Ever wonder what it’s like to be a medical examiner? Read any novel in Patricia Cornwell’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta Series, and you’ll quickly find out.
There are currently four main characters in the series, and each one has their own, distinct personality. Dr. Kay Scarpetta is the main character, and she is roughly 55 years old. She has been working as a medical examiner for over 20 years, and always uses the latest forensic technology in her investigations. She is a tough, strong-willed, no nonsense protagonist, and is based on the real-life former Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Marcella Fierro, MD.
Lucy Farinelli is Scarpetta’s 30-something niece who enters the FBI at age 18. She’s a computer genius who also has a knack for firearms, high-speed vehicles, and helicopters (the latter of which she owns two). Farinelli is also a lesbian, a fact that has repeatedly proved problematic throughout the series.
Pete Marino is Scarpetta’s overweight, heavy smoking, borderline alcoholic liaison that was initially a homicide detective working for the Richmond police department when the two met. Marino helped raise Lucy, and in many ways he is a surrogate father to her. He has also had a long-term crush on Scarpetta, and issue that comes to a head in Book of the Dead when she becomes engaged to Benton Wesley.
And last but not least, Benton Wesley is currently Scarpetta’s husband. They meet when Wesley is working as a profiler for the FBI, and at first they are strictly professional. Gradually they begin to have an affair, a move which proves troublesome because Wesley is also married. He decides he wants to be with Scarpetta instead, but then goes missing in Point of Origin.
Patricia Cornwell. She just looks so cool.*
Wesley’s death is staged by the FBI and he was forced into the witness protection program as a result of a case he was working on, and for years, Scarpetta thinks he is dead. Both Farinelli and Marino knew he was alive, but they were sworn to secrecy. Wesley returns in Blow Fly, and he and Scarpetta are later married.
Overall, the novels are great. They are engaging, they are interesting, and they feature aspects of cutting-edge technology that I would otherwise know nothing about. Unfortunately, the latest novel – Port Mortuary – wasn’t my favourite. The entire plot took place in roughly a 24-hour timeline, and I felt that there was far too much information crammed in.
There was also a lot of new technology introduced, which is usually something I like reading about. But because this novel was so fast-paced, I wanted to keep reading until there was a natural break in the text. That break never came, and I found myself skimming through some sections because I became too bogged down with details.
Despite my reservations, I still thoroughly recommend the series. I would start with an earlier book and become familiar with the characters before reading Port Mortuary though, because the characters are the most entertaining part. Cornwell has a knack for effective storytelling, and she’s definitely a master at her craft.
*Image taken from Google.