Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s birthday has arrived, and along with it the day she heads off with her husband for a much deserved vacation. However, before they leave, Kay notices seven pennies on the wall behind their home. Something innocent enough in and of itself if not for the fact that they are all dated 1981 and yet look newly issued. Then her cell phone rings and Detective Pete Marino informs her of a homicide five minutes away. A high school music teacher has been shot while unloading groceries from his vehicle, but no one has heard or seen anything.
The case only takes one unnerving turn after another when Kay discovers that the victim is someone from her past. When it becomes evident that the murder is the handiwork of a serial sniper who leaves nothing behind except pieces of copper, Scarpetta must follow the leads across state lines from New Jersey, to Massachusetts, and even the Florida coast. Along the way, Scarpetta discovers startling evidence that incriminates her own niece, Lucy.
Patricia Cornwell’s Flesh and Blood left me with conflicted feelings. The novel offers an edge-of-the-seat read from beginning to end that kept me hooked. However, for someone who’s big on right and wrong and justice, Kay Scarpetta’s own moral compass is pretty skewed. The woman had an opinion about everyone’s actions — the sleazy insurance investigator, the not-so-innocent victim, the serial sniper, even about the disgruntled Detective Marino — while seeming to forget that she had her own issues. Among other things, Scarpetta is married to a guy with whom she started an affair while he was still married to another woman. Kay often crossed the line between self-confidence and arrogance.
Also, for being a medical examiner, she barely set foot in the lab, spending almost the entirety of her time out and about hunting for clues, playing more the part of a detective. I would have preferred watching Scarpetta do her job, which is what sets apart this series from other crime stories and the main reason I picked it up in the first place.
Putting all this aside, the mystery itself proved fascinating to follow and kept me flipping pages as I attempted to solve the case alongside the protagonist. If one can ignore the fact that Benton Wesley (Kay’s FBI husband) is the kind of man who would cheat on his wife, he actually comes across as more likeable than Scarpetta. He also seemed more level headed than the rest of the characters, most of whom lead with their emotions.
The ending came like a jolt. After a steady, nail-biting build up, the conclusion came with a whiplashing halt that leaves the reader wondering if several chapters are missing. It’s only redemption comes in the form of a shocking cliffhanger, that despite everything has left me eagerly awaiting the next installment.
Flesh and Blood is the 22nd novel featuring the forensic examiner. However, it easily stands alone. Though I had never read a Scarpetta book prior to this one and despite several recurring characters showing up, I had no problem following the story line.
Review copy provided by publisher. Thanks!
**Originally posted on Life is Story.