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VINE VOICEon July 23, 2008
Dear Patricia Cornwell,

I wrote you a letter back in 2005 after you released Trace. I was, quite frankly, worried about the direction that you were taking poor Kay Scarpetta. And I must say that The Book of the Dead has not done anything to set my worries to rest.

I'll start with the things that I liked. I read once that you should always open a critique with things that you like. I liked that you let Scarpetta finally make fun of herself for some of the conspiracies which she imagines are aimed in her direction. It beggared the imagination that absolutely everybody was out to get the poor woman. In this book, many people were *not* out to get her. And that was a refreshing change. And for that I give you an extra star.

But, oh dear, the rest of the book...

First of all, shock schlock is one of the most virulent diseases of modern airplane novels. The world doesn't need another entry in the race to find The Most Sadistic Serial Killer Ever. Just say no. Please work with a nice straightforward killing, and solve it! I realize that this sounds terribly retro. However, I am tired of seeing writers burn their creativity in an effort to imagine a string of ever more icky things to do with eye sockets and bath tubs.

Second, you failed to get my disbelief to suspend. Too many coincidences. Too many links between all the characters and killings. Too much. Way too much. My disbelief actually didn't even levitate, let alone suspend. Honestly, I think that you ought to have a serious chat with your editor on this point. That is the person who should get paid to warn you that you have broken your plot. And you should listen to them if they do make warnings like that.

Last but not least, Dr. Self. Drop her. Drop this thread. Drop this character. I repeat the "oh dear, oh dear" when it comes to Dr. Self. She is not readable. She is not interesting. She is not anything. Let poor Kay settle down in Charleston without any more outside fuss than her already tangled relationships provide.

Actually, that brings me to a suggestion. Once upon a time, detective novels did this quaint thing where the world around them featured as a character in the work. The novelists used the local color and the detective became a vehicle through which the reader could explore the world. You seemed as though you kind of were starting to get at this with Bull. That was good, but then you got distracted. You wandered off and forgot about him. It was sad. Why don't you try that the next time?

I keep reading your books, largely because I still have a strong affection for Kay from back in the day. I also kind of like that you are one of the few mystery writers who allows your character change, and doesn't keep them encased in a plot-like amber. Please don't make me regret liking you for that, okay?

Thanks for your time.


the frumious bandersnatch.
1919 comments156 of 167 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 14, 2008
I don't normally write online reviews, but I am taking the time to write this one in the hopes that I can save someone from spending their hard-earned money on this book.

I have been reading Patricia Cornwell since the beginning. I have always loved her characters and looked forward to new Scarpetta novels, even though they have been less frequent in past years.

The last Scarpetta book, "Predator", was tough to get through...and "Book of the Dead" takes it to a new low. It seems as though everything is over-written. Just get to the point, already! Cornwell spends too much time over-describing and not enough time telling the story. It's almost painful to read. At times, I just wanted to put the book down, which is sad. The main characters, once enjoyable, are now conflicted and unpleasant. The story was disjointed and hard to follow, and once the killer was uncovered/caught, Cornwell did a poor job of wrapping up the story and bringing closure to the reader.

If possible, I would give this book 0 stars. Shame on Patricia Cornwell and her editors for bringing this book to market and subjecting loyal fans to such a terrible piece of fiction.
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on May 16, 2008
"Ellen" from Ellen from Atlanta said what I would say in spades. Patricia, my dear, you gave me hours of undone housework reveling in your books; you gave me gore, intrigue and my favorite, forensic medicine. Why was everyone so angry in "Dead"? You left three people hanging in literary space which means you are going to have to write, hopefully not three books, to put them to rest. But then you aren't good at that - Boom! Benson is gone - Boom! Bensen is back - no good explanation. Patricia Cornwell has left the building. Tess Gerritson bring it on - you've yet to fail me!
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on July 21, 2008
Several years ago, I quit reading Patricia Cornwell's novels because they actually became boring and the characters unlikeable. In the past 5 or 6 years I passed up several at both the library and bookstore. This past week, I decided to give her another try. After all, I thought perhaps I had just tired of the genre and maybe they really hadn't been that bad. Or I thought perhaps sometime through the intervening years Cornwell had recaptured the magic and excitement of her first few novels. Alas, it was not to be! This novel is worse than any that I remember, and although I didn't (or couldn't stand to) finish it, I read enough to conclude that the characters were obnoxious, the storyline disjointed, and the dialogue absolutely absurd. I really think this book may have been produced by a very disordered mind, and how it got into print baffles me. If Cornwell is not able to get it together . . . and she probably would have by now if she could . . . she should call her career as an author "Done" and move on to something else.
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on October 23, 2008
I've never written a review before, but I'm compelled to after reading this latest Scarpetta paperback. I've loved the character and this series from the get go, having read them all over the years. But this book is just plain stupid. It's weak, the plot development is ridiculous, the diagogue is absurd -- there are so many things wrong with this book on so many different levels. I actually wondered if Cornwell wrote this herself or if it was farmed out to a ghost writer. It's nowhere near the quality one has come to expect from Cornwell. A huge disappointment. I think Cornwell is just plain tired of this character and has flat run out of ideas. I'm disappointed and certainly don't recommend this book.
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VINE VOICEon June 3, 2008
I agree with Terry Mathews, what has happened with Cornwell? In the old days, I was eager to find out what the cast was up to while trying to piece together an interesting murder puzzle. Now, the characters are annoying and the interactions unbelievable...Marino attacking Scarpetta, Rose hooking up with a shady coroner...Yeah, I believe people can change, but they do not become monsters all at the same time. The "whodunnit" part starts as a sensational sexcepade and winds around to an ending that no mortal would see coming, illogical, because of the unexplained hints. For those who want to find out what is going on with Scarpetta, a disappointing update. For those new to Cornwell's series, DO NOT READ THIS ONE first. There are other, finer stories in this series. Look forward to # 16, hopefully, better developed book in the series.
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on October 14, 2008
I've been following the Scarpetta crowd for years and usually enjoy their ploits, antics, brilliance, and odd personalities. When this one came out, I didn't even wait for the paperback....I had to know what happens to these larger than life characters created by a great story teller. This is the first time I've been hugely disappointed! Though longer than most of Cornwall's books, the clues were so loosely held together that I had to reread a couple of chapters to see if I could find out how she moved from one clue to the next. They seemed to be held together by spider-web threads. The link between a couple of the clues remains more of a mystery than the novel..... It was almost impossible to tell how they actually solved this one. In addition....I was hugely disappointed in the characters. I've heard it said that good writing means characters must evolve, grow as human beings. These Scarpetta characters seem to be sinking into lower and lower levels of dysfunction with every novel. Just once--mind you, just once--I'd love to see Kay or Wesley or Lucy happy! Even if it was for a few minutes. Now--is that really too much to ask?
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on March 24, 2010
That she had to conform to that jaded subset of readers who insist that all characters in a book (including the starring cast) must be screwed up in a big way? That if you wtite about crime, there aren't supposed to be good guys or bad guys per se--that it's supposed to be dysfunctional character(s) versus other dysfunctional character(s)? Or the aforementioneed subset of spoiled brats with mama's library card will get boo-oo-ored (sob-sob), which today is considered more an act of war than an actual act of aggression against some people. Has everything today been taken over by these overage adolescents? In deference to this bunch's wishes, it seems that Cornwell has moved Kay Scarpetta & Co move more in the direction of dysfunctionality in every book she puts out. In this book, we've got a young tennis phenom who has been murdered in a quasi-subhuman way that nowadays we're "s'pozed ta" see as "a cry of help" from some sicko. Also in the mix is a pretentious and hateful TV pop-shrink who's an old menesis of Kay's, who's figuratively pulled the poor girl's britches down on her TV show, which is basically a Jerry Springer-ish abomination pseudo-legitimzed by a psych degree. Scarpetta's main dilemma in each book used to be who whacked the person whose body she's got in her lab--now she's got the guy who used to be her Sipowicz-clone investigator, plus her one time "auntie's girl" niece, doing what Neil Young once termed "comin' apart at every nail". Marino has de-evolved into a quasi-thug who only exploits the concern that people close to him have for his welfare. I know Lucy had to grow up sometime, but did it have to be into a distaff Steven Seagall clone? You have to know these people from Cornwell's earlier works to be able to empathise with them at all. And Cornwell had best consider the possiblity that she can't count on us forever.
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Well I just don't understand what Patricia Cornwell is doing with this series. I'm going along with the ride for a little while longer but it's getting harder and harder and harder. I read the Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. Those changes I can somewhat understand...but with Kay Scarpetta and her crew. I don't understand. Does everyone in the series have to have something deadly wrong with them? Do we have to kill all of them off? If Ms. Cornwell is getting tired of writing about them then don't...or at least take a break from them.

This book wasn't the tight snappy writing style that I like from her. There were times she was rambling on and on. There was some progress on Scarpetta and Benton but then it was like they just forgot about it. As for Marino, he's totally changed but Ms. Cornwell hasn't really delved into it. She isn't explaining why the total change in how and what he believes. Lucy is almost like a total secondary character that just pops in to break the law then leaves. I thought since Scarpetta had moved to Charleston, SC that it would also become a character in the series. The city is beautiful and has a life to itself but it seems like Ms. Cornwell is missing that. I'm just very disappointed in this book. The ending felt rushed and didn't make a lot of sense in the series but did for the book itself. I don't know. Just feel like I wasted some of my time with this book and I don't normally feel like that with Patricia Cornwell books. I wouldn't recommend this unless you are staying with the series. It's not a good stand alone book.
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on October 29, 2008
For all the hype about Patricia Cornwell being a great writer, this book was virtually impossible to read. Between the choppiness of the story and lack of intrigue, it is just hard to try to get through (I couldn't). A group of us read the book and those that finished it said that many story lines never got resolved and that the book is not worth finishing. Read the Alex Cross series from James Patterson or the Lincoln Rhyme series from Jeffery Deaver.
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