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Let me start by saying I literally HOUNDED my sister to get me this book for christmas last year. I had read a previous book by Patricia Cornwell, and as I quite like crime fiction/murder mystery books I thought I had found what was right up my street! I was in the middle of Port Mortuary - the book which precedes this one - and wanted to eagerly know what happened next so I was super happy when I unwrapped this luxurious hardback book on 25th December!
Now lets fast forward.....its now September 2012 and I only just finished this book yesterday after starting it in the beginning of the new year! It has taken me over 8 months to plough through it as it just so slow, so repetitive and takes ages to build up to some kind of interesting storyline and I just kept putting it down in interest of a magazine or listening to music on the way to work. Nevertheless it does sound interesting as a concept so here's my balanced review of this book.
- Storyline -
We meet our usual main character Kay Scarpetta, a forensic scientist and a post-mortem and investigative expert. She is on her way to the Georgia Prison For Women (GPFW) to meet the Kathleen Lawler who is the mother of Dawn Kincaid (the woman who tried to kill Kay in the previous book). Dawn Kincaid is also the child of Jack Fielding who is Kay's work colleague, sexually assaulted aged 12 by Kathleen and she killed Jack in the previous book too. (Anyone else confused?! lol)
Nevertheless, at the GPFW things all seem a bit dodgy. In a suspicious conversation with Kathleen she is passed a note to meet her old friend Jamie Berger who is also lurking down south trying to uncover some suspicious deaths from the GPFW and their use of the death penalty.
First up is the suspicious death of Barrie Lou Rivers - convicted as she ran a sandwich business in which she poisoned her customers who ate her tuna fish sandwiches she suspiciously chokes on a tuna fish sandwich (how ironic!) as her last meal before she is to undergo her execution.
Next we have a woman who strangled her children to death and was suspiciously found from strangling herself with a pair of trousers in her room. In addition to a woman found supposedly drowning in her toilet bowl in her room thought to have been throwing up and inserted her head too far in after being convicted of drowning others.
Most suspiciously of all is the case of Lola Daggette. In 2000 an affluent doctor Clarence Jordan and his wife and twin 5 year old children were all stabbed and murdered in their sleep. Mum and dad were found in bed but it seems our young 5 year old Brenda put up a struggle and is found at the bottom of the stairs, her pyjamas stained in blood. Down the road in a halfway house, is our teenage Lola Daggette a drug addict with a low IQ of 70 found naked in the shower washing their blood off their clothing. She has always said someone called "Payback" has set her up. None of her DNA is ever found at the scene, only multiple fingerprints which are not a match for hers and the only connection is the clothing. With such uproar in Savannah and people wanting justice she is due for execution on Halloween which is upcoming.
With Jamie Berger investigating all these mysterious cases she calls for Kay's assistance alongside the help of detective Marino. But as they get in over their heads, more suspicious murders occur around her looking to put Kay in the frame. Can she solve and stop these killings and solve the past without getting herself in more trouble?!
- My Opinion -
Needless to say this isn't one of those books you just can't put down. I kept starting and stopping it, putting it down and really just continued reading it as I hate starting a book and never finishing it and really wanted to see it through to the end.
Written from Kay Scarpetta's point of view, it gives quite a in depth description but whereas I have read previous book written in the third person I thought it gave a more balanced approach to the storyline. From Kay's point of view it all seemed very contrived and self-centred and she seems quite whiny and focused on herself throughout the whole book. From quite a strong assertive character, in this book she seems to doubt herself and her judgements far too much and I was quite disappointed at Patricia Cornwell's new writing style in terms of her demeanour.
In terms of the storyline I found the premise quite intriguing and the blurb made it sound exciting and thrilling but disappointingly it was none of the above. The plot line kind of dragged, and they spent about 3/4 of the book going over the same old cases, trying to find the missing pieces to the puzzle and seemingly having the same conversation all over again. There are about 5 characters in total that have any relevance and a minor 3 that seem to just be over glanced and mentioned here and there and it gets a bit of a snooze fest reading Kay's dialogue with the same people.
Some of the relationships are explored such as the lesbian relationship between Jamie Berger and Kay's niece Lucy but similarly in this book as in the previous books I read from Patricia Cornwell in this series they are only really explored on the surface level and there is not much light shed on the emotive and evocative dynamic between the two people, and I feel the author only ever mentions it in passing to try and bring a new dimension to the book but it never quite grasps my interest to invoke a feeling of empathy or understanding or even interest in their relationship!
I also felt the ending was particularly rushed and it is literally the last chapter everything is solved and brought to a really abrupt end! There isn't particularly much explanation for the killings, and no in depth analysis to the killer's personality and motive but tries to hard to make it all relative and tie in with the current themes of the book and past revelations. There is all of a sudden a brief mention of terrorism and trying to exaggerate the intensity of the killings when in all honesty I found them quite arbitrary and mundane.
- Overall -
Sadly I found this to be a disappointing read, not memorable in the slightest and not on par with some of her previous books she has written. Trying to get through it is difficult without wanting to give up altogether. At times I just wanted to skip to the end of the book just to find out the answer, and in all honesty you could read the first chapter of the book and read the last and it would pretty much sum up all the drivel in between. Not so sure I would recommend it to anyone else as I wouldn't want to torture others with the same ordeal! The writing style is articulate and promising just the delivery isn't a page turner and so in my opinion Cornwell could do much better.
Patricia Cornwell is one of those highly renowned authors you hear about within the crime thriller genre and yet I'd never read any of her work before. My boyfriend knew this, and thoughtfully picked me up Red Mist. I didn't want to get my expectations up, but even though it wasn't as I had thought it may be, it was still an interesting read, and detailed if you like the whole crime analysis aspect.
Red Mist is the latest Cornwell novel to be released (November 2011), and is the 19th Kay Scarpetta-as-protagonist thriller. Apparently, her first novel was published in 1990, Postmortem, and won 5 international awards. Since then they've become international number 1 bestsellers, so she must be doing something right.
We are introduced to Kay Scarpetta, a self-proclaimed 'physician with a speciality in pathology' and various other specialities, is on her way to a max security prison for women in Georgia to see a prisoner. This woman is a convicted sex offender, mother to another inmate, an apparently vicious killer. Why is she travelling so far to see such a woman? Her former deputy was killed, a man she had a complicated relationship with, as did Kathleen Lawler. Scarpetta thinks that Kathleen may know more than she's letting on about the deputy and possibly his death, so against the advice of her husband, she's willing to hear her out.
Kathleen's daughter, Dawn Kincaid, is another prisoner at the GPFW (women's prison). It's a bizarre mother-daughter relationship, and Dawn is in for many killings years earlier. What are these two up to, and do they know more than they're letting on?
Whilst in Georgia visiting Kathleen to try to gather whatever she can, Scarpetta is passed a note to call an old acquaintance, Jaime Berger. To cut a long story short, she meets up with Jaime and also Marino, who works for Scarpetta, and the two seem to be reinvestigating old cases, in particular some odd goings-on at the prison. One is of a low-IQ woman being held on death row for the massacre of the Jordan family years earlier, only they're not convinced all was what it seemed. Another is the bizarre way a death row convict died in the same manner of death she inflicted on her victims shortly before she was due for her final punishment.
Scarpetta quickly realises that Jaime has lied and manipulated her in to coming to Georgia, and informs Scarpetta that she is actually being set up and investigated by the FBI for crimes she's innocent of. She's obviously upset and angry with Jaime, and not on the best of terms with Marino, but with confusion so rife she doesn't know what to think or believe any more.
I won't say much more on the plot except to say that it unfolds slowly, gradually giving way to what could be, as suggested on the book sleeve, a terrorist plot and wrongful convictions. As a gift, the hardback version actually looked really good, with its black and red sleeve that suggested good quality, a highly desired author to want to read and a gritty crime thriller.
Further praise is included on the cover, including : 'Patricia Cornwell is America's most stimulating and chilling writer of crime fiction' - The Times, and 'Cornwell still does it better than anyone else' - Daily Mail. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced these statements were for Red Mist in particular.
This was written in the first person present tense, which I found quite unusual to read but interesting as it gave a more direct view of exactly what Kay was doing and thinking as the protagonist. However, I did think we could have got a more three dimensional view of Kay than was given; I didn't particularly feel myself warm to her that much, didn't get to know much about her habits or lifestyle, about her quirks that would want me to keep reading and learning more about her as a central character, which was disappointing.
The plot was quite unique and interesting, though the biggest niggle I had was how seemingly convoluted it got at points. There were many times I thought that it was going too slowly and was becoming rather repetitive, going back over old ground and not really taking us anywhere new for some time. This should have meant that the web of characters and suggestions over what was happening was clearer, and yet there were still moments I found myself a little confused or struggling to remember what was what.
There were ties between different characters that helped to bring them to life a little, such as between Kay, Jaime and Kay's niece. Other characters became involved as the plot thickened, including Kay's husband and the roles played at the prison. Whilst I liked the inclusion of select characters and the focus on the facts, I didn't think the characters were necessarily as warm or vivid as they could have been, so it wasn't as easy to quickly remember who was who to someone else, or why someone feels a certain way about someone else.
What I did find interesting was the level of detail, even though that was at the expense of action or pace. Cornwell is intricate in her depiction of forensics and pathology, which I enjoyed reading because of how it enabled me to think about the small facets of a crime scene and how pieces of the puzzle eventually come together. It also gave me the feeling that Cornwell knew what she was talking about, so this gave the book, and the characters, a greater sense of authenticity and believability.
I found the ending a little disappointing too, in the sense that it felt a little unfinished and unexplained. When there are a string of murders by a supposedly intelligent killer who planned and schemed, I'd expect some sort of reasoning or explanation, as this wasn't a book focused on action but on intellect and detail. Unfortunately, it seemed to end with little analysis or reason given, which failed to round of the book and provide a sense of conclusion to the plot and characters involved.
Overall, I don't think this was one of Cornwell's better novels. As I've not read any others I can't really make any comparisons, but I don't think her notoriety was a reflection of Red Mist, which seemed to be quite slow and lacked the pull that only the best novels have to truly engross you.
Hardback 498 pages over 35 chapters, RRP £18.99 (selling on Amazon for £5.70)