Friday, 13 June 2014

Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell

Spoilers Below. Also, trigger warning for discussions of sexual assault.

 This is my first Patricia Cornwell, starting 16 books into the series, which is probably not optimal. Earlier books may be better. I may try them some day. I may not.

I did, however, come in with a bad attitude towards the author and her knowledge of how detective work might work, given her ludicrous TV special on Jack the Ripper, in which she based her conclusions on two pieces of "evidence" (both DNA evidence and handwriting analysis failed to turn up anything):

1) That the artist she thought was the serial killer had used the same kind of commercially available stationery as the person who sent the Jack the Ripper letters to the newspapers (which the police never thought were written by Jack the Ripper anyway)

and

2) She didn't like his paintings.

I'm not kidding. So my views of what she thought was good evidence were extremely dim. However, the biggest issue with this book is that it's far too obvious. Pretty much the first time she introduced one character, I knew they were the killer. To be more obvious, Cornwell would pretty much have to have had "perpetrator" tattooed on their forehead. I also guessed by the halfway point who was behind the gossip column.

I never guess whodunit, so trust me, this was very painfully obvious.

Being able to guess who the killer is is not necessarily the death knell for a book, as long as there is still enough there to keep the reader engaged. In this case? There were a few interesting things, but no, not really. So a mystery, it was a bust.

This next section is about sexual assault, which was very troubling.  I take it an assault occurred in the previous book, when Scarpetta's partner attacked her. In the whole book, much more of the concern was for him than for her, and every time she took the blame on herself for the attack, in the present, or in flashbacks, no one contradicted her. Everyone insisted it hadn't been an actual crime, since it wasn't an actual rape.

Wrong. And just once I wanted someone to grab Scarpetta, who as a character is a bit of a opaque cloud devoid of quirks or personality traits, and tell her "You know what? Doesn't matter if you weren't assertive enough in every situation. The punishment for that should not be attempted rape!"

And her boyfriend's reaction being to protect the assailant's career and avoid the issue? Blech.


Also frustrating was the book's confusing conflation of consequences and vengeance. If you weren't the serial killer and thus irredeemably evil, having any consequences happen was seen as being vindictive. I'm sorry, Scarpetta. Reporting the psychiatrist who leaked confidential information about your attempted rape to the medical college is not vindictive, it's actually an obligation. It is a requirement, if regulations in the U.S. are anything like they are here, for a doctor to to report such huge lapses in professionalism in a fellow doctor.

If someone tells me the earlier ones are better, I may try them. If not, this is where I get off the Patricia Cornwell train, for good, after only one book.

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