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Point of Origin - Patricia Cornwell

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6 Reviews

Author: Patricia Cornwell / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 02 September 2010 / Genre: Crime & Thriller / Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group / Title: Point of Origin / ISBN 13: 9780751544787 / ISBN 10: 0751544787

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      18.03.2005 12:26
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      Feeling in the need for a thriller and wanting to broaden my horizons beyond the UK, I decided to try something from one of the top US crime writers whose books can be found on our shelves at work.

      Patricia Cornwell’s heroine is Dr Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner for ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms), the federal law enforcement agency. In ‘Point of Origin’ (I’ll resist the temptation to call it POO), she is getting ready for a short break with her boyfriend, former FBI profiler Benton Wesley, when a cryptic, sinister letter comes through the post. It is signed by Carrie Grethen, a psycho killer (and former lover of her niece Lucy) whom Scarpetta helped to send to a psychiatric hospital after she went on a murderous rampage not long before. Now Carrie’s on the loose again, vowing to get even, writing to the press that she was seduced by Lucy, and then framed by Scarpetta and Wesley for crimes she never committed.

      Before Scarpetta has time to dwell on the implications of this, she is called in to help on a new case. There has been a case of arson at the property of publishing entrepreneur Kenneth Sparkes, resulting in the deaths of his former girlfriend Claire Rawley, and nineteen horses in the stable. In her forensic work she finds grounds for believing that Rawley had been murdered before the fire was started. While her investigations are in progress, she hears of an apparently copycat murder. Is Grethen behind that one as well?

      Needless to say, it’s not quite as simple as that, otherwise this would be a rather predictable and very short novel. We’re hardly going to know who the murderer is when we’re barely a third of the way through.

      There’s a clue to be found in the minute metal shards in the victims’ skulls. And there’s another death, an unauthorised internet connection that provides a further clue or two, a couple of obstructive persons in high places, notably Grethen’s legal aid attorney who stonewalls Scarpetta in a futile interview - and various twists and turns, not least another rather surprising and shocking death.

      A compulsive thriller? While I wouldn’t call it compulsive, I gradually got hooked by the story. In the early stages I found the plot a little too slow moving, and to my non-technical mind, it seemed as if all the forensic and technical detail was being used to pad out a rather thin story. But there was a stage roughly halfway when an unexpected development lifted it up a gear from ‘OK thriller’ to ‘real page turner’.

      Some of the personal detail is pretty grim and requires a strong stomach. Still, as with any other gory US murder yarn published in the last few years, you can always remind yourself that it’s fiction. Sometimes it strikes me as a touch over-written, too much padding in places, but that’s probably down to market forces which equates long (not to say overlong) novels with value for money.

      Moreover, I finished the book feeling that Dr Kay Scarpetta was very efficient, successful at her job, but a little two-dimensional. It was as if there was too little human personality to identify with. I won’t say she wasn’t a likeable character, but she came across as a ruthless career woman but not much else. She could do with a sense of humour.

      Now I don’t mean to sound insular or xenophobic, but I’ve a hunch that in Blighty we like our detectives, whether in print or on TV (Wycliffe, Morse, Wimsey, Marple, Poirot – and I know the last is Belgian, but he was created by a British writer), to be endearing, loveable even, and if possible slightly eccentric as well. Dr Scarpetta fails that test. She does prove vulnerable once or twice in response to events, but she would have had to be exceptionally hard-boiled not to.

      In short, it’s a good story, but something is still lacking - the main character lacked that extra warmth. I’d recommend this one half-heartedly, I suppose, but it doesn’t persuade me to seek out any other of Patricia Cornwell’s books.


      £6.99 (high street), £5.59 (Amazon), or as usual much less on Amazon marketplace.


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        10.12.2004 17:06

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        Patricia Cornwall returns with another great novel. Kay Scarpetta returns with a new laboratory and a new case.

        A Building has been burnt to the ground and a body has been found in the bathroom. But, what has happened?? well Scarpetta teams up with her boyfriend benton, neice lucy, her cop friend and a woman from ATF which leads her to a conclusion that is filled with a huge twist that makes you want to pick up another one of Patrica Cornwall's books just to see what else is in store for this medical investigator.

        Although for some laymen the terminology of the medical side of the book could be a little confusing, I would say this book has it all. I would advise anyone interested in crime, thrillers to go and get the Point of Origin. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as myself.

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        13.08.2001 20:05
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        I have read many many titles in the Dr Kay Scarpetta series. All which have kept me gripped, however this one is by far the best! We once again see the psychotic Carrie Grethen appear, and plan her revenge on Scarpetta and her loved ones, namely Lucy, Benton and Marino. This book was so gripping, I could not put it down, and i'm sure my fingers left burn marks on the pages. The character Dr Scarpetta has gone up immensly in my estimations, in this fine novel she comes across as strong and more determined than ever, considering the harrowing circumstances which she is in. I had not read the previous book in the series, to which this one makes references to, however I don't feel this is necessary, and perhaps if I had have read the previous book - this novel would be even more enjoyable. The only complaint about the book is that the climax of the novel happens in less than 10 pages. I feel it didn't give enough information about what happened. All in all, a great read and a high recommendation to any Scarpetta fan.

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          31.07.2000 09:49
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          I have always loved Patricia Cornwell's writing and her books. She is a sharp woman with great writing skills, and her knowledge of forensic science is certainly part of the reason people come back to read her again and again. This book was extremely depressing, more than frigtening because we've been through these same things with Scarpetta and her niece before. How many times can one person deal with such tragedy and loss in their lives. At a certain point, this becomes unbelieveable (except for the Kennedy family), and the reader loses interest. Yes, the author is aging her protagonist and life does change, but must it always be so negative? I get the feeling Cornwell wants to be rid of this character, with this book being not up to her usual standards and with the introduction of other characters in books such as "Southern Cross". If this is true then I should think the author would want this character to go out with a good plot behind her.

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          27.06.2000 15:27
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          This was the first Patricia Cornwell book I ever read, and it had me hooked in a matter of minutes. I was instantly drawn in - I felt I knew the characters, and needed to know what happened to them. That is the key to Cornwell's writing. The range of characters, all of whom develop convincingly, and make you want to know them. The book is a magnificent achievement on so many fronts at once. The technical detail is perfect, the plot sufficiently cunning, and the pacing superb. This is not a Columbo mystery, where we all know who did it except Columbo. We no know more than Dr. Scarpetta, and are invited to speculate with her about various possibilities. Cornwell's use of the English language is not particularly profound. In fact when she tries to be poetic it sticks out like a sore thumb. Her language is essentially functional, but fairly soon I stopped noticing, as the sheer power of the plot drew me in. READ IT!! But don't read it first. It does contain important flashbacks to other cases which kind of ruined them for me.

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          24.06.2000 16:59

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          I've read all of Cornwell's books up to this one, and I found this sad, sad, sad -- as well as wonderfully done. As usual, Cornwell's characters are so real the reader feels like we know them personally. In Point of Origin, Cornwell gives the morbidly curious her usual dose of the gross but very real aspect of death. I have grown so fond of her character, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, that I can see her with my own eyes. (In fact, I picture her as looking exactly like Cornwell, from her descriptions of Scarpetta and Cornwell's own photographs and Cornwell's experience). Scarpetta and myself savored the last moments of a dying relationship through this book. Cornwell never gives you an ending you'd expect. In fact, this one shocked me, and I'm pretty unshockable. Putting emotion aside, it was the best possible ending she could have done. I think Scarpetta would agree, although in an ironic, unhappy sense. The book serves up horrendous death and a lesson readers can take with them in their own lives -- not to take anything for granted. Bravo, Cornwell!

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