Newest Review: ... from Scarpetta's home, on a stretch of land. That in itself the mystery that caused such a stir and evoked Scarpetta's return; the fact... more
Just Another Book In The Series...
Port Mortuary - Patricia Cornwell
Member Name: Enkaypee
Port Mortuary - Patricia Cornwell
Advantages: Kay Scarpetta, good if you enjoy this type of book
Disadvantages: Benton Wesley, no big ending, confusing; acronyms, specific forensic words, Scarpetta staying awake!
Dr. Kay Scarpetta is a forensic pathologist, who is rushed back home from the Dover Port Mortuary as an emergency unfolds. A young man died and was taken to be examined, but later it appears that he may in fact have been alive when he was put in the cooler. Furthermore, on closer examination, his body had received horrific internal injuries, the likes of which Scarpetta has never seen before. At the same time, a little boy was killed in his own backyard, and Scarpetta's husband Benton (of the FBI) is convinced that the young man being charged with the death is innocent. But as the pair tries to make head and tails of the two cases, Scarpetta has the growing suspicion that someone is trying to push her out of her job. Just what has been going on while she's been away?
This is the eighteenth book in Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series, but it is the first book by Cornwell that I've read. This isn't a problem as I understand that each book is a stand-alone story in its own right, but I think it may have helped if I'd read some of the previous books first. I felt like the characters all had a past, things which I was supposed to understand or take for granted as the reader, but as I didn't know anything about them I felt like I couldn't take to the characters fully. That's how I felt near the beginning, at any rate.
I found Kay Scarpetta to be a very likeable character. She tries to do good by everyone else, and it was easy to see how she had such a hard time, feeling like someone was trying to push her out of her job. It's a very unsettling feeling, and Cornwell conveyed it well, especially as the book was written from Scarpetta's point of view. I believe that Cornwell's books haven't been written from Scarpetta's perspective for a while, so if you're well acquainted with the Kay Scarpetta series you may enjoy this change. For me, who was meeting Dr. Scarpetta for the first time, just thought it was nice to get to know a character through her own eyes.
Benton Wesley, Scarpetta's husband, is a character who I didn't get on well with at all. He used to be the chief profiler for the Special Behavioural Unit of the FBI (incidentally, this is the same unit that features on the show 'Criminal Minds', although the two are totally unrelated) and has just rejoined them to help with the cases. I understand that as a member of the FBI there is a lot of information he may not be able to discuss, but he just took it to the point of rudeness. In conversation with his wife, working on the same cases, several times if she asked him a question he would just completely ignore it and talk about something else. Unless I'm missing something, I just found Benton rude and unsympathetic. A forgettable character.
I'm finding this quite a difficult review to write, as I never really settled into the book properly. I thought it was quite confusing, as the different plots fitted together in an entwined, complicated way. I may have been tired when I read part of the book, but I don't think being fully awake would have helped me understand any better! By the time I'd finished the book, I still felt confused about some things, which for me is a real drawback in any book.
I don't think that the acronyms or forensic language really helped matters, to be honest. There were loads of acronyms throughout the book, which were all very similar. Just three examples are the AFME (Armed Forces Medical Examiner), the AFDIL (Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory) and the DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency). Although with each acronym the full name is given at least once, with there being so many they all blended into one which totally lost me. As for the forensic language, whilst the characters were examining the bodies there was plenty of specific, technical language. I have a very basic knowledge of medicine and the human body and can make educated guesses about what was described, based on word derivations and such, but for the most part I hadn't a clue what they were talking about. It lost me right there and then, and for any less confident reader I'm sure it would be very intimidating.
One thing I found odd was that Scarpetta was awake for the whole book - well, at least the first 450 pages (bear in mind that the book only has 496 pages!). The whole book was set over the period of several days, but she doesn't get a wink of sleep. I suppose it is possible to stay awake for this long, but not really practical, and the fact that she was still able to function at such a clear, competent level without any sleep just pushed the boundaries of what was believable and what was not to me. It's only a little thing, but it was something I noticed and it felt out of place...as little as a nap in the car would have sufficed, but it never came!
Finally, I have heard that many other of Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta books culminate in a big action scene, with Scarpetta and the criminal coming face to face. Well, it doesn't happen in this book. Scarpetta actually does very little of the investigating herself, and at the end there was no big, exciting climax or anything. It was quite disappointing, and the whole book just ended in a bit of an odd, abrupt way. Maybe this is normal and is a part of Cornwell's writing that I'm not used to, but I was disappointed by it.
Overall, obviously I can't compare this with any of Cornwell's other books so can't tell you if hardened fans will enjoy it as much or not: I can only say what I thought of it. As I say, I was disappointed by several aspects of the book as a whole. This is just another book in the series, nothing really that special or stand-out. Perhaps it may not have been the best place to start in Cornwell's repertoire, but either way I can't say I'm particularly drawn to read any of her others. If you're into forensic pathology and novels on the same subject, you may enjoy this book more than I did; if you're not, this may not be the book for you.
A paperback copy and a Kindle copy can each be bought from Amazon for the same price of £4.49. Alternatively, The Book People are currently selling paperback copies for £6.39 each.
Summary: Potentially a good book...just not the book for me.