Patricia Cornwell






Penguin Audiobooks, Abridged, August 2005
Reader: Carolyn McCormick
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

Contemporary Suspense

Oh dear, oh dear. One word to describe this offering. Awful. The version I had was abridged and I think perhaps they left out some major plot points because the motives of quite a few of the characters were never explained.

Dr Kay Scarpetta is called in to consult on a case in her old stomping ground in the murder of a 14 year old girl. She is, of course, deeply resented, even hated by her successor at the crime lab, Dr Marcus. He's a rather odd bod who is intent on destroying everything Kay has achieved (we're not told why). He also has a strange (and unexplained) phobia about garbage collection men. He is unable to leave the house until these "big dark men in their big dark clothes" have come and collected the garbage. Meanwhile Scarpetta's niece, Lucy, has made another appalling choice for a life partner. In an earlier book it was a female serial killer and now, it's Henri (short for Henrietta) who apparently has been attacked and is with Benton, profiler and sometime partner of Scarpetta. But Lucy is strange too, and narcissistic .

There is one character who rejoices in the name Edgar Allen Pogue, (sheesh!) and his motives are never explained either. Scarpetta's only apparent friend, Detective Marino, seems to have had some sort of sea change in his life. He's on a diet and now wears black clothing and "big boots " (a fact we are told quite a few times) but he's just as tetchy and unpleasant as ever.

TRACE is a mish mash of rather confusing events not coherently linked. It isn't helped much by the reader. Carolyn McCormick is probably known to most as Dr Olivet from the Law and Order series, and while she is probably a fine actress, I found her reading style to be quite stilted. She was obviously told to speak slowly and clearly but the end result sounds like someone who is just learning how to read aloud. Also some of her pauses and inflections don't seem to work with the structure of the sentences she's reading. Then again, poor Carolyn didn't have much to work with.

It's interesting to contrast Cornwell with the Ed McBain book I also read this month . Both TRACE and ALICE IN JEOPARDY are written in the 3rd person, present tense, but where TRACE seems to be clumsy and self-consciously pretentious, ALICE IN JEOPARDY flows beautifully. Cornwell also needs to get an adjective or two; her repetition of phrases and words in her descriptions ("big dark men in their big dark clothes": "Dr Marcus looks at her long and steady with heavy lizard eyes, reminding her of a lizard". -- duuh... well it would hardly remind the reader of a camel, would it?) became a source of annoyance. I'm not sure what she was striving for here, but it didn't work for me, that's certain. It's a pity, because Cornwell's early books were ground breakers and gave her deserved success. Her more recent offerings seem to be more in tune with a daytime soap than crime fiction.

[Note: You may find an audio sample of TRACE here.]

Dec 2005 Review


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