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Hornet's Nest Hardcover – January 13, 1997

2.3 out of 5 stars 438 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Andy Brazil Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Patricia Cornwell turns from forensics to police procedures in her latest novel, Hornet's Nest. This book is less a thriller than a character study of the main characters: Judy Hammer, chief of police in Charlotte, North Carolina; Hammer's deputy, Virginia West; and Andy Brazil, a young reporter assigned to ride with the police as they go about their jobs.

From Publishers Weekly

The decision to abandon her forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta (Body of Evidence; Cause of Death; etc.) leaves Cornwell lacking more than a fail-safe series heroine. The only credible element in this novel is the urban New South setting. The story-about two women top cops and a young male newspaper reporter in Charlotte, N.C.-is routine fare at best. The three characters-42-year-old Deputy Chief Virginia West; her boss, unhappily married Chief Judy Hammer; and handsome wunderkind journalist and volunteer cop, Andy Brazil-are preternaturally competent automatons, obsessive and utterly devoid of self-awareness. A sequence of serial killings of out-of-towners, men who are pulled from their rental cars, sexually mutilated, marked with orange spray paint and shot, creates tension in Charlotte. While Hammer struggles with city politics and a depressed, obese husband, West contends with Brazil (a "handsome and fierce" 22-year-old with "total photographic recall"), who is on assignment to write about police activity, having impressed his editor by turning in "a hundred of hours' overtime five months in a row." Rather than reveal her characters through their words and actions, Cornwell forces them on us predigested ("West believed women were great"; "Brazil did not believe prostitution was right."). In that same descriptive mode, she takes them on roller coaster rides of extravagant emotion-rage, grief, resolve, despair-and offers set pieces in place of plot: mid-book, more than 150 pages pass without mention of the murders. We are made privy to the fantasies of West's cat, but not to the motivations behind the killings. There is nothing to believe in on these pages beyond Charlotte itself. 750,000 first printing; $500,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 377 pages
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons; 1st edition (January 13, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399142282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399142284
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (438 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,756,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel E. Grambihler on August 12, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was warned about this but I couldn't remember which title until I was about four pages into the book. It was a great (big)departure from the Scarpetta series that I had gotten used to. The characters were great in and of themselves. They interacted well. The story was alright but not terrific. I found it lacking coming from Cornwell but I have to remember that it was NOT a Scarpetta story. As much as it pains me as a woman to say this, it kept creeping into my mind that Cornwell was having the same hot flashes that West had throughout the book.
The beginning to about 3/5 in was overtly sexual in tone, all the descriptions of persons for one and most characters being either wildly homosexual or homophobic, then it leapt to kooky when she began telling parts of the story from the point of view of characters who mattered little and do I have to mention the cat? Then it was back to the heavy sexual tones and interlaced with kooky feline perspective that was rather distracting and detracted from the main story.
The book is not great. Like I said, I can imagine this being written under the Change or a menacing deadline, maybe even as an exercise to vent gone weirdly awry. While not told in a very Scarpetta way, it was okay. If anyone paid attention to the beginning of the novel and the explanation about the Hornet's nest and takes that into the account through the rest of the book, it makes an insane sort of sense.
I was not thrilled with the ending and would have thrown the book had I not feared harming someone else in the room. I don't recommend buying the book. Check it out from a library if you're curious. Or, if you have to buy it, make sure you have the address where you can sell it back. It will help pass the time of two days, I guess I read it rather quickly, and lend to some interesting psychological profiles but other than that... I can't say the book would do much for diehard Scarpetta fans.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have read a number of other Patricia Cornwell books from her Dr. Kay Scarpetta series. While they have all varied in quality, they usually range from good to excellent. That is why this book was a complete shock, as it is one of the worst books that I have read in a long time.
This book is not a Dr. Kay Scarpetta series book. Instead, it is a police procedural that focuses on three individuals: Charlotte's stalwart Police Chief Judy Hammer, her drop dead gorgeous Deputy Chief Virginia West, and Andy Brazil, an intrepid, young news reporter. Unfortunately, while the premise may have been inspired, the book fails in its execution, with characters that never quite work, relationships that are far fetched or never quite gel, a plot that lacks focus and fails to capture the reader's imagination, as well as an excess of mediocre writing in need of serious editing.
This audio book also suffers from a painful reading by noted actor Chris Sarandon, whose performance on this audio book is almost embarrassing. Narrated in a precise, almost prissy manner, his performance lacks a certain grit that is almost demanded by a police procedural. Moreover, his segues into the different characters are done in a way that grate upon the ear. Chris, a word to the wise...don't quit your day job.
Readers beware. This book was DOA. Do not spend one cent on this turkey. If you feel the urge for turkey, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Be thankful that you have not wasted your money on this book.
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By A Customer on January 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have enjoyed reading Patricia's series about Dr. Scarpetta so when she came out with Hornet's Nest and Southern Cross, I was excited about reading them. I found them both to be very disjointed and hard to read. I got very frustrated when reading them both and I don't believe I will read anything else pertaining to Chief Judy Hammer, Virginia West, or Andy Brazil. I'll stick to the Scarpetta series.
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