THE BOOK OF THE DEAD, by Patricia Cornwell (2007)

The “Book of the Dead” is an old expression which comes from Ancient Egyptian funerary texts. It is the morgue logbook, a sort of ledger in which all cases are entered by hand. After reading this book, however, it will take on a new meaning…

Bestseller Cornwell’s 15th novel depicts a new Kay Scarpetta adventure. In this occasion, the pathologist forensic has just opened a modern lab in the apparently peaceful city of Charleston, offering expert crime scene investigation and autopsies. Soon, she is asked to consult the murder of a famous American tennis champ in Rome. At the same time, she has to deal with other violent deaths, facing a killer as deadly as any she has ever encountered.

Once again, Cornwell presents characters from previous Scarpetta books. For this reason, they are not well drawn, since we are supposed to know them. The main character is Kay Scarpetta, a strong, perfectionist and intelligent woman holding her own in a profession dominated by men. Besides her, we can find her usual colleagues and their tumultuous and tangled relations. They are Benton Wesley, an FBI profiler and former boyfriend; Lucy, her beautiful and brilliant niece and Peter Marino, an excellent detective but tortured because he is secretly in love with Kay.

Besides its rather one-dimensional characters, the story has loads of commonplaces, clichés and awful stereotypes, such as the arrogant and ladies’ man Italian carabiniere Captain Poma. Written in a style immediately accessible to any reader, it delivers Cornwell’s trademark grisly crime scenes, but lacks coherence and emotional feelings. In addition, sometimes the reader flounders in excessive forensic details.

To sum up, this is another whodunit full of twist bestseller, which I recognize its ability to entertain and enthrall, but only for diehard Cornwell fans.

Conchi Olea.

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