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Black Notice (A Scarpetta Novel) Hardcover – August 2, 1999

Book 10 of 21 in the Kay Scarpetta Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

The postmortem is in--Black Notice, the 10th in Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta series, is a gore-splattered, intensely exciting read. As winter grips Richmond, Virginia, an air of somberness pervades chief medical examiner Kay Scarpetta's world. Her beloved niece Lucy is involved in a dangerous undercover police operation in Miami, and auntie fears for her life. A tyrannical new deputy chief, Diane Bray, wants to get Kay's department under her jurisdiction. Meanwhile, back at the office, someone has tinkered with the e-mail system, stealing Kay's identity, and sending off slanderous and hurtful messages. Emotionally battered, Scarpetta fears she is going insane. Or, could it be that someone is deliberately sowing this harvest of sorrow?

Despite her personal problems, Scarpetta is still the reigning diva at the department of death. She is sent to investigate the putrefied remains of a man found inside a container ship, "eyes bulged froglike, and the scalp and beard were sloughing off with the outer layer of darkening skin." Kay finds strange, animal-like hairs on the man's clothing--the same hairs that she discovers on a murdered store clerk a few days later. In actuality, the bizarre killings extend well beyond Virginia; whoever killed the Richmond victims also butchered people in France. Kay and police captain Pete Marino are whisked off to Paris where they must collect top-secret information from a Paris morgue, and avoid becoming victims themselves.

This macabre tome is the stuff that classic Scarpetta tales are made of: creepy but compulsive autopsy scenes, plentiful plot twists, and the compelling, if slightly more vulnerable chief medical examiner herself. --Naomi Gesinger

From Publishers Weekly

It's like a splash of cold water on a hot day to be plunged, after the irritating third-person satire of Cornwell's last novel, Southern Cross (1998), back into the bracing narration of medical examiner Kay Scarpetta. As in the nine Scarpettas past (Point of Origin, etc.), here it's not the novel's events, startling as they are, that propel the story so much as the deep-hearted responses of Kay, as real a hero as any in thriller fiction, to the "evil"Aher wordAthat threatens. Evil wears several faces here, from petty to monstrous. Most insidious is the office sabotageAinsubordination, thefts, fraudulent e-mailsAthat's making the grieving Kay look as if she's lost her grip since her lover's murder in Point of Origin. More destructive are the overt attempts by calculating Richmond, Va., deputy police chief Diane Bray to ruin Kay's career as well as that of Kay's old friend, Capt. Pete Marino. Then there's the wild rage at life that's consuming Kay's niece, a DEA agent. FinallyAthe plot wire that binds the sometimes scattered plotAthere are the mutilation killings by the French serial killer self-styled "Loup-Garou"Awerewolf. The forensic sequences boom with authority; the brief action sequences explode on the pageAin the finale, overbearingly so; the interplay between Kay and Marino is boisterous as always, and there's an atmospheric sidetrip to Paris and an affecting romantic misadventure for lonely Kay. A thunderhead of disquietude hangs over this compulsively readable novel, sometimes loosing storms of suspense; but to Cornwell's considerable credit, the unease arises ultimately not from the steady potential for violence, but from a more profound horror: the vulnerability of a good woman like Kay to a world beset by the corrupt, the cruel, the demonic. One million first printing; $750,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Mystery Guild main selections; unabridged and abridged audio versions; foreign rights sold in eight countries.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: A Scarpetta Novel
  • Hardcover: 415 pages
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam & Sons; 1st edition (August 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399145087
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399145087
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (730 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #243,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

In 1990, Patricia Cornwell sold her first novel, Postmortem, while working at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia. An auspicious debut, it went on to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity awards as well as the French Prix du Roman d'Aventure prize - the first book ever to claim all these distinctions in a single year.

Today, Cornwell's novels and now iconic characters, medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, her niece Lucy and fellow investigator Pete Marino, are known all over the world. Fox 2000 is actively developing a feature film about Kay Scarpetta. Beyond the Scarpetta series, Patricia has written a definitive account of Jack the Ripper's identity, cookbooks, a children's book, a biography of Ruth Graham, and two other fiction series based on the characters Win Garano and Andy Brazil.

Cornwell was born in Miami, grew up in Montreat, North Carolina, and now lives and works in Boston.

Visit the author's website at:

Customer Reviews

I just finished reading the book and found that there were too many ends left unfinished.
The first few books are outstanding and then the rest are not worth buying and reading, a waste of time and money.
Reads Thrillers
I felt that Kay was very whiney, Lucy is going out of control and Marino is just unbelievable.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

140 of 147 people found the following review helpful By Nick G on August 3, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A cargo ship containing the remains of a stowaway arrives in Virginia's waterway. Kay Scarpetta is called to examine the remains. Why would this man hide in a shipping container, and what does the strange tattoo on his back symbolize? These questions, as well as the identity of the man are a mystery to Scarpetta.
Kay's neice, Lucy, has a new lover, Jo. Lucy and Jo are working in Miami, and their latest mission has gone terribly wrong, leaving two criminals dead, and Jo, fighting for her life in the hospital.
Another body is found, this time, a young woman, brutally attacked, with strange bite marks on her body.
Kay and Marino, end up in France, working with Interpol on the cases of victims who have also been brutally attacked, with strange bite marks left on the bodies. Once there, the two will have to solve the bizzare puzzle of the strange killings, and make connection to the mystery man in the container.
"Black Notice" is one of the better entries in the Scarpetta series (it takes a while to get steam, about 250 pages before things start to move, and the plot involving the wolf-like killings comes into play). Long time readers of the series will notice each new novel is taking the series in a new direction; with less time being spent on the thrill a minute plot twists, and more time being spent on various sub-plots, and character development.
Patricia Cornwell is the leading practicioner of the forensic crime thriller, but over the years she has lost her knack of creating "up all night" reads, she is trying to balance too much in each novel, and at times it takes away from the main theme of the book.
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52 of 58 people found the following review helpful By David H. Miller Jr. on August 17, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Once again I am drawn in to Kay Scarpetta's world by the fascinating details of forensic science. But with with each novel I am finding the chief character increasingly annoying, self-centered and and one-dimensional. When the story strays from the police procedural stuff I find myself wading through the worst kind of melodrama involving Kay, her murdered lover and everyone surrounding her. I mean, can anyone read the dialogue between Dr. Scarpetta and Talley (at the Paris restaurant) without gagging or giggling. The whole issue of how Kay faces adversity is treated by the author without the slightest hint of (intentional) humor or irony. The book is extremely joyless. How could someone with no coping mechanisms stand to be a medical examiner at all?
Tne major flaw of the book, and one that occurs in several of Cornwell's novels, is that the eventual capture of the serial killer has very little to do with the following of forensic clues to expose the criminal. Rather, once again, the villain is undone by his obsessive need to go after the Chief Medical Examiner herself, and is defeated in hand to hand combat by our heroine. Won't these guys ever learn?
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Rob Lawrence on August 16, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was starting to feel that the Kay Scarpetta series was getting a little tired. But, my roommate bought Black Notice, and I decided to go ahead and read it. On the whole, it is a fairly good book. The strange victim with a strange tattoo found with strange hairs starts the book off. The primary plot revolves around this death, and becomes a little too fantastic (Who's Afraid of Virginia's Wolf?) . However, the book is saved by having a subplot involving what appears to be a new nemesis for Dr. Scarpetta: a strong woman Deputy Police Chief, attempting to shake up the department and Marino, Kay's close police friend, and Scarpetta herself. Ultimately, these two seemingly divergent plots must come together.
I have read all the books in this series, yet I will not profess to understanding all the complex personalaties and relationships in the primary characters. Therefore, if you are thinking of delving into this series, try the earlier books first.
The secondary plot, which almost becomes primary, and solid writing help make up for an odd story and a weak ending. Furthermore, Patricia Cornwell attempts to throw some things in the mix to keep interest, such as the question of "Is Benton really dead?".
My suggestion: Read the book and enjoy, but don't analyze it.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By charles falk VINE VOICE on August 31, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Cornwell's latest Kate Scarpetta crime novel, Black Notice, is so bad one would like to think it was a parody or perhaps written by an untalented Cornwell doppelganger from a parallel universe. The usual characters are there: Virginia CME Kate Scarpetta, her lesbian niece, Lucy (now working undercover for the ATF), and Richmond Police Captain Pete Marino. But they are not themselves. Marino's behavior is so erratic and clownish he is no longer believable as a smart chief detective. Scarpetta's emotional strum und drang is deafening; rage, grief, remorse, and fear played at an unremitting triple forte. Lucy's chronic case of attitude seems to have turned into something darker. The spirit of FBI profiler Benton Wesley, a stalwart in earlier Cornwell books, looms over Black Notice like the ghost in Hamlet. Perhaps his death has driven his friends mad. The book opens with a US Senator delivering a posthumous farewell letter to Scarpetta from Wesley which concludes, "I ask you to do one thing for me to celebrate a life we've had that I know will never end. Call Marino and Lucy. Invite them over for dinner tonight. Cook one of your famous meals for them and save a place for me". This last supper takes place, but it can't transubstantiate dross into a satisfying novel. And Wesley, despite hints to the contrary, does not rise from the dead. Besides the loss of her sometime lover, Kate has to deal with mysterious subversion in her office, a serial killer who calls himself "the werewolf", and a new female Deputy Chief of Police who does a pretty fair impression of one. Lucy is trying to shut down a gun-smuggling operation in Florida. AND IT'S ALL CONNECTED! No wonder everyone is parnoid.Read more ›
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