What I’m reading: Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

Flesh and Blood is the latest book by Patricia Cornwell featuring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta. Kay and her husband, FBI agent and profiler Benton Wesley, are about to leave for a much-needed vacation when a murder happens a half-mile from their house. Things get complicated very quickly; I’m through Chapter 38 (of 48) and they still haven’t made it out of town because the bodies keep piling up.

There is no one who weaves complicated threads of plot together more skillfully than Cornwell. It’s the reason I still read her books. As I’ve been reading, though, I am reminded of why I don’t rush to read these books as soon as they’re released, as I do with other authors. The atmosphere in her books is unrelentingly bleak. No one ever laughs. Two of the main characters, police detective Pete Marino and Kay’s niece Lucy, “genius hacker millionaire sociopath etc.,” have to be two of the most unlikable main characters in any long mystery series. In real life, someone would have shot Marino after he mouthed off to them one too many times, or he would be in jail himself for his anger management issues. Lucy is one of the most improbable characters ever, in what is supposed to be a reality-based world. In real life, she’d be in jail too.

In this book, Kay is beginning to suspect that Lucy is the killer. One can only hope.

My other objection is that none of these characters seem to change or grow. The span of the series covers several years now, and the personalities of all the protagonists are pretty much the same as they’ve always been. No new insights have been gained, in spite of Kay’s continuous self-examination. It’s tiresome.

But if you like a well-written, tight, complex mystery plot, Cornwell is your woman.

If you’re new to the Kay Scarpetta series, I’d recommend beginning with the first book, so you’ll understand how the characters came to be where they are.


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