Published by Harper Collins on 2014-11-06
Genres: Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective, Suspense, Thrillers
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No.1 bestselling author Patricia Cornwell delivers the next enthralling thriller in her high-stakes series starring Kay Scarpetta—a complex tale involving a serial sniper who strikes chillingly close to the forensic sleuth herself. It’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s birthday and she’s about to head to Miami for a vacation with her FBI profiler husband Benton Wesley when she notices seven pennies on a wall behind their Cambridge house. Is this a kids’ game? If so, why are all of the coins dated 1981 and so shiny it’s as if they’re newly minted? Her cellphone rings, and Detective Pete Marino tells her there’s been a homicide five minutes away. A high school music teacher has been shot with shocking precision as he unloaded groceries from his car. No one heard or saw a thing. It’s as if God did it. In this 22nd Scarpetta novel, the master forensic sleuth finds herself in the middle of a nightmarish pursuit of a serial sniper who seems to leave no evidence except fragments of copper. The shots are so perfect, they cause instant death and seem impossible, and the death scenes aren’t crime scenes because the killer was never within hundreds of yards of the targets. The victims seem to have nothing in common, and there is no pattern that might indicate where the Copperhead will strike next. First New Jersey, then Massachusetts, and then into the murky depths off the coast of South Florida, where Scarpetta dives a shipwreck, looking for answers that only she can discover and analyze. There she must face an unthinkable truth that points in the direction of her techno genius niece, Lucy, Scarpetta’s own flesh and blood.
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
BIG confession time. I haven’t read a Patricia Cornwell novel in almost twenty years – in fact I think she was still utilising the ‘D’ in her name the last time I went on an adventure with her heroine Dr Kay Scarpetta. I’m not sure why I stopped to be honest. I think it was partly to do with her other series based on Andy Brazil (didn’t like those) and as a new mum at the time, thrillers just weren’t my thing – Cornwell’s great ability for realism didn’t sit well with night feeds and parental paranoia. I can now confirm though, that I am seriously peeved with myself for not going back to them sooner, as ‘Flesh and Blood‘ the 22nd novel in the Kay Scarpetta series, is an absolute corker!
We join Scarpetta as she is wrapped up in idyllic homely bliss with her top FBI hubby Benton as they put together the final touches for her birthday vacation in Florida. All that soon goes awry as news comes in of the murder of a man Scarpetta has had dealings with before, at the same time as she discovers seven shiny coins, all baring the same date, lined up on her garden wall. Someone has sent Kay a message – an ominous one, and it’s down to her, Benton, her hot-shot niece Lucy, and the rest of her team and colleagues to work out what connects this (and other) murders to the mysterious ‘Copperhead’.
‘To say the pace of ‘Flesh and Blood‘ is frantic would be an understatement; the first two thirds of the novel take place on one single day as Scarpetta travels around Cambridge, Massachusetts, chasing clues and dealing with various departments. Thankfully, due to modern technology, the latest info is never far away as Scarpetta seems to be constantly on her smartphone. In fact, I may have to check back on those first novels to see how she managed with just a land-line and a fax machine! Joking aside, some of the tech-speak does overwhelm the narrative at times, especially towards the end as the story starts to come to it’s conclusion and you just want Scarpetta to start putting the inevitable 2+2 together, but it’s a forgiveable trait and just highlights Cornwell’s attention to detail.
Due to my hiatus, some of the characterisation took time to jell with me, particularly those of officers Marino and Machado, former best buddies who were now at war with each other. Although an understandable sub-plot, I was rather pleased when it was resolved half-way through and Marino was allowed to come to the fore as Scarpetta’s polar opposite. I’d also never come across Lucy, Kay’s genius hacker, helicopter-flying, Ferrari owning niece, but her personality is such a strong one that any history is sub-sequential, and if anything, it’s encouraged me to seek out the book she’s introduced in and to follow her arc.
‘Flesh and Blood‘ is a fantastic thriller, that’s full of Cornwell’s best traits, from genuine affection for her characters, to utilising current events to drive a point home, while managing not to be at all preachy or worthy. Word of warning though, when you finish, you will probably shout a bit, throw the book (but not your e reader – that’s never wise) and come out with a few choice words. And then wait (im)patiently for book twenty-three.