama of serial sex murders. Crime novels must necessarily deal with the horror of people being killed. Cornwell comes to grips with this in Postmortem. It can be seen when Scarpetta arrives at the crime scene, makes a preliminary examination of the evidence, and meets the husband of a sexually assaulted murder victim.
Cornwell demonstrates compassionate knowledge of the unbearable horror endured by most family members when a loved one is slaughtered. Respect for the corpse who was recently a breathing, vital person is sacrificed in the search for a killer. The resultant stress on family members is frequently so intense they must seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Cornwell does not shrink from this aspect of the story. Scarpetta hates the dark humor she hears from detectives who observe postmortem examinations. When her niece makes a crass comment about the bodies, Scarpetta unleashes a scathing rejoinder. Imagine people making fun of him, joking, making comments about the size of his penis or how much he stinks.
Maybe halfway into the goddamn job they threw a towel over his empty chest cavity and went to lunch. Everything so. Cornwell is also unafraid of plunging into the sensitive area of racial complexities. Cornwell uses dialogue to imply that the woman is AfricanAmerican. Some readers may feel uncomfortable with the stereotypical portrait of this character, which seems influenced by the Oscar-winning Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy in the film Gone With the Wind.
It is not easy to bring up race while avoiding politically incorrect implications. The author weaves a narrow path here and deftly sidesteps any trouble. Postmortem contains another racial encounter, and readers may squirm a little at this one. Even though the author deliberately created this scene for specific purposes that will be revealed later in the book, the questions seem jarring, insensitive, and poorly phrased.
The words also sound unlikely coming from an educated professional in an important high-profile position. All authors wrestle with technical demands of the profession. Cornwell demonstrates extraordinary skill in perhaps the most important one-plot structure. Her intriguing plots are one of the reasons her books rocket onto the bestseller lists.
She is an expert at building complex story lines with interlocking twists and turns. Another difficult challenge for an author is the creation of powerful similes and metaphors. This element of writing can breathe life and color into otherwise monotonous passages. Similes not only must be cleverly original, but they must be appropriate to the setting. American authors John Steinbeck and Ken Kesey were masters at similes. Cornwell competes quite well with them in this discipline.
Lee remembering a painful battle. Cornwell also knows the power of contrast, how to quickly change somber scenes into bright airy ones. In Postmortem, for example, she describes Scarpetta in her workplace where death and gore prevail. Then she quickly shifts gears to offer relief from the dark events and dreary laboratory by placing her protagonist in a bright, breezy mall.
Borrowing from literature and renowned philosophers, Cornwell finds a rich source for developing analogies. Scar- petta tries to convince her lover not to become obsessive in his quest to solve a crime. In the ancient myth, youthful Icarus, attempting to escape from Crete, fashioned wings from wax and feathers, but he flew too high, too close to the sun.
The heat melted his wax, and he suffered a fatal fall into the sea. Yet another task at which Cornwell excels is the writing of dialogue. Conversations between her characters flow with ease and authenticity while delivering expository information. The author reveals an especially neat trick in Postmortem, in which she uses dialogue to create dissonance. While Marino is speaking, Scarpetta is thinking about something else. Both trains of thought, the one he vocalizes and the one she imagines, run alternately. The effect pulls the reader along on two separate highways simultaneously.
The high-voltage scene ends with even more tension as Scarpetta excoriates a man who seems to be trying to help her. She also spices her stories with plenty of profanity, for which she has taken some heat from at least one source. The raw language lends an aura of stark realism to the characters populating her novels. Readers may wonder whether Cornwell bases any of her fictional work on real events. Most authors certainly incorporate life experiences into their work, but generally disguise it to avoid legal problems. Cornwell deliberately uses actual settings for most of her action. In regards to using real-life crimes, Postmortem seems to bear a strong similarity to a Richmond, Virginia, case.
Four young women, one of them a doctor, were raped and strangled. During the investigation, news reporters referred to the killer as the Southside Strangler. His trial, one of the first in the United States to introduce DNA evidence, resulted in his conviction and execution for three of the murders.
DNA also cleared a man previously convicted of another murder Spencer may have committed. The Southside Strangler was executed on April 27, If Cornwell did use this case as a model for Postmortem, she only smiles when asked about it and states that her crime novels are fictional. She has obviously visited many, if not all, of the locations she describes, and is intimately familiar with various minutiae of government organizations, professions, and people.
It is interesting to see that Cornwell makes Kay Scarpetta an epicurean cook who enjoys escaping to her kitchen, sipping wine, and preparing Italian cuisine. Authors who write a series of crime novels featuring the same protagonist are in constant search of refreshing approaches and new twists, seeking to keep the reader interested. Cornwell succeeds at this, and makes a notable change in the eleventh Scarpetta novel, The Last Precinct. In the preceding ten, she writes in the past tense. Not only is this a marvelously gripping hook, but the verb tense lends an immediacy, as if the reader is actually watching it unfold.
This technique is sometimes used by other authors to set a mood before reverting to the more traditional presentation of action in the past tense. If fans expect The Last Precinct to make that conversion, they are going to be surprised. The entire book is in the present tense. The switch certainly makes it different. Readers will worry, as they approach the end of each story, with fewer and fewer pages to turn, that not enough space remains to clear up all the P at r i c i a C or n w e l l : P ro s e S t y l i s t 13 extant questions.
The climaxes are always breathtaking and filled with jolting action. Somehow, though, the puzzles are solved, the red herrings disposed of, and the killer identified. But be warned. The Scarpetta books are a series, like an ongoing soap opera, and one book continues into the next. The protagonist and main characters appear in all of them, and even minor players and antagonists reappear. It is highly advisable to read the Scarpetta series in order. As the book begins, Kay Scarpetta is alone in her bed in the middle of the night, having nightmares.
She is divorced from Tony, her husband. Pete Marino is a detective-sergeant in Richmond and pushing fifty. All of these men are important to Scarpetta, professionally and personally, even though the relationships are far from smooth. Pete Marino, in particular, is a problem for Scarpetta.
When Scarpetta realizes just how much data is on that machine, now lost forever, she nearly has a heart attack. Only after Lucy has her aunt thoroughly worked up does she admit that she backed up all the files before she acted. And her investigation is being sabotaged from within. Or it could even be her much-despised boss, Alvin Amburgey. As far as Scarpetta is concerned, no one is above suspicion. The victim, too, is bothering her.
The young woman who died was a doctor, just like Scarpetta. She played the violin, she used her hands to heal, and a vicious killer tied her up. The killer has to be choosing his targets somehow. If only Scarpetta can find out how he selects his victims, she can find out who the killer is. Reclusive author Beryl Madison had been tormented by threatening phone calls and the feeling that she was being stalked.
She fled from Richmond to Key West to escape that feeling. She came back home, but her instincts were on the money, for she was murdered the night she returned to Richmond. Marino has made lieutenant, complete with a brand-new LTD Crown Victoria to mark his increased stature on the force. Scarpetta and Marino go over the crime scene, step by step, but they find nothing. Help turns up in a very strange quarter—from lawyer Mark James, who dated Scarpetta back in school long ago and was once the love of her life.
As her anxiety builds and her options shrink, Scarpetta has to find the killer before he finds her. Cornwell takes the reader through the dirty side of New York publishing, the secret pathways of money laundering, and the deranged mind of a psychopath. Her plans for a peaceful Labor Day weekend have been trashed by an influx of bodies at the morgue. Most troubling among the corpses from car wrecks and shootings are a collection of bones—what remains of the victims of a particularly nasty murderer.
A serial killer has been targeting couples for no apparent reason, burying their bodies in the Virginia woods. Now their bones are the only evidence. The authentic small touches that are her trademark shine. Scarpetta knows exactly where he was when the violence occurred, and he was in no position to have any part of it. Another question haunts her—why did Waddell have a collection of cash register receipts with him, to be buried with him after he died?
With Waddell securely behind bars when the charges were incurred, what could they possibly mean? Mark James, the man she loved, was killed in a terrorist bombing in London, leaving a hole in her heart and an urge to avenge his death. Scarpetta has the pressure of an unexpectedly grownup Lucy visiting for the holidays, and now a whole new rash of crimes making her life miserable.
Called in to assist in the investigation into the death of eleven-year-old Emily Steiner in the little North Carolina town of Black Mountain, Scarpetta has more questions than the available evidence can answer. On the surface, the crime bears the signature of the serial killer Temple Brooks Gault. Not only that, but a strange mark on the corpse needs to be researched. Even as Scarpetta looks into the murder, another of the investigators on the case ends up dead in a most compromising way.
A search of the crime scene turns up some improbable evidence. As Scarpetta works to solve the case against Lucy and to find the perpetrator of the murders in Black Mountain, a sinister presence makes itself known everywhere Scarpetta looks. Temple Gault has returned. Temple Gault seems to be everywhere. Scarpetta suspects that Gault has tapped into some official information net as Lucy becomes involved in the case. As the plot builds to a showdown between Gault and Scarpetta, the psychological war between the good doctor and her brilliant nemesis rises to a fever pitch.
When she arrives, she runs a gauntlet of bureaucratic obstruction, red tape, and inside joking among the men who make their living on the docks. It all reminds her of the troubles she had early in her career, when she was the lone woman in a field dominated by chauvinistic men. But Scarpetta perseveres. Cutting through the antics of anyone who tries to stop her, she enters the cold water and finds the body of an old acquaintance: Ted Eddings, an investigative reporter who investigated one story too many.
As Ted Eddings is laid out on the slab, one of the detectives working with her asks her if the loss of young lives ever gets to her. How did Scarpetta get the call reporting a wrongful death before the police did? And in the course of her investigation she discovers that her colleague and lover, Benton Wesley, has separated from his wife. But she must put aside her personal concerns and concentrate on the killer. She has no solid clues—no fingerprints, no dentition, no DNA to match the victims against. All she has is cut-up victims and the suspicion that the killer is adept with a meat saw.
But the Irish cases are indeed similar enough that there must be a connection. All she has to do is find it. She returns to Virginia only to discover another dismembered body awaiting her in the Atlantic Waste Landfill. Then the killer sends Scarpetta a message via the Internet: a picture of the dismembered body, including the hands and feet, of his latest victim— a photo so detailed that Scarpetta can see skin whorls and ridges in it. Finally, they might have a break in the case.
They can identify the victim. But the source of the e-mail is troubling—going by the name of deadoc, the sender has clearly done everything possible to pattern a virtual self after Scarpetta. Carrie Grethen returns, mailing threatening letters to her. It seems a killer is closing in on the people she knows and loves, one by one.
Everyone she knows is at risk: Benton Wesley, who wants to marry her. Lucy, who wants to emulate her. And all the people she has worked with for years. A killer will put Scarpetta through a trial by fire in more ways than one—and nobody she loves is safe. In the end, her terrible sense of loss will drive her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. The letter has brought back memories of Benton that Scarpetta has been suppressing, both of their times together and of all the crimes that kept them apart.
A decomposed body turns up in a shipping container en route from Belgium to Richmond. Her search for the identity of the killer and the identity of the snake in her office will lead her far afield. And, as the case heats up, Scarpetta heads to Interpol in France, and to a mission that could ruin her career. Kay Scarpetta has been nearly murdered in her own home, and everybody around her is terrified. Scarpetta herself is merely strung out, jittery, in pain, and making the lives of those who love her miserable. And in the end she must decide what she herself holds dear.
The killer who assaulted Scarpetta in her home left a trail of other victims behind him—some in New York City.
Mystery Fanfare: The Unofficial Patricia Cornwell Companion: Reviewed by Jane Mattisson Ekstam
Still shaken from her experiences back in Richmond, she knows that she must figure out who she really is if she wants to heal. Her emotional balance governs not just her sense of self but also her effectiveness as an investigator. But she never seems to be able to make time for herself—the crime before her always takes precedence. In her quest for truth in a current case, she uncovers unexpected evidence, clues that bring her face to face with an international conspiracy and its connections to murders in Louisiana. She returns to the city that had once meant so much to her to find that nothing is as it seems.
Her old lab is being demolished. The chief medical examiner is inept, and the case she was brought in to consult on is a shambles. Lucy and Marino are busy with another case, an attempted rape by a stalker. So Scarpetta must get on with her investigation on her own. The murder victim, a fourteen-year-old girl, can no longer speak for herself, and Scarpetta has only the smallest traces of evidence to work with. But she is determined to make the dead speak and to bring the killer to justice—no matter what it may cost her personally. Still reeling from the recent death of her husband, she brings in her old friends Virginia West and Andy Brazil to help.
And she needs their help, because she has to find the link between the desecration of a statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and the murder of an elderly woman. Nowhere is it pretty—but on the eccentric island of Tangier, thirteen miles off the Virginia coast in Chesapeake Bay, things have gone completely wacko. The Grahams lived just a short distance down the road from Cornwell as she grew up.
In addition, it shows what an amazing woman Mrs. Once again, the portrait of an indomitable and giving woman emerges from the gifted pen of Patricia Cornwell, who has known Ruth Graham since Patricia was seven years old. The cookbook also features quotes from the books, sidebars on the ingredients she uses, and advice on how to pick the finest tomatoes and the richest olive oils.
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She ran modern investigative tests on all the original evidence presented in the case, and purchased and examined new evidence. Her conclusion—a shocking one that is well supported by the facts but is not popular with traditional Ripperologists— is that a famous artist of the day, Walter Sickert, was responsible for the 32 T h e C o m p l e t e PA t r i c i a C or n w e l l C o m pa n i on killings.
Sickert was a student of Whistler and Degas and a sometime actor. Like her gripping fiction, Portrait of a Killer takes the reader back to the streets of London in , as well as deep into the methods of modern criminology, on the path of the notorious Jack the Ripper. The book was written in response to the comments of a classroom full of second-graders that Cornwell visited in Los Angeles.
A portion of the proceeds from the book are donated to literacy causes. Recipes are introduced inside this novella from Scarpetta, Marino, and Lucy, as well as others, and a number of small domestic events occur while the characters cook their favorites. Inside, though, she is a boiling cauldron of complexities. Relationships are important to her, but not something at which she excels. She is extremely selective about the men she becomes involved with, and she revels in the feeling of being in love. She often struggles with her emotions. She appears to have a cool, almost Victorian rejection of sexual arousal.
This is in spite of the fact that she relishes her own sexual encounters. She can also surrender to passion in a sudden liaison. In the bedroom, she is an enigma. The men in her life are irresistibly attracted to her and sometimes frustrated by her as well. Her relationships with her widowed mother and her one sister are a disaster, something that adds significant tension to her life. She has another family affiliation: Lucy, a niece to whom she is close.
Scarpetta is stubborn, driven, ambivalent about smoking, and a connoisseur of fine wines and a variety of liquors. She loves classical music. She has elegant tastes in furniture and home decor as well. In the kitchen, 36 T h e C o m p l e t e PA t r i c i a C or n w e l l C o m pa n i on she can compete with a first-class chef, particularly when preparing Italian cuisine. On the job, she can hold her own with chief executives and top government officials. Her strength and certainty are an integral part of her work life and serve to keep her centered.
She is surrounded by death. She is also surrounded by men. She is a woman. This is a source of much difficulty for her. Her jaw tightens at the slightest hint of sexism. When she expresses this to a colleague, he reinforces her attitudes. And you do have teeth. Scarpetta learns to bare her fangs whenever she feels threatened by men. Men envy her, become angry with her, lust for her, and cannot understand her. The relationships in her life seem doomed. Her job, her values, and her principles are important to this woman. Even though she is scrupulously honest in professional dealings, Scarpetta tends to shade the truth about her age.
In Postmortem, the first book about Scarpetta, she admits to being forty, while her niece, Lucy, is ten years old. The discrepancy may be intentional. She has inherited these characteristics, as well as her shapely figure. A size 8 dress fits her 5'5" frame perfectly. I wear my blond hair short and neatly styled, am K ay S ca r p e t ta , M a s t e r S l e u t h 37 light on makeup and other than my signet ring and watch, jewelry is an afterthought. It may be a slight show of vanity that she seldom mentions her use of eyeglasses or that she is left-handed.
There are long-standing reasons for this ostensibly tough exterior, which appears even more impenetrable at Christmas. At age twelve, she lost her father on December He had owned a small grocery store in Miami and provided a comfortable if not affluent living. A loyal family man, he was idolized by the elder of his two daughters. Until he fell ill with leukemia, her life was happy. All of that changed into pained resignation as she watched him waste away.
He had been sick so many years I became an expert at cauterizing my emotions. Death loomed ominously during her young, formative years. Even her favorite key lime tree in the backyard contracted citrus canker and died despite her devoted efforts to save it. Wrapping herself tightly against emotional trauma, young Kay focused even harder on academics, at which she already excelled as a straight-A student.
But an event at St. A jealous classmate falsely accused her of cheating on a test, resulting in a cruel confrontation by the teacher, Sister Teresa.
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The nun made life miserable, lecturing Kay about the sins of cheating and coercing her to pray for guidance toward honesty. This experience planted a seed that would grow into a belief in meticulous truthfulness, except perhaps in divulging her age. No one is perfect. Breaking through the glass 38 T h e C o m p l e t e PA t r i c i a C or n w e l l C o m pa n i on ceiling that holds some women behind in professional life is a point of pride with Scarpetta. Nothing rankles her more than a perceived male attitude of superiority. While pursuing her law degree at Georgetown, Scarpetta found a lover.
She met Mark James, a tall, graceful, aristocratic hunk. Scarpetta is coy about how many romantic liaisons she has experienced. I was the body and sensibilities of a woman with the power and drive of a man, and to take away from me was to take away from themselves. So they gave the best they had, even my ex-husband, Tony [Benedetti], who was the least evolved of the lot, and sexuality was a shared erotic competition. Does this revelation hint of a latent bisexuality?
Her sister, Dorothy, seems to think so. In a drunken rage, Dorothy rails at Kay about her most recent lover. Scarpetta gives it deep thought, wrestles with an answer, and finally responds. Wondering whether the questions are designed to see if she is homophobic, Scarpetta mulls it over in her mind. After probing the subject even more, Anna gets right to the point. Finally, they allow the subject to peter out with no resolution. Scarpetta becomes the interrogator on a different line of inquiry.
Even if Scarpetta feels any attraction to her own gender, her romantic and sexual involvements are focused on men. But they are filled with pitfalls. Scarpetta recalls this while one of her subordinates offers coffee and fails to remember that she drinks it black. My dress size, forget it. He always got me something in a six, usually lacy and gauzy and meant for bed. I say supposedly, because when it comes to Dorothy, only DNA would convince me of who she happened to be in bed with on the occasion my niece was conceived.
The one relative Scarpetta loves is her niece, Lucy, whom Dorothy feels Scarpetta has tried to steal away and treat as her own daughter. Yet this relationship, too, is filled with bickering, misunderstandings, separations, and ongoing stress. As Lucy grows from a precocious, impertinent, ten-year-old redheaded computer genius to a brilliant adult techno-whiz, pilot, and millionaire, Scarpetta continues to adore her.
What guided her to choose a profession in which she would examine dead bodies in gruesome detail? Most coroners and chief medical examiners across the nation are men. Why would a woman select this field? I would take death apart and put it back together a thousand times. I would understand the nuts and bolts of it. In a sense, corpses speak to Scarpetta.
Of course, corpses do not literally talk to Scarpetta, but she believes her job gives the departed individual one last opportunity to communicate through the discoveries a medical examiner can make. Their silent speech might provide many answers. Were they murdered? If so, how? Poison, blunt force trauma, shooting, strangling? Were they ill prior to their deaths? What environment surrounded them when they died? These and hundreds of other questions may be cleared up by human remains under the intense scrutiny of a competent investigator.
For Scarpetta, it is more than a job. K ay S ca r p e t ta , M a s t e r S l e u t h 41 An interesting difference between Scarpetta and her creator is revealed in Postmortem. Cornwell is known to fly her helicopter to book signings. Good books, though, require evolution of the characters, so Scarpetta not only shrugs off her fear of flying, but eventually imitates her creator by learning to pilot a helicopter. A pair of murder victims had been found days after their car was located. Investigators had delayed reporting discovery of the car to Scarpetta.
Let me know the minute the car is found. Scarpetta thought his response an unsuccessful attempt to be funny. Even so, she is frequently negative about him, which is puzzling. No one has ever had a more loyal friend. He has saved her life several times, and nearly always responds immediately to her requests for his assistance. Yet she derides his appearance, criticizes him, expresses discomfort about his rough-edged social skills, makes fun of his speech, and is condescending about his politically incorrect viewpoints.
Without a doubt, they are opposites in many ways. Gradually, especially in the more recent novels, Scarpetta begins to show the poor fellow more appreciation for his unselfish, protective devotion to her safety and her reputation. Extreme dedication makes Scarpetta a superior medical examiner and crime solver. In her zeal for bringing killers to justice, she may exceed the activities of her real-life counterparts by doing considerably more than postmortem examinations of murder victims.
Still, she cannot resist joining crime-scene investigations, digging up evidence, traveling in search of clues, and performing independent sleuthing. Sometimes she finds herself issuing direct orders to police investigators. Medical examiners do have the right to extend their work beyond forensic pathology, and Scarpetta stretches it to the limit.
Maybe more M. Her personal vices are more worrisome—particularly smoking. Postmortem was first published in , before a tidal wave of public intolerance about smoking reached its crest. A medical examiner who conducts autopsies, in which damage to lungs and other organs may readily be seen, would certainly understand how cigarettes ravage the human body. And she does—several times. Perhaps she will finally lose the habit for good. Could her health be in danger? I got three Scotches from the minibar and poured all of them at once.
Back in her Richmond home, she keeps an array of spirits in her home and there is enough drinking to occasionally deplete certain selections. In Body of Evidence she is home alone and unable to sleep. In addition to the hard stuff, she is a wine connoisseur. Maybe Scarpetta has a need for alcohol as a way to relax and allow her sexual nature to surface. Sexuality is a powerful part of her psyche. He kissed me as he pushed the door with his foot.
It slammed shut with a bang. My eyelids flew open. Thunder cracked. This symbolism is reminiscent of old movies, cutting away from the passionate lovers to scenes of crashing surf or a train thundering into a tunnel. They depict all the details blatantly. Cornwell never does that, but she does become more explicit. No one has ever asked me such a thing. Sex is a strange creature. Certain male forms are admired by Scarpetta.
Her job requires absolute knowledge of male physiognomy and sexual behavior in every aspect, including certain bizarre conduct. Using her medical knowledge, Scarpetta must be able to recognize the signs of this peculiar cause of death. Autoerotic asphyxiation is the practice of deliberately reducing oxygen intake during masturbation, often with a scarf or rope tightened around the neck.
The purpose is to heighten sexual pleasure during orgasm. This is reportedly achieved because low oxygen intake causes lightheadedness that in turn lowers inhibitions. The risk is exacerbated because the carotid artery in the neck can be collapsed with very little pressure, resulting in almost instant unconsciousness. Death can follow within minutes. It is estimated that up to 1, people die annually in the United States from this dangerous practice. More than once, she finds herself in face-to-face showdowns with killers, High Noon style. This diminutive woman uses a handgun as well as any sheriff on a dusty western street.
Kay Scarpetta is among the very best. He deliberately needles her with offensive mannerisms and comments. The tension between them ebbs and flows. Will it turn stormy and violent like the Chesapeake Bay in a hurricane, or settle into a peaceful flow like the upper James River on a summer evening? The two people share one similarity. Like Scarpetta, he is of Italian descent, but of the brown-eyed strain. Bright and perceptive, but moderately educated, he fractures the English language and peppers his conversation with profanity. His politically incorrect comments frequently include colorful homophobic expressions.
Standing about six-two, he is a chain-smoker, an overweight meat-and-potatoes man, and one who appreciates a beer or bourbon but only while off duty. He drives a big blue Ford truck p. His wish list is short and simple. The big, unkempt detective is fearless when facing down bad guys, but harbors phobias about AIDS and the effects of radiation. In Postmortem, he is a sergeant with the Richmond, Virginia, police homicide unit. His duties while investigating murders usually put him in contact with Scarpetta, who is responsible for conducting autopsies of the victims.
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Right off the bat, in the first book, Scarpetta expresses consternation about Marino. He telephones her with news of a murder. She is upset. I had made it clear after [two previous killings] that no matter the hour, if there was another murder, I was to be called. Ever since I was appointed chief medical examiner. At the crime scene, Scarpetta describes Marino. He was pushing fifty, with a face life had chewed on, and long wisps of graying hair parted low on one side and combed over his balding pate. At least six feet tall, he was bay-windowed from decades of bourbon or beer.
His unfashionably wide red-and-blue-striped tie was oily around the neck from summers of sweat. It grates even more deeply on Scarpetta that Marino desecrates English grammar rules and openly expresses his opinions no matter how politically incorrect. He is his own man, though, and refuses to make any changes in his demeanor.
Nothing wrong with beer and skin magazines. So what if he does a combover and his necktie shows some wear and tear? On the other hand, some may be attracted to Marino. It is not until a flashback in the third book, All That Remains, that the P e t e M a r i no , D i s g ru n t l e d D e t e c t i v e 47 first meeting between Marino and Scarpetta is recalled.
He had ambled into the laboratory where she was performing an autopsy on a murder victim. Very few words were exchanged between them. I perceived he resented me for no other cause than my gender, and in turn I dismissed him as a dolt with a brain pickled by testosterone. So some light is cast on her reasons for disgruntlement with Marino. At the beginning of the Scarpetta series, Marino is in an unhappy marriage and is the father of an estranged adult son, Rocky, who becomes a shyster lawyer.
No wonder the aging detective is sometimes abrasive. It was about those damn dishes she got at a yard sale. She keeps her own figure trim and admires men who do the same. But her disdain is motivated partly by her concern for his health. As a doctor, she realizes that his diet, high blood pressure, and excessive weight make him a high-risk candidate for a heart attack. Another point of contention between them is music. Scarpetta loves classical pieces; Marino worships Elvis and Patsy Cline.
When an antagonist writes an online message suggesting that Presley died while on the toilet, Marino is outraged. He reads more of the unwelcome missive. Marino does have one other weakness. He is afraid to fly. This fear is mentioned several times in the series, especially when both Lucy and Scarpetta become helicopter pilots. He wants nothing to do with being in an aircraft unsupported by wings. In Point of Origin, he is coerced into a helicopter ride with Lucy at the controls and Scarpetta beside him.
They eventually divorce. Lonely and depressed, Marino is involved in a few temporary relationships but nothing serious. It hurts him even more when his son is involved in defending a criminal Marino hates. Nearly every time she telephones him and asks him to come as soon as possible, he drops everything to join her. More than once, he saves her life.
Could she show more gratitude? I got bourbon if you want some. P e t e M a r i no , D i s g ru n t l e d D e t e c t i v e 49 On the job, he is promoted to lieutenant, then captain, but is uncomfortable in both roles. He prefers hands-on detective work. Every morning I get up and think about it, if you want to know. How many of them do you think had faith? Probably every goddamn one of them. My health sucks, okay? Can I help it? Who else would Marino share such personal thoughts with other than someone he considered his best friend? This soliloquy by the aging detective should certainly have made his affection for her quite clear.
Perhaps it did, as seen in her reply. Scarpetta reveals a bit more of a softening attitude in All That Remains. He looked old and defeated, shirt straining across his big belly, wisps of graying hair unruly. Through the entire series, it slowly becomes evident that the relationship between them is not as volatile as it once seemed. He may very well be secretly in love with her but knows it can never be openly expressed. And she knows this. In The Last Precinct, she comes to grips with these possibilities.
This hard-bitten, iconoclastic man at last breaks down and acknowledges his real affection for Scarpetta in The Last Precinct. She is threatening to resign from her job and move from Richmond. Then what? Touched, Scarpetta is nice to him. I barely come up to his chest, and his belly separates the beat of our hearts. I am overwhelmed by an immeasurable compassion and need for him. It is initially very maternal and evolves into a deep friendship and a feeling of professional respect.
Caring about Lucy keeps Scarpetta grounded and striving to improve herself. A poignant scene occurs when Scarpetta checks on Lucy, who is asleep. When I tended to her wounds, I was tending to my own. Go back to where you came from and start all over. She left Scarpetta, Pete Marino, and Lucy in temporary limbo. She returns to the sophisticated use of literary allusions as well. The kid was Billy Budd, Billy Graham, wide-eyed innocence, polite, respectful, and committed.
It tells the story of a handsome young sailor who is the center of struggles between good and evil, conscience versus law. Scholars have also seen it as a biblical allegory. Budd, the epitome of sweet innocence, accidentally kills his antagonist and suffers death himself. A film version of Billy Budd is regarded as a minor classic. In Genesis, Joseph, greatgrandson of Abraham, is sold into bondage. Eventually he redeems himself by interpreting dreams of influential people.
All events and people are seen through her eyes. In the Brazil novels, Cornwell institutes another sharp change by using frequent point-of-view shifts. Apparently wishing to reduce the jarring effect, she employs paragraph transitions with the use of word repetition. By repeating the word stop, the author eases the sudden transition. This technique is used frequently in all three books. Quick point-of-view changes are risky in the hands of less adept authors, but Cornwell manages it handily.
It may be a little over-the-top, though, when she shifts point of view to cats, dogs, and even crabs. It seems that the author is having a lot of fun with this freewheeling style. With that in mind, readers should relax and allow themselves to be carried along on this ride along an unfamiliar detour. Cornwell does not forsake all of her previously applied devices. She dishes up stress in large doses as the protagonists grate on one another while sublimating sexual urges. Two of the new characters, Judy Hammer and Andy Brazil, appear in all three books.
She advances to fifty-five in the third book. Hammer is a mother of two grown sons and grandmother of their offspring. Brazil was awed, openly staring. This romantic reaction by the youthful Brazil may surprise some readers. Tasteful and meticulous selection of clothing enhances her beauty. West had to admit, her boss was stunning. Some readers may feel this passage suggests that West is sexually attracted to Hammer, but later events will dispel that notion.
Rado is a Swiss-made timepiece. It is a major distraction for her. From Little Rock, Arkansas, Hammer still speaks with the same soft drawl of her youth when she met and married the intelligent, successful man whom she would surpass as he withered. A total dedication to her work keeps Hammer from forming close relationships. Not in grammar school, when I was better than everyone in kickball. Not in high school, when I was good in math and the president of the student body. Not in college. After graduation, she advanced rapidly through the ranks, and was chosen by the mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, to become chief of police.
She held the same position in Chicago before moving to Charlotte. When she is required to speak at a city council meeting packed with concerned citizens, she makes a strong impression. Circumstances both tragic and enlightening will cause Hammer heartbreak, renewal of purpose, and changes in her life. Some readers may see him as a Clark Kent type, straight out of comic books. He lives with his withdrawn, alcoholic mother and still feels the pain of losing his police detective father twelve years earlier.
They said it was his fault. Drew Brazil, at age thirty-six, had been shot in the chest at close range and died instantly. The tragedy had destroyed Mrs. Faced with terrible loss and a ruined mother, young Brazil forges ahead and enters Davidson College. A school security guard, Mr. Briddlewood, likes him. Brazil used to share his chewing gum and candy with Briddlewood, and this touched the security guard right down to his boots.
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Like Judy Hammer, Brazil makes no personal friends. He works long hours as a rookie journalist for the Charlotte Observer, and spends most of his spare time in his police volunteer duties. Unable to give up the only remaining symbol of his dead father, Brazil still drives an aging BMW owned by the late detective.
A librarian is impressed with the youngster. Considering these traits, along with his athletic skills in running and tennis and his perfect physique, female readers may find it hard to believe that Brazil has no girlfriends. Younger fans may not appreciate his selection of the woman with whom he eventually has a love affair, but older ones might heartily approve. The Charlotte Observer where Cornwell once worked employs him to help prepare television listings.
As an inexperienced reporter, Brazil makes remarkable headway, soon graduating to the crime beat. In her spare time, she works on home improvement projects, using carpenter tools like a handyman.
Despite these characteristics, some of which are typically male habits, she is very much a woman. Cornwell makes this clear. In high school, West had excelled at tennis. She never lost a match. After joining the Charlotte police force, West became the first woman selected as rookie of the year. As she advanced, her dedication to the profession nearly cost her her life. As the first female homicide detective in Charlotte, she exchanged gunfire with a suspect. She killed him, but not before he winged her in the left shoulder.
To West, this was just part of the job. One aspect of her employment bothered her more than others. She hated attending autopsies. During one, she watched while repressing horrifying thoughts. He plugged an autopsy saw into the overhead cord reel, and started on the skull. This West could do without. She would not have this done to her naked body with people.
First, they deal with relationships, usually thorny, between these protagonists, though West is not in Isle of Dogs and supporting players. Second, they come to grips with social conditions in both Charlotte, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia. This includes the plight of racial minorities, women competing in a male-dominated world, and a series of gruesome murders. Third, they openly explore sexual situations, both gay and straight. Of course, criminal sexuality is treated as the disgusting behavior it is in real life. Both heterosexual and homosexual behavior is a common theme in all three books.
It could be argued there was no phallic intent in this case. An Isle of Dogs reference, though, leaves no room for doubt. The character involved is Thorlo Macovich, a black state police officer. His lustful nature had trotted into his life at a very early age, and his father used to chuckle with pride and call his boy Thorlo Thoroughbred, not realizing that little Thorlo was developing a big problem that would eventually dominate his body and his life.
The latter is more likely in a Southern Cross sequence. There is a dispute between two police officers, a man and a woman. Her frustration turns into a physical attack. She grabs his crotch and squeezes violently. Screaming, he tries to escape while the amused crowd offers comments. Yank it hard! Punch her! Man, fucking poke her eyes out! In Isle of Dogs a gang leader is startled by one of his underlings. A gentler allusion appears later in the same book. The governor, named Crimm, having achieved his position of power, thinks of his penis in terms of a diamond. Even the size of his diamond made little difference.
References to breasts are a little less caustic. Sex is dealt with on many levels in these stories. The same couple is the subject of another playful sexual reference. Cornwell must have been watching a football game when the inspiration for this passage struck her.