Tag Archives: patricia cornwell

Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell – a review

I am a huge fan of Patricia Cornwell so I was very excited to be accepted to get a proof copy of her latest Kay Scarpetta novel, Autopsy.

Autopsy picks up the story a few years after ‘Chaos’ in a world changed by a global pandemic. Kay and husband Benton have returned to Virginia to take over the medical examiners office. Following alongside are trusty sidekick Marino who is currently married to Kay’s sister, and her niece Lucy who is struggling to cope with the loss of her wife and child. When Kay arrives in Virginia she is thrown into the deep end when a murder victim turns up on the train tracks, and all the clues lead back to Marino’s community. Alongside this investigation, Kay has to contend with a top secret visit to the White House to investigate a crime in outer space.

I love a Kay Scarpetta novel and this was no exception. I must admit that some of the past novels in the series have been getting a bit technical for me, with too many long descriptions of weapons and cyber stuff, but this felt like a real return to form. It had all the hallmarks of a classic Patricia Cornwell with great characters, helicopters, lots of guns and a gripping story full of red herrings and corrupt officials.

This is one of the few series of books that I have read from the start more than once and it felt like a return to an old friend. I love the main characters, especially the interactions between Kay and Marino and it was good to see them working together again. The storylines were good. The space station crime has some fascinating insights into life within a shuttle, alongside a tricky case a bit closer to home. If I have one slight issue it’s that the ending felt a little rushed. Reading on a kindle meant I wasn’t aware of how close to the end I was, so it all came as a surprise how quickly everything finished. However that was only a very small complaint. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and it was a welcome return to what Scarpetta does best – solving murders.

My bookshelf

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Christmas is Murder

Christmas is coming and I’m pleased to say that I have just completed all my Christmas shopping without even leaving the house! Absolutely the best and most worthwhile use of the internet in my opinion is the world of online shopping. No crowds, no rain and no carrying heavy bags on the bus. It is also the one time that being surrounded by the Hilda’s is actually useful as all deliveries go via them. Having recently been down to London and experienced the crowds at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, any chance to not have to fight through the shops is good with me! Winter Wonderland

Christmas is all about tradition and merriment apparently. The traditional drinking of alcohol from 11am, the traditional arguments over the turkey, the traditional lighting of the Christmas pudding, the traditional receiving of the Patricia Cornwell novel (that this year can’t be topped, as last year it was a gift to myself when I saw her in Harrogate so came complete with signature)

This year I have started a new tradition of my own. Thanks again to the wanders of the internet, I have bought a Christmas Tree. I’ve never had a real one before so am quite excited (although I’m sure I’ll soon get sick of needles in the carpet!) I would like to point out however to anyone who may be confused that it is a tree and not a shrub. In fact the Oxford English Dictionary definition of a tree is ‘woody perennial plant, typically having a single stem or trunk…bearing lateral branches’Christmas tree

So behold my Christmas Tree, and remember size isn’t important!

The other very good Christmas tradition is two weeks off work. This of course also gives me a reason to justify buying lots of books to read during the break. Having them delivered straight to the kindle even means I don’t have to interact with the Hildas! The latest book I’ve bought came from an exhibition I saw in London, Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men. The book is by Sarah Wise and called ‘The Italian Boy’. Apparently it reads like a ‘whodunnit’ but is a true story. The book tells the story of the notorious London Burkers who supplied corpses to medical schools in the 1800s which sounds fascinating.Best sign ever

My visit to the Museum of London also provided me with a chance to see what has to be the best christmas sign I’ve seen hung on the door of a Victorian Shop front. I wander if I can get one of these on the internet?


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A judgement in stone

 This weekend I was asked by a friend to recommend what I thought was the best ever crime book. She has recently got back into crime fiction via way of Lisa Gardner and was asking what to read next. This is quite possibly one of the hardest questions I’ve ever contemplated (after do you want toffee or chocolate ice cream – always both!)

Even just asking for who I think is the best ever author would be tricky. Patricia Cornwell is definitely one of my favourites; however I would say that to do her justice you really should start with her first ever book to truly enjoy them. I’ve read her whole series a couple of times so know them pretty well. I think some of her books are good as stand alone stories but in my opinion the relationships between Scarpetta, Benson, Marina and Lucy are an integral part and one of the things that make them so popular.

 Mark Billingham would definitely be in my top 5 authors. ‘Scaredy Cat’ was the first of his I read (his second Tom Thorne novel) and it was gripping. The writing was violent and gruesome, but the blood and guts were not gratuitous. A Lisa Gardner novel started this whole debate, and all her books are excellent. ‘Love you more’ was the last of hers I read, and there is a copy of ‘Catch Me’ sat in my pile which i’m dying to read (although as she is unfortunately not at this year’s festival it is  just going to have to wait!)

One of the great things about this challenge has been that I’ve added a lot of new authors to my repertoire. John Connolly is definitely going into my top author list having just finished ‘The Burning Soul’ and I’m looking forward to tackling his back catalogue.

It might be easier to suggest the top male and top female writer, but then I love Tania Carver, a husband and wife duo who’s novel a ‘Cage of Bones’ is quite chilling, so where would they fit? Nicci French is another great  male and female writing duo so maybe I’d need three categories but how can I narrow them down?

Looking thorough my notebook at the list of books I’ve read, I score them all out of five. One of the highest scores is for ‘Dark Places’ by Gillian Flynn so maybe that needs to go down as one of the best. But then the score is only on a par with all those already mentioned and Peter James. He is also high scoring, with his novels based around Brighton which have some completely unpredictable twists which are very exciting.

 I think trying to suggest a favourite book, is a completely impossible task. Its like trying to pick my favourite band, or favourite ice cream flavour there are just too many to limit myself to one. It totally depends on what mood I’m in, and also what I last had/read. Often the latest book I’ve read is my favourite, until the next one anyway. Having been upstairs to look at my bookshelves there are too many ‘favourite’ authors I haven’t mentioned. So far I’ve just been looking at authors who’ve written books in the last couple of years, don’t even get me started on the likes of Agatha Christie, and of course I’ve not mentioned PD James, or Ruth Rendall.

It’s just not possible. Maybe I could do a top 20 books, but even then I don’t think I could narrow it down. There are so many great books I’ve read, and so many more I want to read that just thinking about it makes my head want to explode. So what about other people, if you had to recommend the ‘best ever’ crime novel for my friend  to read next what would you suggest?


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A bad day for pretty

Today is International Women’s Day, which apparently started as far back as 1908 when 15 000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights and better pay, although it was first celebrated in Europe in 1911.  In this country women demonstrated in the streets, went on hunger strikes, threw themselves under horses all to fight for equality with men. A century later and Women now have the vote, can drive a car and finally I’m sure Emmeline Pankhurst would be incredibly pleased to know we also now have pink lego!

This was something that had passed me by until this weekend. As a teacher and a mother of two young girls my friend is a bit more au fait with current child trends than me. So for the past 50 years or so, girls have not played with lego because it wasn’t pink. Really? Are we really all so utterly brainwashed by stereotypes that we can only buy lego for a girl if it’s pink? It’s the demise of the last non-gender specific toy in the world. (According to my friend who was rightly very annoyed by this)

Apparently the world has come full circle, and we’ve skipped right past the equality that women were aiming for, and gone straight into everything for girls being pink and fluffy. Take dressing up outfits for example, girls get princesses or fairies, boys get superheroes and doctors. I would much rather be a superhero flying out to save the world, than a princess stuck in some castle bored stupid.  The same issues can be seen in the world of literature, as it seems people believe women will only read books if they are pink, fluffy and branded as ‘chicklit’, whereas boys read everything not just ‘cocklit’ (Short for Cockerel thank you).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a lot of so called ‘chicklit’ over the years, some good some bad, mostly following the same premise – boy meets girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy is bad to girl, girl moans to gay best friend, quiet nerd next door befriends girl, girl realises she has been in love with nerd from the start. Some of these are funny, and very cleverly written, and I’ve enjoyed reading them, but just like I didn’t need my lego to be pink, I don’t need a book to have a nice fluffy cover in order for me to pick it up.  

Personally I would say modern day crime fiction has managed to bypass this pink stereotyping and is read by both males and females. Somehow I can’t imagine the likes of Patricia Cornwell writing ‘Last Cupcake of Death’ with a pink cover and glitter all over it (not to be confused with her Scarpetta Cookbook, the only Patricia Cornwell book I haven’t got a copy of, not sure its one for a vegetarian)

At last years Festival the sessions we went to seemed to have quite an even split between male and female attendees and looking at the programme for 2012 there isn’t a huge bias one way or the other when it comes to authors. Of course there are probably statistics that disprove me, however ignoring the ‘fireside crime novels’ of the likes of Agatha Christie, or M.C Beaton I don’t think people choose their crime fiction based on whether its got a male or female protagonist, or if its written by a man or a woman. Some excellent novels are written by both males and females together, such as Nikki French for example, and there are even serial killers who are females killing just for pleasure not for a man.

Mind you saying that, I picked up the Chelsea Cain novels purely because they had a female serial killer at the centre, plus one of her novels had a heart on the front (albeit one drawn in blood) so maybe us women really are swayed by pink and hearts…

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