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A Waste of 8 Hours
on August 12, 2005
I rarely write book reviews, but I felt compelled to warn people to steer clear of this book. As many reviewers of this book have stated, this is not a Dr. Kay Scarpetta book. Don't let that scare you away. It's certainly not the reason why I hated this book.
Written differently, this could have been a compelling book. It had an interesting mix of characters, and a mystery to be solved. And it spent a fair amount of time getting into the heads of characters. I happen to enjoy that. However, this book was absolutely the most egregious example (and I mean egregious in the current usage - as in: exceedingly bad) of politically correct stereotypes I could possibly imagine. And the Southern stereotypes were no better. If this were an episode of "Family Guy" I would have been laughing through the bulk of it. About the only thing it lacked in that respect were the Duke boys and the General Lee.
We learn that women as power figures are something to be feared and the evil, white-male power brokers of the city of Charlotte (who are even in control of all elections, it would seem) regularly plot to squash them where they stand. As any self-respecting white male knows, there ain't nothin' worse than a woman whats don't knows hows to keeps her place; 'cept maybe fer homos. This is not an exaggeration. There's a redneck character named Bubba, for God's sake. And the scene at the seafood restaurant was absolutely choice: our white male hero (who's okay because he's a sensitive journalist) and a gay companion nearly get their bottoms kicked by the redneck, homophobic patrons of a - get this - oyster bar. Right. I personally hate going to oyster bars and crab shacks because of all of the homophobic, racist rednecks there. Of course, we also learn toward the end of this waste of paper that evil, white, rich men can be rehabilitated under the right circumstances. And when I write "rehabilitated" I mean they can be made to understand that everything can be forgiven if only they give large chunks of their ill-gotten gains to the downtrodden, unfortunate masses. The portions of the book devoted to the inner thoughts of the reincarnated Abyssinian cat, while entertaining from a cat owner's perspective, are undiluted (and unbelievable) fantasy. And, of course, we also learn that there really is no right or wrong if we just spend the time to understand what unfortunate circumstances victimized the characters into acting the way that they do.
To end this on a mildly positive note, the interactions involving the misreading of one character by another based upon body language and situational framing were good. It was reminiscent of the novel "Thinks..." by David Lodge. And it's not the evolution of the character's philosophical underpinnings based upon their deeper understanding of others that bothers me; Cornwell uses this to great effect in her other novels. It's the clumsy, preachy way in which she approaches this that I found so annoying.
If this were the first Patricia Cornwell book that I had ever read, it would also be my last. Fortunately, her other books are not plagued by these faults. I highly recommend her other books; this one, however, is a stinker.