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Reviews of books in a series, with a focus on urban fantasy.
Other genres include mystery, paranormal romance, and crime thrillers.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Scarpetta Collection Volume I: Postmortem and Body of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell

I'm new to Kay Scarpetta, and I'm starting at the beginning with book one. Kay Scarpetta is the Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Virginia. She's done medical school and law school, and she's one smart cookie. We are told she also works at an area teaching hospital as an instructor, but we don't see her in action in that regard. This "collection" has the first and second books of the series, and I'll review them as two different books.

Postmortem is the first book in the series, and the book begins by Dr. Scarpetta being called out in the middle of the night when a body is found. This is a serial killer, and the detective in charge has been told to call her personally for these murders. He doesn't seem to be too happy about that, and she seems to think it's because she's a woman. I'm not so sure about that, I think everyone has to prove themselves to this particular detective.

Here is the blurb for Postmortem:

A serial killer is on the loose in Richmond, Virginia. Three women have died, brutalized and strangled in their own bedrooms. There is little pattern: the killer appears to strike at random -- but always early on Saturday mornings.

When Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta is awakened at 2:33 A.M., she knows the news is bad: there is a fourth victim, and she fears now for those who may follow unless she finds the forensic evidence that can break the case.

But not everyone wants her help. Not everyone is pleased to see a woman in this powerful job. Someone may even want to ruin her career and reputation before she can find the killer.

It appears this book was published in 1990, and I think men are more used to women working in these kinds of jobs now. We're not to the point of total equality yet, but I think things are better now than they are described in Postmortem. Or, maybe not. Perhaps it depends on the area, on the attitudes of the upper ranks, or on something else entirely.

The plot is well done, the procedural descriptions are interesting, and the writing is engaging. There were a few pacing issues, but nothing major. I'll give it a 9 of 10.

Body of Evidence
is the second book in the series, and it had a lot more pacing issues. Honestly, if it had been 100 pages shorter it would have been a much better book. It was a good book, I'm not saying it was bad, I'm just saying there were pacing issues.

In the second book we learn more about Kay as a person. The first book introduced us to her in her professional life, but I didn't feel I knew her personally. I'm still not sure I know her all that well personally, but more so than before.

Once again, the procedural things are very interesting, the plot is well done, the dialogue is good, and the prose does a great job of drawing pictures in your mind, evoking some intense feelings, and even bringing smells to life.

Here's the blurb for Body of Evidence:

A reclusive writer is dead, and her final manuscript has disappeared...

Someone is stalking Beryl Madison. Someone who spies on her and makes threatening, obscene phone calls. Terrified, Beryl flees to Key West -- but eventually she must return to her Richmond home. The very night she arrives, Beryl inexplicably invites her killer inside.

Thus begins for Dr. Kay Scarpetta the investigation of a crime that is as convoluted as it is bizarre. Why would Beryl open the door to someone who would brutally slash and then neatly decapitate her? Did she know her killer? Adding to the intrigue is Beryl's enigmatic relationship with a prizewinning author and the disappearance of her own manuscript.

As Scarpetta retraces Beryl's footsteps, an investigation that begins in the laboratory with microscopes and lasers leads her deep into a nightmare that soon becomes her own.

I like Dr. Kay Scarpetta. She thinks things through, she is smart, and she doesn't back down.

Book Rating: Postmortem: 9 of 10
Book Rating: Body of Evidence: 9 of 10
Series Rating: Kay Scarpetta: 9 of 10

I am interested in seeing if this series turns into a bunch of stand alone books, or if there will be personal issues that span multiple books. If we see a lot of stand alone books I don't know that I will read all 17 books. I have "Volume II", which includes books three and four of the series, so I'll read those two books before making up my mind as to whether I'll pick up more of this series or not.

1. and 2. The Scarpetta Collection Volume I: Postmortem and Body of Evidence
3. and 4. Scarpetta Collection Volume II: All That Remains and Cruel & Unusual
5. The Body Farm
6. From Potter's Field
7. Cause of Death
8. Unnatural Exposure
9. Point of Origin
10.Black Notice
11.The Last Precinct
12.Blow Fly
15.Book of the Dead
17.The Scarpetta Factor

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