Bestselling and award-winning Patricia Cornwell probably needs no introduction since her Kate Scarpetta novels are well known and avidly followed. I’ve been one of those avid readers ever since the series began with Postmortem years ago. This series was the first of its kind, a forensic thriller, and has led the way to TV series and other authors jumping into this police procedural/scientific genre. It looks at crime from a completely different angle, yet Flesh And Blood shows that it has kept that sharp intensity we all look for in our thrillers.
Even though there have been twenty two novels in this series, you can literally read any of them as a stand-alone so don’t worry if you haven’t read the others. Of course if you like this kind of thriller, I suspect you’ll then find yourself scrambling to read the rest from the very beginning because Kate is one of those characters who gets under your skin and just won’t let go. And we’ve got a copy of Flesh and Blood for a giveaway, so one of you will win this latest Kate Scarpetta novel!
A Little Background: Kay Scarpetta began this series as the Richmond, VA medical examiner. She’s now the head of CFC, the Cambridge Forensic Center, in Massachusetts. Her computer genius niece, Lucy, has been working closely with her since leaving the FBI. If it can be hacked, Lucy can hack it so, among other things, she’s put her hacking skills to use making CFC’s computer system the most secure available. Two other people who figure prominently in these novels are Benton, Kay’s FBI psychological profiler husband, and Police Detective Pete Morino, who she began working with in Richmond and who is now a homicide detective with the Cambridge Police Department.
Kay and Benton have been looking forward to a vacation for a long time. Their bags are finally packed and they are escaping to Miami for Kay’s birthday, to a luxurious South Beach condo Benton insists is just what Kay needs to relax and get away from the stresses of her job. Her staff have CFC’s schedule covered so, since their bags are sitting near the door, it looks like it might actually happen for once.
While sipping her morning coffee on the patio behind their home, Kay sees a metallic glint on the top of the rear garden wall. When she strolls over to see what it is, she finds seven shiny pennies lined up on top of the wall, all dated 1981. And they look brand new, as if they’ve been polished. How peculiar, she thinks. Those pennies make her think of a bizarre poem she received from someone whose Twitter tag was Copperhead. As she’s pondering this oddity and trying to explain it away, Lucy does a low altitude Happy Birthday flyover in her new helicopter and completely distracts her.
Smiling, Kay’s thoughts turn to her imminent vacation but not for long because Pete Morino and Bryce Clark, her assistant, are about to ruin her day. It seems a local music teacher was gunned down outside of his home while unpacking groceries from his car, and it looks like a professional hit. But this isn’t just any music teacher; it’s someone Kay had a run-in with – Jamal Nari.
“’Remember the high school music teacher who made the big stink about being persecuted by the government and ended up having a beer and barbeque with Obama?’ Bryce says right off and now I understand. ‘A real jerk to you, remember? Dissed you right in front of the president. Basically calling you a body snatcher and a Nazi who sells skin, bones, eyes, livers, lungs to the highest bidder.
Jamal Nari. My mood gets worse.
‘Did I mention a shit storm?’ Bryce says. ‘It’s already all over the news. Don’t ask me why they released his identity instantly. Waited what? An hour? Maybe ask Morino that?’…’Oh yeah! And happy birthday, Doctor Scarpetta! I was going to sing it to you. But maybe later’s better…?”
As Kay looks at the scene and discusses it with Morino, she begins to realize this may not be an isolated hit. She’s concerned about how it could have been leaked on Twitter even before the hit occurred. And she can’t stop thinking about those pennies on her wall and the poem she got from Copperhead on Twitter. Could those seven pennies mean seven hits? Why put them on her wall? She’s got a very bad feeling about all of this.
“’I’ve already got a few emailed pictures,’ Morino explains, ‘Like I said, it reminds me of the lady killed in New Jersey two months ago, the one whose mother I was in high school with. Shot while she was waiting for the Edgewater Ferry, people everywhere and no one heard or saw a damn thing. Once in the back of the neck, once in the mouth.’
I remember hearing about the case and the original suspicion that it was a murder for hire, possibly domestic related.
‘In December it was the guy getting out of his car at his restaurant in Morristown,’ Morino continues as my mind jumps to the peculiar poem again.
It was tweeted from a hotel in Morristown. Copperhead. My attention wanders back to the seven pennies on the wall.”
Whoever this killer is, he’s an expert sniper and a master at cleanup because everything is wiped clean. Even the bullets have been tumbled like jewelry, just like the pennies were. And all of the bullets are just fragments, except one that she and Morino both believe was given a lighter load on purpose so it could be found. It contains the only clue, a “3” on the bottom that has been rubbed out but has left enough of an impression in the metal that it shows up under a particular kind of examination – as if the killer didn’t want to make it too easy to find. That clue gives added weight to the theory that this could be the same sniper who struck in the two New Jersey cases even though no pattern can be found among the three victims.
What Kay hasn’t really comprehended yet is that this case is very, very personal – although she gets her first clue when the infallible system Lucy created gets hacked. And it almost looks like the killer is trying to implicate Lucy, which is a huge mistake because no one messes with Kay Scarpetta’s family – no one.
Kay Scarpetta is one of those fascinating characters who I wouldn’t be surprised to see walk through the door, completely and fully alive. She is fully created on the page, warts and all. She’d make an amazing friend and one hell of an adversary. Yep, I admit it – I’ve got a bit of a girl crush on the good doctor. Morino and Benton both make a good balance for Kay, who’s a bit reserved. Morino is passionate and quick to anger while Benton is her equal intellectually and adept at getting her to loosen up a bit. Both provide perspective and have no problem telling her when she’s full of crap. Both men are also very protective of her but not in an intrusive way. Lucy seems at times a mysterious puzzle yet Lucy is also very intriguing, and a character I’ve liked from the beginning.
What can I say? Patricia Cornwell is a master storyteller and she’s done it again with Flesh and Blood. You can also see from the video above that she does extensive research for all of her novels, and the evidence of that really shines on the page. Her thrillers are part police procedural but always forensic – and they don’t lose one tiny bit of the seat-of-the-pants thriller experience we all look for in a good thriller. The pages fly by and these are not novels I can walk away from once I start them, because who knows what might happen if I put the book down? Novels like this one make being a bookaholic so worth it! Can you tell that I highly recommend Flesh and Blood? And you might win a copy! Whoot!
Can’t wait to read it?
Flesh and Blood was published on November 11, 2014 so it’s available from your favorite online bookseller below or in the right column for iBooks. Just click the button/link and go get it to read now!
I’d love to get your comments on Flesh and Blood, Patricia Cornwell or her other work, and/or this review.
Click here to read our review of The Scarpetta Factor.
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One lucky reader will win an ARC (advance readers copy) of Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell!
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 12/6/2014, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
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