Chaos by Patricia Cornwell | Slow-moving Scarpetta investigation

Chaos opens on a hot summer evening in Cambridge, Massachusetts with Dr. Kay Scarpetta on her way to meet her husband FBI agent Benton Wesley for dinner. Before they get a chance to eat, however, Scarpetta and her investigative partner Pete Marino have to respond to a call about a young woman cyclist who has been attacked. 

But even before they are officially notified about the case, Marino and Benton receive suspicious calls, allegedly from someone at Interpol who already knows what has happened. Then it emerges that the attack may be linked to threatening messages Scarpetta has been receiving by email.

This is a slow moving novel, particularly in the early chapters. It picks up after a while but, for me at least, it’s not one of the better novels in the Scarpetta series.

Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell | A tense forensic thriller

If you’re a fan, you’ll be familiar with Dr Kay Scarpetta, the forensic medical examiner introduced by Patricia Cornwell in her novel, Postmortem in 1980. Since then, more than 20 of Cornwell’s novels have featured Scarpetta, making her one of fiction’s best known forensic investigators. Now, in Depraved Heart, Scarpetta is back, accompanied by her close colleague, the former homicide detective Pete Marino.

When Scarpetta is called to investigate the scene of a suspicious death in a house in Cambridge Massachusetts, she is interrupted by a text message that appears to come from her niece, the former FBI agent and computer whizz, Lucy Farinelli.

The text message contains a link to what appears to be a surveillance video of Lucy taken while she was a student some 20 years previously. It’s anonymous and vaguely threatening. Who sent it? For what motive? And how and why did it come from Lucy’s private number?

Then, before long, another video link follows and Scarpetta begins to be drawn into a web of suspicion and fear.

The plot, at times is confusing and the timeline somewhat frustrating—could so much really happen in the space of a single day?— but the storytelling in Depraved Heart is exciting built around characters that are believable, brilliant and flawed with well-developed, interwoven back stories.

And what’s really interesting is how Depraved Heart explores the concept of data fiction by showing how information can be manipulated and privacy and trust eroded in the digital age.

An enjoyable read and one that will set you thinking about the information you share online!

[Disclosure: Depraved Heart is published by Harper Collins. An ARC was made available by the publisher via Edelweiss for the purpose of this review]

Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwall

Having kept Port Mortuary with a great sense of anticipation while I finished reading a couple of other novels, I’m sorry to say that it didn’t live up to my expectations. I had heard that Patricia Cornwall was back on form with Port Mortuary so I had expected to be drawn in from the first pages and held throughout the remainder. In the event, I found that the first half of the book hard to get into and the non-stop acronyms were distracting and sometimes made for difficult reading. More than once, I had to flick back to remind myself what a particular acronym stood for. Eventually, the story did come together and the last part of the book is much stronger. Having said all of that, it is still a fast read and I did not consider abandoning it. If you are a Patricia Cornwall fan, and you haven’t already read this, then I am sure that you will want to. If you are new to her writing, I would recommend that you start with some of her earlier novels which, for my money, I think are much better.