Wednesday, May 25, 2011

KCR: Post-Mortem, a Kay Scarpetta novel (crime, forensic, detective)

Patricia CornwellImage via Wikipedia
Patricia Cornwell
Post-Mortem is the first Kay Scarpetta novel by Patricia Cornwell, and the author was a former crime reporter that have worked closely with police and medical examiner's office. The case was also based on a real-life case in Richmond Virginia, and the result is a thriller that has you peeling back the layers with plenty of red herrings to keep you distracted and surprised, then a forehead-slap "Why didn't I think of that?"

Premise is simple: Kay Scarpetta, a new Chief Medical Examiner, is trying to catch a serial killer, while manuevering through city politics, personal life, life with her niece, crime reporter, staff, and stay sane amidst death and other things. The serial killer has a signature: he hogties his victims, and adds a rope around the victim's neck, then sodomizes her and tortures her and eventually strangles her. Yet he had left behind very little physical evidence, and the victims have almost nothing in common, except they all live alone. Amidst false leads, barking up the wrong trees (and there were lots of them), the ending is a surprise, even to me.

All the characters are multi-dimensional, and all are flawed in more ways than one. Marino the detective is hard-broiled street-smart, but is a bit too cynical. Kay Scarpetta herself have a bit too much self-doubt and have personal relationship issues, esp. when her sister (her niece's mother) is a total flake, leaving Kay with the kid. The kid's way too smart beyond her years. The reporter, the politicians, and more are all imperfect, and all have proper motivations to do what they did. The premise is solid enough to have this warrant a great read.

The book came out in 1995 and hold up even today as a murder mystery. Some of the SQL server command descriptions are a bit too dry and too simplified, but that's almost tolerable. If you like crime fic, you should read this novel.

Rating: Read it!
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