Simon's Bookcase

Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe


Postmortem: Patricia Cornwell, September 26—October 1, 2016

My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊

postmortemSo here we have it: a murder mystery with no suspects! Or none to speak of at least. Meet Dr Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner, who looks solely at forensic evidence and a bit of psychology, to help the police.

It’s a daring move to stand out in a busy genre, and it pays off. Normally the work of Scarpetta’s department is relegated to (obtusely delayed, grudgingly provided and caveat-ridden) causes and times of death. But not for Scarpetta. Her work is integral to the investigation.

in Cornwell’s first, award-winning, entry in the Scarpetta series, she explores a number of themes very contemporary to the 1990s audience who received it. First, the digitisation of the workplace. Security issues surrounding the advent of computer systems in police and forensic work becomes a key theme. With a rapidly changing world ahead, it’s an almost archaic system of paper reams and floppy discs that some modern readers may not remember. Happily, some of the emergent issues wouldn’t occur today,  that in that time and place, and for that staff doing the implementing, it was real. DNA matching is also primitive, and it’ll be fascinating to watch technology develop over the series.

Scarpetta is also unapologetically feminist. In a male industry she’s faced adversity to get to where she is and still feels it. This could get quickly dull. It’s a rhetoric wit’s a truth will not necessarily provide the narrative oomph it needs to be engaging. And in 2016, it’s oft-heard, justified or not.

The new perspective  is fascinating, and there’s layers of politics and family drama which make Scarpetta’s a rounded character. The case itself – a strangling sadist who kills women in their beds – has no leads and is entirely reliant on Scarpetta’s work. With suspects sparse and the remit of the police, and the victims naturally dead, it’s her interactions with the staff that take centre stage.

This new series launches with plenty of promise: a brilliant first story that upcoming technological advances and a concentration on a core cast, anchored by a strong and likeable lead, will carry on to be a fantastic collection.


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This entry was posted on October 1, 2016 by in 4 star, Kay Scarpetta and tagged .

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@Queen_UK Adolf Hitler agatha christie Alan Clements Alastair Campbell Aldous Huxley Aleksandr Orlov Alex Shaffer Andrew Neiderman Anthony Burgess Arthur Miller Bateman Ben Brooks Ben Elton Bram Stoker Bret Easton Ellis C.J. Cherryh Carolyn Jess-Cooke Charles Dickens Chuck Palahniuk Dan Brown Dante Alighieri dashiell hammett david baldacci David Brin David Glattauer David Kirkpatrick David Line David Tennant David Wolstencroft Dylan Jones E.L. James Edgar Allen Poe Emilia Fox Eoin Colfer Erica Spindler Frank Peretti Gabrielle Lord Gareth Roberts Geoff Ryman George Orwell George R. R. Martin George W. Bush Gillian Flynn Gillian Slovo Graham Greene Guy Piran Harper Lee Harriet Lane Herman Koch Ian Rankin J.K. Rowling Jack Thorne Jacqueline Rayner James Herbert James Patterson Jasper Fforde Jeff Green Jeff Kinney Jeffrey Archer Jem Lester Jenny Robson Jeremy Clarkson Jerry B. Jenkins Jim Thompson John Crowther John Green John Grisham John Tiffany John Verdon Jonas Jonasson Judith Kerr Juliana Foster Justin Richards Kaci Hill Karen Levine Keeley Bolger Louis Walsh malorie blackman Marissa Meyer Mark Haddon Mark Z. Danielewski Martin Sixsmith Mary Higgins Clark Mary McNamara Matt Haig Matthew Ravden Michael Berry Michael Connelly Michael Morpurgo Michael Quirke Miguel de Cervantes Mike Lancaster Morris Gleitzman Morton Rhue Neil Sinclair Nick Hornby Nick Page Patricia Cornwell Patricia Stotley Patrick Ness Paula Hawkins Paul Johnston Peter James Phil Allcock R.J. Palacio Rachelle Dekker Raymond Chandler Richard Bachman Robert Louis Stevenson Robert Ludlum Robin Cook Robin Kirkpatrick sandra brown Sebastian Beaumont Sharon Osbourne Stella Rimmington Stephen Cole Stephen King Steve Lookner Steve Lyons Stuart MacBride Sue Townsend Suzanne Collins ted dekker Terry Pratchett Tim LaHaye Tim Randall Todd Strasser Tom Avery Tom Bower Tom Cain Tom Hoyle tony blair William Golding William P. Young William Shakespeare