The first three or four Kay Scarpetta novels by Patricia Cornwell were ground-breaking: CSI forensics together with an interesting character with lots of quirks and problems in her life, both private and professional.
But as the series grew more and more popular, and the author’s life got more complicated, so the books seemed to become more perfunctory, written to fulfil contract deadlines.
Characters became ciphers; problems became predictable, and the writing went wrong.
Turgid, cliched, each succeeding book (and there are now 26 in the series) became more and more improbable. The need for serious editing became more and more apparent.
The world appeared out to get Kay; envious superiors, hostile territory-guarders, misogynists, international criminal gangs… all this for a senior medical examiner?
The plot veered into unbelievability at times: an autopsy in space conducted by video, a White House briefing that seemed unlikely, a grieving niece whose IT and AI skills had created an avatar of her dead partner whom she consults about every decision.
But worst of all; the plotting. ‘Deux ex machina’ at its worst.
The main villain not even mentioned as a character, let alone a suspect, until the end.
A major source of jeopardy that runs throughout the book tied up in a sentence that shows it had nothing to do with Scarpetta at all.
A scalpel should have been taken to ‘Autopsy’ at the first draft stage.
And the forensic results? The Kay Scarpetta series needs a mercy killing.
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