The Book Of The Dead – Patricia Cornwell

The Book Of The Dead - Patricia CornwellWhy on earth am I reviewing an author so successful, you might ask? I mean Patricia Cornwell has written close on 20-odd books and is a multi-million bestselling author…

I must confess I read quite a few of the Kay Scarpetta novels in the early days. Books like Post Mortem, From Potters Field and The Body Farm were passable without being Booker Prize-winning material.

The Book Of The Dead was sent into our office, so I picked it up on a whim. Having not read one from this ‘series’ for a few years, I wondered how Cornwell’s heroine and associated characters were shaping up.

Well, not very well, as it happens. This novel was one of the most turgid I’ve read in a long time. The plot was almost non-existent and what there was hung together so flimsily that it became more and more difficult to work out what was happening as the book continued.

In fact, the plot seemed almost secondary, just so we could discover what was happening to Scarpetta and her sidekicks, Benton (her fella), Lucy (her niece) and Marino (her long-time cop friend).

There was clearly an attempt here to turn the book into more of a psychological thriller, but that negates exactly what the Scarpetta books were so good at in the first place – pace, tension and intrigue. There’s none of that here.

For me, one of the hallmarks of a great series of books is that no matter how far down the line you are, a reader should be able to pick one up and understand everything without the need for excessive backplot and not feel as if they’ve missed everything. The Book Of The Dead does none of this.

A new reader to the Scarpetta series would feel totally out of their depth and, in my opinion, feel no compunction to check out any of the other books – a major failing.

I wonder if Cornwell is tiring of Scarpetta. As a character she is no longer endearing and I certainly didn’t care what happened to her. It’s not as if Cornwell needs to keep writing – she’s a multi-millionare now – perhaps she should kill Scarpetta off and do us all a big favour.


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