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4.2 out of 5 stars
Postmortem (Kay Scarpetta Mysteries)
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55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2001
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
I just completed the "KAY SCARPETTA" series for the second time and let me tell you, it was awesome!! The only thing I did differently was I read them in order. This book, "POSTMORTEM" is first in the series and it is suspensful and absolutely thrilling. You really fall for the protagonist, Kay, and want to read for the sake of learning about her life as well as for solving the mystery. Patricia Cornwell is a most talented author. She draws you in like no other and I am always sorry when one of her books (this series only) end. Her books can be dark and a bit gruesome, but they are not overly disturbing as they have such redeeming qualities. The horror described is for a reason and goes with the territory of Kay's career. It is never just to shock like some books. Kay is an honorable lady, and very complex. The mysteries and scandals she is involved in make you feel like you are involved too. They are very consuming and entertaining. Be prepared to put everything aside when you pick up this book!!
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51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After reading Patricia Cornwell's "Unnatural Exposure" I was so drawn to her writing style and characters that I decided I had to have more. So, I took it upon myself to add "Postmortem" to my library of suspense novels. Although I am new to Cornwell's books, I think that this may be one of the best books I have ever read. The way she uses her medical knowledge and background to create the plot and characters amazes me, and the story itself was so real that each chapter sent me on a rampage throughout my house to make sure that all the doors and windows were locked! I am a high school English student planning on becoming a writer myself, and I believe that Patricia Cornwell has given me an excellent role model to look at in my own writing endeavors. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys suspenseful reading and forensic mysteries....as long as you can keep the fact that it is only a book in your mind....
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Postmortem Book Review

In Richmond, Virginia chief medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta uncovers brutal rapes and murders of four unlucky women. Each one is different from the other, except for the fact that they each live alone. With the help of new forensic research, her "partner" Marino, and other specialists, she uncovers the killer and how he picks his victims. She has to be careful though, there is sabotage within the company and a killer is after her.

Postmortem is a very enjoyable read. It is the first book in the Dr. Kay Scarpetta series that Patricia Cornwell wrote. The book has to do with forensic science, a couple of main character, a very intense plot, and an overwhelming mystery that is powerful and that keeps you looking for clues. For the first book that Patricia Cornwell has written it is good, however if you do not like the book I recommend you read some other books in the Dr. Kay Scarpetta series. As the series progress the books get better and better. When compared to the other books that she has written this book is average. It is intense yet it does not have that bang like the other books have. I also do not like the dialogue that is in this book. It is a little fake for me, and after reading the other books in the series it does not compare. However, Postmortem keeps you on the edge of your seat, it is a great thriller that will keep you interested and wanting more. I would recommend this book and the series to anyone who enjoys a great thriller and mystery.

The book Postmortem deals with death and forensic science. With these two factors combined a mystery is solved by science and technology. When someone is murder in this book an autopsy is performed. A collection of samples is taken from the victim, which includes fibers and hairs. The specimens are taken to be compared, and technological instruments are used to show microscopic specimens. Throughout this book science and technology are being used to find the killer of the four women. DNA comparison is used to compare the killers semen to what was found on the bodies, a laser was used to light up the substances on all of the victim's bodies, and lab tests were done to ensure the results of what was expected. Science and technology was also used to nab the person who was sabotaging Dr. Kay Scarpetta, though I will not tell you how and who it is. Science and technology play a role in the book Postmortem. Most mystery books have some technology and science incorporated throughout, but the Dr. Kay Scarpetta series is based on science and technology. Forensic science and technology is used mainly in this book to catch the killer.

Postmortem is a forensic mystery. It is an intense read and a book that will keep you wanting more. Throughout the book science and technology is what the concentration is on. This is what gets the killer behind bars. It is a hard book to put down, and I recommend the book and the whole Dr. Kay Scarpetta series to anyone who wants a good read.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I do not usually read "popular" mystery, serial killer, writers.These writers seem to be multiplying like rabbits these days. I had Cornwell in this category. But then I saw a Prime Time or a 20/20 show, that did a segment on Patricia Cornwell. The segement detailed her 4 million dollar quest to forensically unmask the identity of Jack the Ripper. Ms. Cornwell's postmortem on the Ripper evidence seemed credible. Suffice it to say I was impressed enough to go out and purchase her book. Unfortunately I was not impressed with Postmortem. I can accept that this was not meant to be a traditional whodunit. I can accept meeting Mr. Nobody only at the end. In a way this is more realistic. Real life does not tend to conform to neat mystery novel patterns. But Ms, Cornwell"s book fails in the most basic of elements, characterization. Kay lacks an inner life, we just do not get to know her. I liked the sense of the lonely midlife professional who has not lived up to her parent's expectation, but I needed more. I know this is the first in a series, but compare it to James Lee Burke's Neon Rain or Thomas Harris' Red Dragon, and you will find Cornwell several scapel cuts below in the character development department. I will read Cornwell's Body of Evidence simply because I bought it when I picked up the first book. But I am not encouraged by the many other reviewers who have written that Postmortem is Cornwell's best effort.
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37 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Two camps of crime writers across the Atlantic: American writers focus on "How", British writers "Why". "Postmortem" perhaps represents a recent trend in crime fictions in the US: graphic violence & gore. Efforts are focused on how the victims die & how the killers kill. Reading the details of the scene is like watching a Hollywood R-rated movie. The book stimulates our senses and emotions more than it satisfies our intelligence. A question of "how" has to be addressed by an answer of "how". That's why we see the most state-of-the-art, high-tech forensic technique in US novels. The laser gun in "postmortem" looks like a toy compared with all the gadgets you'll find in Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series. When the pages are overloaded with HOW's, little room is left for WHY's, and the final conclusions seem to have little significance. In "postmortem", we never know why the killer did what he did, and in the end the author simply makes the character yet another "crazy" person so commonly found in US novels, and as readers we also are too emotionally drained to care. The British tradition, from Doyle to Christie to the more recent Dexter, tends to focus more on WHY. These authors spent very little time on the crime scenes, let alone all the "bloody details". Instead, they liked to ask WHY the crime is committed. From there the stories evolve around the social & psychological aspects and the relationships among the characters. There is no sensual excitement, but more intellectual satisfaction. Often I wonder if this difference between the two groups of writers reflects the difference of their writing philosophies, or worse, the natures of the two societies.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
...a very good place to start - except that I've already read two others in the series, namely Predator and From Potter's Field.

The series so far:

Postmortem (1990)
Body of Evidence (1991)
All That Remains (1992)
Cruel and Unusual (1993)
The Body Farm (1994)
From Potter's Field (1995)
Cause of Death (1996)
Unnatural Exposure (1996)
Point of Origin (1998)
Black Notice (1999)
The Last Precinct (2000)
Blow Fly (2003)
Trace (2004)
Predator (2005)

(Book of the Dead is scheduled for Oct 2007.)

Fortunately, there's no need to read them in order, and the reading experience was actually better given that I already knew how some of the characters would be developed in the future.

On its own the book isn't bad for a debut novel, except that it tends to get bogged down in places, the characters don't really come to life until later down the series, and the technology is understandably dated, given the techniques now available. (Naturally, it may have been cutting edge stuff when the book was written, which I took into consideration when reading it)

There's a little more CSI involved than in the ones I've read before (it gets less and less in later books) and the story revolves around a serial killer who eventually gets around to the Chief Medical Examiner. The modus operandi of the killer is suitably gruesome, but for the majority of the book Scarpetta seems to the weakest link as she struggles to hold her own in a world of men.

About the same as "From Potter's Field", but better than "Predator".

Rated: 3.5 stars

Amanda Richards, September 15, 2007
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After picking up this book at the suggestion of a friend, my opinion of the genre is, once again, reinforced. Here we have more of the same type of formula: a nicely atmospheric beginning, a fact piling middle, and an unsatisfying end.

The problem with Cornwell is that while she shows some signs of potential here and there, she's too enamored with factually based stories (so-and-so forensic group of facts, police procedures and politics, blah, blah) to spend enough time on her characters. In this debut effort, and true to formula, she starts out with an ominous bang, begins to build up a couple of characters, only to later assault the reader with laborious, fact introducing plot devices that I just can't bring myself to care about. When the end rolled around I found myself asking, "so what?"

The manner in which the perpetrator selected his victims was very interesting, but Cornwell didn't let it develop into anything. What we later learn about the killer could have at least made for very interesting dialogue in the climactic scene, but Cornwell had already dished up her precious facts and was, therefore, finished with all other elements intrusive to her writing style.

Many great contemporary authors like Harris, Blatty, or King will tell you that their characters often seem to take over writing the story. Not so with Cornwell. She prefers to shove them into neat little cubby holes in order to serve an all too predestined purpose. If you like this sort of fact dog pile, her subsequent novels were more of the same.

Two stars for a pretty good beginning, a nice idea about the killer's methods, but little else of note.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Postmortem was a very good book. It constantly had me turning the pages to see what was going to happen next. I liked the way it described the murders and autopsies with great detail. I liked the way the author decided to let the plot unfold. Just when you thought one thing, something else happened.
I liked the way the dialogue was written too. The author made the characters fit the way they talked. But I didn't like the way the talked in the medical jargon and computer jargon. That was a little hard to follow.
The book was so much like real life it was kind of scary. In this world there are sick people like that out there. Then like everything else the media blows everything up and creates more hysteria than there was in the first place. In the book the killer feed off the media and that probably was the cause of some of the deaths.
Overall the book was pretty good. It was the first book I had read by Patricia Cornwell but I will read more. Anyone who likes to read very descriptive mysteries Postmortem is a great book to read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the second book I have read from this talented author. My first was the 3rd in this series called 'All That Remains', this book, 'Postmortem' is the first in the series.
It's very well written and full of intense moments that will keep you turning the pages.
In the first book we meet Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner for the Richmond, VA Police Dept. We also get to meet Detective Moreno, the lead detective in the case, which we again see in the next books.
This time Dr. Scarpetta is trying to solve a string of murders that are so gruesome and violent that it sends shivers up her spine.
Four women are found dead, tortured and strangled. What do they have in common? One is married the others are single. Three are white, one is black. Different backgrounds, neighborhoods, family ties, no real pattern. Except that the murders are becoming more violent. Then another one happens and this one is even more puzzling. The victim is a little too close for comfort.
Is this the work of a serial killer or something more sinister? Dr. Kay Scarpetta is in deep and is fighting against powers that are trying to prevent her from discovering the truth. Who can she trust? Is it someone in the department? Is it someone close to her? Someone she knows too well? Is she next?
Kay needs to find the key to open this case wide open before she becomes a victim.
Very intense and full of surprises. Chills went down my spine when the mystery was solved; well worth the read!!!
Tracy Talley~@
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book after having read some of her later ones, expecting this early effort to be better. Actually, it was, because Kay is more likeable and not as frustrated and enraged as she seems to become in the later books. I was disappointed in the denouement because Cornwell broke an unwritten rule of the mystery-writing field: don't have your villain suddenly appear on the last page. Introduce him early so the reader does not feel cheated. This villain was an obscure little guy who is not a character at all in that he doesn't move or speak in the narrative. The romance with Boltz seemed pointless, since he just disappears out of the story midway, and the child prodigy on the computer who makes the surrounding adults look like a bunch of idiots has become a cliche. I don't know who thought of this first, but it's old stuff. I found the technical data interesting, but the plot was episodic; and the detail about taking the bullets out of the gun every day was a plot device that stood out like a red flag. An experienced mystery reader sees that and says, "AHA!" Taken all in all, this novel makes a promise that has not been fulfilled.
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