Customer Reviews: Blow Fly (A Scarpetta Novel)
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on April 7, 2004
Patricia Cornwell used to write terrific books about Kay Scarpetta, filled with action, suspense and science. Her latest effort, Blow Fly, is terribly disappointing. For two thirds of the book the main characters stumble and bumble their way through the plot, lost in self-pity and paralyzed by neurotic worries. They have become pathetic caricatures, and fill the pages with anxiety and meaningless dialogue. Dr. Scarpetta half-heartedly investigates a brutal murder that turns out to be irrelevant to the flow of the narrative. The book comes to an unsatisfying, sudden ending, as if the author remembered that she had another engagement and had to abruptly end her writing.
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on November 5, 2003
This is the last time I buy a book from Patricia Cornwell before reading the reviews. No more pre-ordering for me after Blow Fly. I hated Isle of Dogs immensely and didn't even pay attention to her Jack the Ripper book, but I thought "finally, back to Kay Scarpetta" and pre-ordered Blow Fly. Big mistake. I felt like most of the book was taken up introducing new readers to all of the characters and summarizing her previous Scarpetta books. When it finally did get going, toward the end, I kept looking at the number of pages left, wondering how it was possible that I was almost finished when there was obviously so much story unresolved. The answer came when, in the last few pages, she completely rushed through ending the book. She spent a great deal of the book in the Wolfman's mind, but couldn't spare us 20 more pages for a halfway decent ending?
As to the characters and their attitudes/outlook and whether they're realistic or not and the present tense and the third person writing that the other reviewers disliked, I won't pass judgment on that. It was probably part of the overall "yuck" I felt while reading this book, though.
Next time, I'll be sure to read the reviews here BEFORE I give Patricia Cornwell another dime of my money.
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on October 20, 2003
After the last two Scarpetta disasters, I swore off Cornwell. But got suckered back in by the promise of the "old Kay." Well, I got the "old Kay" but from the last two disasters. Tortured, lugubrious characters; improbable, conspiracy-theory plots; and worst of all - written in present tense! How pretentious and very distracting to read. Like it or not, Ms. Cornwell, the prime consideration for a writer is the audience. I suggest you stick with a diary if you feel so compelled to put forth your own agenda at the expense of the reader.
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on November 11, 2003
I wholeheartedly agree with the previous posters. In fact, one review sums up my feelings exactly - "When it finally did get going, toward the end, I kept looking at the number of pages left, wondering how it was possible that I was almost finished when there was obviously so much story unresolved." I thought for sure there was a 'To be continued' in my near future. I was shocked when the answers were supposedly crammed into a few short pages. Did Ms. Cornwell run up against a deadline? The book definitely seemed like merely a segue to the next installment, which will hopefully be much more fulfilling.
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on January 19, 2004
Evidently Patricia Cornwell believes that content doesn't matter anymore and environmentalists everywhere should be up in arms that even one tree was sacrificed to print this book. Ghosts from the past are resurrected so that new characters need not be created, the plot is contrived, bloody and boring, Kay is almost beyond redemption and Lucy should be in prison. I will not read the next book if this plot is continued and I have read them all.
Kay Scarpetta fans everywhere need to send a message that we want the original tough, smart, forensic marvel back.
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When I first starting reading the Scarpetta novels I thought it was fairly clear what the attract was to each story: a viscous but unusual murder, or series of murders was committed, and Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Virginia, would be called in to use her forensic expertise to discover and unravel the clues. Remember that this all began after "Quincy, M.E." went off into syndication and before "C.S.I." first aired, so detective stories hinging primarily on forensic investigation and detailed medical examinations of corpses was not as prominent as it was today. Plus there was the entire sub-text of Scarpetta as an extreme competent woman who was always the target of professional jealousy and/or political intrigue. For years my main complaint about the Scarpetta novels was that they rarely provided a satisfactory sense of catharsis, especially with regards to the despicable characters who were gunning for her professionally; they never seemed to get their comeuppance.
But then the novels started to link up in strange and bizarre ways, and it became clear that Kay Scarpetta was the target of a complex and intricate conspiracy. No matter what the crime, and no matter how unrelated it seemed to what had happened in the previous novels, it turned out that it was all part of this giant conspiracy. From this perspective it is not surprising that there is no true catharsis at the end of any particular novel, because in terms of the big picture there is always more fun to come. However, this leads to the key question with regards to this concerted effort to destroy Kay Scarpetta: Why is author Patricia Cornwell out to get her own creation?
These novels are becoming more and more like Greek tragedies where the gods look down and laugh, and I entertain the notion of profiling Cornwell to figure out why she is destroying her character and this series. Scarpetta is no longer employed by the state of Virginia, and her character is no more prominent than any other in the novel. More importantly, she has not cooked a nice meal in a long time, which is as telling adetail about her deterioration as anything. "Blow Fly" is a rather ironic title for this novel because, as most of these reviews will attest, Cornwell is blowing it and her readers, who have lost the faith, are flying away in droves. When you get to the BIG SURPRISE REVELATION in this recent novel your honest reaction may well be (a) give me a break and (b) somebody put Scarpetta out of her misery before this insult is added to her accumulation of injuries. Even worse, what limited amount of catharsis there is in "Blow Fly" happens "off stage." For those of us who have literally been waiting years for certainly people to meet their richly deserved ends, being told about it rather than getting to enjoy the moment is yet another slap in the face from the author. My wife literally went back and reread the ending, thinking she had missed something, and, clearly, she is not alone if leaping to that conclusion.
If we were talking a television series the question would be when did the Scarpetta novels "jump the shark" (the reference is to the infamous episode of "Happy Days" when Fonzie jumped the shark and fans of the series consider it all downhill from there). For many it will be the point in "Blow Fly" where the surprise revelation comes or when one of the villains gets out of an impossible situation. However, for me it was before this novel, when Lucy had a shotgun on one of the villains and left them behind in a motel room to go rescue her Aunt Kay. I knew enough to blow the person away, not just because they deserved to die, but because you do not leave a bad person alive behind you when you go off on a rescue mission.
"Blow Fly" has to be the most disappointing Scarpetta novel to date and I shudder to think what is in store for the next installment, which I would say has to be the grand finale except I see from my review of "The Last Precinct" that I thought his novel would have to be the end of the Chandonne plot line. I will continue reading, not so much because I have latent masochistic tendencies, but out of a sense of narrative completeness and a commitment to the idea that you make sure the body is (truly) dead and buried before you walk away. But I take no more pleasure in the experience at this point.
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on December 15, 2003
A good thing never lasts, and that's how it is with the Kay Scarpetta series. Blowfly just plain blows. So now Lucy is 007? And the man who tried to rape her when they were together in the FBI is now Lucy's most trusted Last Precinct partner? Come on Cornwell, that's really gross. Oh, yes, and now Lucy's thing is to sleep with him after they engage in assassinations. Oh, puleeease. What happened to Teun who started The Last Precinct with Lucy? No mention of her. And what happened to Lucy being a lesbian? Seems Cornwell wants to steer clear of that.
How about the ridiculous, unbelievable machinations to explain Benton's "death" and then bring him back from it? Utterly unbelievable, even for fiction. Heeeello, if our government dimwits were really capable enough to pull off something as complicated as that, I'd have more faith in our government.
Cornwell has pumped steriods into all the returning characters. Their familiar traits now exploded into superhuman characteristics beyond the reach of mere mortals. Lucy was a smart computer geek. Now she's James Bond, every catlike move calculated down to the millisecond. Benton was a profiler. He's now gifted with a superhuman ability to walk down a busy Manhattan street and memorize every face he passes. Marino was in love with Scarpetta, now he's more in love with her. Jay Talley was a psycho who passed as a sophisticated, man about the world. Now he's a white trash psycho cutting up victims to pass the time and drinking a case of beer a day.
Skip Blowfly. If you want Scarpetta, re-read your old tattered books from the beginning of the series, and stop before you get to Cause of Death.
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on September 16, 2004
I read most of Patricia Cornwell books and liked them however they seem to get worse and more unbelivable every year. This one takes the cake. SPOILER!

Two years and not a peep from Benton Wesley. Wait...Yeah, Benton Wesley is not dead, he is just undercover! Okaay. Geez, I think we all know Dr Scarpetta could keep a secret. Then we have this international conspiracy which is seriously laughable. Then, there is the martyr and the victim of every law inforcement agency-Scarpetta's niece, Lucy. I'm tired of hearing how everybody is out to get her because she is gourgeous talented lesbian. Please, kill me..
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on November 14, 2003
BELIEVE THE REVIEWS!!!! So bad, words can't even begin to describe it. WARNING: IF YOU'RE GOING TO READ THIS, THEN BORROW FROM THE LIBRARY. DON'T WASTE A DIME ON THIS. I was a HUGE Cornwell fan, but this book is, without a doubt, one of the top five WORST books I've read not only this year BUT THE PAST DECADE. PATRICIA, DON'T YOU TAKE ANY PRIDE IN YOUR WORK? The only reason they let you publish this is because of who you are. BAD!!! BAD!!!! BAD!!!
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on November 11, 2003
All the celebrity must have gone to Patricia Cornwell's head. Not much planning went into this disaster. Here is a thought: Kay Scarpetta, get over yourself! Who would even want to be around this morose woman. I didn't care for (or like) any of the characters. What scares me is that the Wolfman is poised for yet another return. YIKES! Badly written, no ending and characters with dead personalities. Amen.
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