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
Receiving The Dead
Port Mortuary - Patricia Cornwell
Member Name: cazkins
Port Mortuary - Patricia Cornwell
Advantages: Interesting & accurate use of technology, intelligently written
Disadvantages: Plot weak & a tad confusing, nothing engrossed me, characters not as warm
I've read and reviewed a few Cornwell books now after only reading my first one over Christmas. I must admit, I haven't found them all to be particularly strong, this one included, even though it was still an interesting and enjoyable enough read.
One of the things that tempted me about this was a sticker on the front saying that if you don't LOVE this book we'll give you your money back' (I saved the hassle of doing this as I borrowed it from the library!) along with 'A welcome return to form for Dr Kay Scarpetta' - Irish Independent. The tagline reads 'Port Mortuary is literally a port to receive the dead - and the deaths are mounting', which sounded quite intriguing. This fits the crime thriller genre and for those familiar with Cornwell, Scarpetta is one of her much-loved, protagonist characters that features in many novels.
We're introduced to Kay Scarpetta as she's training at the Dover Port Mortuary on a 'groundbreaking' program regarding a new forensic procedure. Meanwhile, a young man literally seems to drop dead miles away back home, only a short distance 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 that the young man was found bleeding after being locked inside the mortuary cooler was! Is it possible he was alive when he was put in there, that perhaps the paramedics made a mistake?
As Scarpetta investigates the man's death and uses revolutionary technology to reveal the impact of internal damage, the man's death becomes more and more of a mystery. As a parallel storyline, we learn of case Benton is taking on, that of a young man admitting to a crime Benton is convinced he didn't commit (Benton is Scarpetta's love interest, and their relationship develops throughout the novels from dating to being married). We see some familiar faces and names, including Marino and Jack Fielding who is now running the CFC in Scarpetta's absence and is apparently running it in to the ground, so each character adds a bit more to the premise.
Without going in to detail on the plot, the rest of the novel investigates the mysterious death of the man and Benton's case, and as the story unfolds the web of characters increases. Links to government agencies, OTWAHL & DARPA initiatives, secretive schemes and the like begin to surface, bringing about a host of technological references. Gradually, bit by bit, pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together but things do get more complex rather than simpler as the answers fall in to place.
I really enjoyed some of the technological aspects about the premise because it's accurate, insightful and gives the novel an edge. It's interesting to read and learn about things like nanoterrorism and autobots because even though some of it seems quite sci-fi, it's real and they're things not often covered in murderous crime thrillers. Or at least not the ones I read anyway.
The characters were reasonably warm and with some depth, even though I do think the depth could have been greater. In other novels, those like Lucy, Marino and Kay seemed to come alive far better than they did in Port Mortuary, so fans of Cornwell may well be disappointed by this. The scenes were made relatively vivid by description, but again, this could have been better too.
I think that some of the problem here lay in the premise. The focus on technology seemed to be at the expense of a clearly understandable plot that made sense; at times I found myself confused, at others just blasť because it bored me. The pace seemed to slow when so much detail went in to the various secret initiatives and technology, so reading about it seemed to drag which was unfortunate.
On the back is further praise: 'A gripping read made more chilling by Cornwel's note that the technologies' that she refers to, things like autobots and nanoterrorism, 'actually exist' - Metro. I'd agree that it's more chilling because of this edge and it made it quite an intelligent read, but I wouldn't necessarily say it was a 'gripping' read. I actually found it quite hard to keep my attention focused on it as there was nothing to really engross me and make me want to keep reading. By the end, I did feel a bit disappointed and not really sure what was going on.
All in all, I probably wouldn't recommend this; for Cornwell fans it may be a disappointment in terms of characters, and for those unfamiliar with her books it will probably seem quite slow and boring.
23 chapters over 488 pages
Summary: Not one of her better books so I wouldn't necessarily recommend