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Book Of Confusion
Book of the Dead - Patricia Cornwell
Member Name: cazkins
Book of the Dead - Patricia Cornwell
Advantages: Familiar characters, interesting setting in Rome
Disadvantages: Confusing, dragged at times, lacked atmosphere & character depth
I've read a couple of Cornwell's books now but have only started getting in to them lately. I was a bit disappointed by the first I read, Red Mist, which was a more recent one; Book Of The Dead has bought my opinion of Cornwell up as I found it to be quite an intricate and absorbing read.
Cornwell is a very popular crime writer and has lots of books behind her to show for her experience and expertise in the genre. Some appear to have a key character and timeline but I managed to pick Book Of The Dead up and follow it perfectly fine without much background knowledge or having read the books 'in order'.
Book Of The Dead introduces us to protagonist Kay Scarpetta, a much loved Cornwell character. Scarpetta, the amazing pathologist and crime expert she is, has moved from Florida to Charleston in South Carolina to open a private forensic pathology lab and practice. It houses the highest in technological advances and sound of the best minds in death investigation and crime scene analysis. So, when a dead body turns up under mysterious circumstances and there's a killer on the loose but no clues to hunt him/her down, Scarpetta is called in.
Drew Martin, a 16 year old tennis starlet is murdered in Rome whilst holidaying with friends. She's found with her eyes filled with sand and superglued shut. A woman from a hugely extravagant and expensive beach home in Florida goes missing, most likely murdered, but there's no body at first. An abused young boy turns up having been dumped in marshland. What starts as Scarpetta becoming involved in a tennis star's death, turns in to something far more complex. That is, when we consider the parallel storyline.
Benton, Scarpetta's other half, is a psychologist undertaking a research project that involves a rather temperamental and controversial talk show host, Dr Self. As the story unfolds, it seems that Dr Self may have had contact with a man claiming to be a killer, possibly affiliated with Drew Martin after she appeared on Dr Self's chat show. The question is, how does Dr Self fit in to this, and are these seemingly unrelated deaths somehow indeed related?
The title of the book, and the importance of this, is uncovered throughout the plot development as we learn it refers to a morgue log book. Similary, the importance of different characters, different events and such all begin to link up, to become clearer and to start to make more sense. It flowed relatively well in this respect, uncovering and providing explanations here and there, bit by bit. That doesn't mean, however, that it was always very clear to understand. Sometimes the progressions didn't seem all that logical or realistic, which was impacted upon by the character development.
The premise was definitely original, mingling twists and turns here and there to keep it fresh and interesting. I definitely didn't know what to expect or what could happen, which is always a good thing because that makes it a crime mystery. As I've said, it unfolds well and this makes it more readable also. There's a good degree unknowns to begin with and Cornwell creates a chilling enough atmosphere to draw us in and make us want to find out what's going to happen next. Having said this, I didn't always find it that easy, or realistic, to follow. Certain things seemed to be quite a stretch of the imagination and rather protracted, which had a knock on negative effect on the overall pace of the book. At times it seemed to slow down too much, bogged down a bit by a convoluted turn of events that weren't particularly clear to follow. Overall, the difficulty in understanding or believing in characters and events really dampened by enjoyment of it, making it less easy to pick up and get stuck in to.
The characters were fairly well developed, even though I thought there were points were character depth and relationship links could have been more thoroughly covered to increase our identification with them. I enjoyed reading about, for instance, Lucy and Marino, who have featured in other Scarpetta novels, and the recognisable names give an additional frame of reference and appeal towards wanting to read more about them. I don't think it really puts you at a big disadvantage if you haven't read other Scarpetta novels, but having done so just gives you that little bit extra investment in the novel. There were, however, points where I felt characters, behaviours and events were a little unbelievable, which could have been improved by having greater depth and more a more logical premise. In this way, the premise and characters hindered each other because there wasn't as much realism or empathy as there could have been
Further praise can be found on the front cover from the Sunday Express : 'No one is better than Cornwell'. I'm not sure I'd necessarily agree, but she's still a good contender when it comes to a crime thriller with this novel. She uses her biological, pathology, criminology knowledge well, making this an intelligent and detailed read by creating a greater sense of grittiness and authenticity. Unfortunately, this didn't come across as well as it could have in Book Of The Dead.
Overall, I'm not sure I would recommend this; both first time readers and fans of Cornwell may be disappointed as it wasn't as strong, logical or emotionally evocative and gripping as it could have been. Having said that, I really enjoy crime novels and the mystery and psychology aspects still gave me something to enjoy, even if it's not something I'd give an overly positive review for or read again.
387 pages over 23 chapters
RRP £7.99, selling on Amazon for £4.
Summary: Unfortunately, not her best work by far & not one I'd really recommend.