Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2 in 1 Book Review: Postmortem and Body Of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell

Okay, I'm cheating a little bit with this one. I read 2 books this weekend, back to back. In my mind, they have now melded into one reaaally long book. Which is sort of true, given that they were in an omnibus form with the first 3 of Patricia Cornwell's novels all stuck in the same book. I am slowly working my way through the third book in this set, so I should probably just include that one here too, for the sake of continuity. Or something.

Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell

This book won every award that a debut mystery novel can possibly win: the Macavity, the Edgar, the Anthony and a few others I don't care to list, and I can see why. This book was good. And I mean that as a compliment. I don't like Patricia Cornwell's writing usually. But I can definitely see why so many people have stuck with her. The first book was an unusually good effort. It had a lot of drive, a lot of passion that first novels often lack, especially when they are the forerunner in a bestselling series (which isn't the best choice of words, set might be a better classification for the Scarpetta novels, but that's another essay entirely).

We don't get a lot of background information on the characters at the beginning. They reveal themselves to us through the story being told. Kay Scarpetta is a no-nonsense, take-no-shit professional woman that definitely appeals to many women readers. She is the woman we want to be when we grow up and possibly the kind of woman we want to have as a friend, except that she intimidates the hell out of us. She is smarter than us and she knows it. She is also incredibly good at her job, which is why we love her but this is also part of what gets her in trouble. And what good mystery novel would be complete without a little bit of trouble?

Scarpetta gets into her fair share of trouble, of course. There is also a bit of a love story thrown in for good measure. The men in the novel are not oafish and are actually pretty good at their jobs as well. The science is detailed enough to be interesting but not overly technical. Cornwell definitely struck gold with this novel and continues to do so with every new publication.

Body Of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell

This is the second of the Kay Scarpetta novels by Patricia Cornwell. It wasn't nearly as good as the first, in my opinion, but my opinion doesn't really count for much now, does it?

This book followed the same formula set forth by Postmortem. Initial death, investigation, twists in investigation, cops do something stupid and/or important political person is involved/implicated, Scarpetta gets in trouble, investigation solved and/or murderer killed. It's fairly simple. Where Cornwell starts to lose me is when she brings in minor tertiary characters and gives them the spotlight for entirely too long. The killer is someone who knew someone a few decades ago when they had a brief encounter in a hospital. Things like that. No one is really going to remember every detail of a conversation they had 20 years ago, and using that as evidence that this one person is the killer just annoys me. But I guess this is how life works for crazy psychopathic murderers. I wouldn't know honestly, but my point is still valid. Cornwell has started writing a story that interests me and about halfway through it feels like she has forgotten the original point of her story and started a new one that SHE finds much more interesting. (This is a problem I have with later novels she has written. She tends to weave around a bit too much for my liking. I want a story to start at point A, traverse to point B and with a few twists thrown in for good mystery-novel-measure, and ends at a logical point C. I know I am boring, but Cornwell tends to start at point A, weave around to a point B (somewhat logically at first) and then dive bomb herself towards point Q because, well, why not. And that's what kills me: the complete deviation towards anything that was hinted at in the beginning of the story.)

But I am not an author. I haven't published books that sell millions upon millions of copies. I mean, she is doing SOMETHING right, but ugh. I just... I don't.. I can't help but feel that her reasoning is flawed in lots of the novels main points. It's not my novel though and plenty of people enjoy her writing. More power to them. As long as people continue to read, I'll be happy. People need to read more. I need to read more, but I need to read a better QUALITY of book. Something I'm working on.

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