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Trace: A Scarpetta Novel Hardcover – Abridged, September 2, 2004

2.8 out of 5 stars 591 customer reviews
Book 13 of 24 in the Kay Scarpetta Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cornwell's latest after the disappointing Blow Fly has indomitable medical examiner Kay Scarpetta returning to her office in Richmond five years after being fired. This homecoming will cheer fans: not only does the move put Scarpetta on her own turf, it reinvigorates Cornwell's storytelling, restoring some of the spunk lately lacking in her lead character. Dr. Joel Marcus, Scarpetta's replacement as Virginia's chief medical examiner, has summoned her back to help him puzzle through the mysterious death of a 14-year-old girl. Marcus is generally loathed: he's petty, inept, has a secret garbage-truck phobia and harbors an intense hatred for Scarpetta. Meanwhile, Scarpetta's niece Lucy, owner of a fabulously successful private-eye firm, has her own troubles trying to sort out who attempted to kill her friend Henri (short for Henrietta), who's now under psychiatric treatment by Scarpetta's lover in Aspen, Benton Wesley. Lurking in the background is Edgar Allan Pogue, a nutcase who has a thing for dead bodies and a grudge against Scarpetta. It's her job, as always, to connect all the puzzling forensic dots and identify the killer in time to save herself and her loved ones. She does this, mostly, but leaves the reader to puzzle out a few salient points on his or her own. Cumbersome backstory slows the action, but in general the old Scarpetta comes through, at least in the main, and this will be enough to reassure her many fans and carry them over until her next appearance. BOMC, Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selection.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Against advice from her niece Lucy, Kay Scarpetta answers a request to return to the Richmond medical examiner's office, the same office from which she was fired, to help with the sensitive case of a dead teen. When she and Pete Marino arrive, they find the new medical examiner to be a vituperative, uncooperative martinet and the office that Kay ran so efficiently in chaos. Two murders, oddly linked, demand their attention. In the meantime, Lucy, still unsettled despite her success with the Last Precinct investigative agency, is having personal problems (there's been an attack on her housemate), which strangely enough find her treading the same path as her aunt Kay. Traces of the smart, dynamic, yet vulnerable Scarpetta of the early novels are in evidence here, and Cornwell has better control of her plot and characters than in her last few efforts, faltering only occasionally when psychobabble weighs things down. The mystery is intriguing, there's plenty of forensic detail, and the ending, though perhaps too abrupt, opens the way for Scarpetta and her associates to proceed in any direction that calls to them. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Kay Scarpetta Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (September 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399152199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399152191
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (591 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By DRob VINE VOICE on March 6, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Each time I pick up a new Scarpetta novel, I am filled with hope that Patricia Cornwell will return to the style of the early novels that made me fall in love with the series. Sadly, this novel, like so many of the recent ones, is another big disappointment.

I'm not even going to bother trying to give a plot summary because it's hardly worth the effort. Yes, there's a disturbing murder of a 14-year-old girl, but it hardly counts for anything in this book. Instead we have the usual Lucy angst because her lover, Henri (Henrietta), was attacked and won't talk to her. We also have Scarpetta angst because Benton Wesley faked his death for years and didn't tell her. Wesley has angst as well because he's still keeping secrets from Scarpetta and Lucy. And why are Wesley and Lucy keeping the fact that Henri was attacked such a big secret from Scarpetta? Why don't these people just TALK to each other? Since they keep getting interrupted on the phone, then maybe they could try emailing each other.

Oh yeah, there's also Marino angst, with his long time crush on Scarpetta and a really bizarre "rough sex" scene involving him and the mother of the victim.

As usual, even though Scarpetta is a respected expert in forensic analysis, the bureaucrats are out to get her. She is summoned to her old ME office in Virginia to work on the case involving the 14-year-old girl and faces overt hostility by Dr. Joel Marcus, her successor. He calls her in to help with the case but doesn't even have the grace to pretend he's happy to have her there. Of course, the office has become a shambles under his direction-- but nobody seems to care that the man hired to replace the brilliant Scarpetta is incompetent.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was a HUGE Cornwell fan for years and recommended her books to EVERYONE. But I am so sad to see what is becoming of this series, and I'm tired of paying these prices only to be disappointed. First, what happened with Benton was downright cruel. In Cornwell's latest installment, Scarpetta and Marino seemed tired and washed out; the two made ME tired. And Lucy...what is with Lucy? I don't even like her character! The plots starts off on an interesting note, but it just went downhill from there. Marino wasn't so bad, I've always loved him, and the scene where the dead girl's crazy mother bites him and Scarpetta examines him was touching. and then FINALLY she and Benton get together, well, maybe, but not quite sure. Cornwell is far too talented for this, and I long for the days when I could not put the book down. I have not enjoyed her books since "The Last Precinct," and, should I ever buy another book, I will not spend the kind of money I spent on this one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My working hypothesis for the past several Kay Scarpetta Mysteries is that Patricia Cornwell does not really like the character she has created. If there are levels beyond adding insult to injury then Scarpetta gets to explore them. When it turned out that Benton Wesley was not dead that was a stunningly cruel low blow. Until Marino drops dead or one of the whackos Lucy keeps letting into her life kills her or gets her killed that represents the lowest moment of Scarpetta's life, which has been exploring the Marianas trench rather relentlessly. So when I picked up "Trace," the 13th (oh-oh) of the Scarpetta mysteries, my first thought is what wringers is our heroine going through this time?

We know that there are certain things we are going to get when Cornwell writes one of these novels and "Trace" provides them. First, there is going to be some political hack who is out to get Scarpetta who is not going to get his comeuppance. I gave up years ago on this every happening, although time and time again somebody goes gunning for Scarpetta unfairly without ever having to pay a price. This time it is Dr. Joel Marcus, the idiot who was eventually hired as the chief medical examiner of Virginia to replace our heroine. Apparently having created the best ME office in the continental United States they decided to find the least qualified person to run it. But by the time Marcus gets to gleefully accuse the great Kay Scarpetta of incompetence he is disappearing quickly in her review mirror. Add to this that going back to her old stomping grounds in Richmond is no where close to being a happy homecoming either.

Second, Lucy is once again involved with somebody with whom she should not be involved.
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Format: Hardcover
I have read all of the Scarpetta series but Trace will be my last one. I was alternately bored and infuriated. I agree with other reviewers that too many questions were left up in the air. I never figured out why the killer killed Gilly - did I miss something? And what was the deal with the dog. Lots of questions unanswered. What really annoys me though is the total disfunction of each character. In Cornwell's world no one is ever happy. These characters now make you want to smack them and say "Quit whining and get a life!" Kay has become her own worst enemy as has Lucy and reading about their constant angst is just getting downright boring. They are their own worst enemies and I am beginning to think they deserve what they get.

Don't waste your time or money on this.
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