Dust, As in Dry As

Dust_coverThe newest Patricia Cornwell-Kay Scarpetta crime novel is better used as a doorst0p–weighing in at a hefty 495 pages–than a novel.  I nearly gave up on it after the first thirty pages, but pressed on because I have enjoyed her forensic-based investigation/police procedural dramas in the past.  The story takes place over the course of one day, when medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, recovering from the flu, is called to investigate a body left on the MIT campus.  Together with her former employee, now police inspector Marino, they engage in solving who this woman is and whether she could be related to a series of murders taking place in Washington DC.  The DC serial murders are being handled by Scarpetta’s crime profiler husband, Benton, who suspects a high-level conspiracy is afoot–one that involves falsifying evidence and crime records.  Sounds promising, but instead of relying on the tried-and-true formula of the past, emphasizing the forensic science, the criminal profiling and police investigation, the majority of this novel is Scarpetta fretting over her relationship with her former parter, her relationship with her difficult yet brilliant niece, and her concern over her husband becoming too involved with getting into the heads of the serial killers.  On top of which, Cornwell alludes to Scarpetta just having come from the atrocity at Newtown, Connecticut, and how it effected her.  I found that aspect of the story distasteful–almost as if she were profiting from the tragedy there by using it so soon and  in a not very well conceived novel.  The story is dull, repetitive, and flush with errors.  The whole book may have been improved with a strong, impartial editing.  Within the context of Russian organized crime, she talked about drugs coming from the Soviet Union.  That sent me scurrying back to check the copy write date. It just felt like a first draft, full of descriptions and ruminations by the main character that did not advance the plot in any way and should have been deleted.  This makes me wonder how robust the editing is on a wildly successful author like Cornwell, or any popular author for that matter.  Does the publisher give her more free rein, knowing that the book will sell just by virtue of Cornwell’s name on the cover?   Besides the thin plot line, there were threads of the story that were never tied up, and the characters were all distasteful and self-absorbed, topped off by a very unsatisfying ending. Well, I believe I’ll pass on any future Cornwell novels, and judging by other Amazon reviews, so are many others.  Cornwell


Filed under Book Review

6 responses to “Dust, As in Dry As

  1. I’m afraid I gave up on Cornwell some years ago – as you point out they became more about Scarpetta and her relations than about the crimes. This one sounds dreadful. And I agree totally about the seeming lack of editing these days – though I think it’s just as bad with newish writers as established ones sometimes. Too much rush to publish?

  2. Chris Sullivan

    Note to self, when I get around to reading crime novels avoid Cornwell. If it doesn’t sound too strange, great to read a negative review. All to often bloggers (not you Fictionfan) run scared of writing negative reviews.

    • Chris, I like your comment because I was becoming so afraid that people would see too many negative reviews from me and think: “Good heavens! Can nothing please that woman?” I’m hoping my next book will earn a glowing review!

      • Chris Sullivan

        I personally believe that negative reviews as worthwhile as positive reviews. Without meaning to sound too grand I believe that we as bloggers have a duty to our readers to make them aware of books to avoid adding to one’s TBR as well as books to be added to one’s TBR. It is possible that the negative review may help readers and bloggers decide where a book should appear on their TBR list. For example, FF reviewed Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’.negatively. For many of her readers it helped them decide whether or not to read it. But, it also appeared to make some decide that they will move it further down their TBR list but didn’t put them off wanting to read it. I will end this post here before it turns into a full blown essay.

  3. Bear

    You touched on many of the reasons I gave up on the Scarpetta series several books ago. My daughter still seems to enjoy them, however.

    • Yes, what you say seems to be a trend I’m hearing. People have fallen away from her series. Thanks for your comment! It’s always valuable to hear from others out there.

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