Point of Origin

against black background, flames look like a maskPoint of Origin is another of Patricia Cornwell’s complex crime novels solved by a complex crime investigator, Kay Scarpetta, Virginia’s medical examiner.

Point of Origin begins with two seemingly unrelated events. First, a threatening letter from psychopath Carrie Grethen at Ward’s Island, New York City, is delivered to Scarpetta, to remind her that Carrie isn’t finished ruining people’s lives. Second, Scarpetta is called to the scene of a fire in which the home and stables of media mogul Kenneth Sparkes were destroyed while he was away.

Before the fire investigation is a day old, Carrie Grethen escapes from Ward’s Island.

At the fire scene, Scarpetta discovers a corpse in the second-floor bathroom. It’s a woman, throat stabbed or cut, strange bits of what looks almost like neon-pink paper in her hair. Later, Sparkes tells Scarpetta he thinks the corpse is Claire Rawley, a former girlfriend who may have had a key to the house.

Forensic analysis can’t initially explain the amount of fire damage to the property or the corpse.

Scarpetta’s investigation of the cause of death requires her to shop for restaurant-sized pots, a camping supplies, and swimming caps.

Cornwell’s plots are interesting and re-readable, but her characters are recognizably human and unforgettable.

Point of Origin by Patricia Cornwell
G.P. Putnam. ©1998. 356 p.
1998 bestseller #8; my grade: A-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Hornet’s Nest by Patricia Cornwell

a hornet substitutes for the apostrophen in hornet's nestPatricia Cornwell’s Hornet’s Nest is a police procedural that turns that mystery novel sub-class upside down and inside out.

Cornwell sets the story in “the hornet’s nest of America,” Charlotte, NC, where the two top cops are women. Chief Judy Hammer is cool, collected, 50-ish professional who job of running the department includes being its public face.

Chief Deputy Virginia West, 42, is less cool and collected but no less sexy or less committed to her job.

Hammer has gotten permission from the city to allow Andy Brazil, the new police reporter for the Charlotte Observer, to ride along on police calls. Hammer orders West to take Brazil with her and to make sure he gets to see action. There is plenty of action, including what appears to be a series of brutal murders of businessmen in town for short stays.

Cornwell has plotted her story so readers have all the clues they need to be prepared for every surprise she throws in. She keeps her focus on personalities and their reactions, which reminded me of cops I saw when I worked a newspaper police beat.  Parts of the story are laugh-out-loud funny, others tragic.

Hornet’s Nest feels true.

Hornet’s Nest by Patricia CornwEll
G. P. Putnam. ©1996. 377 p.
1997 bestseller #10; my grade: A

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Unnatural Exposure

body part is missing from gaping blooding woundUnnatural Exposure is a medical mystery by Patricia Cornwell featuring Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Virginia’s medical examiner.

In this novel, Scarpetta has learned that five 10-year-old dismembered bodies found in Ireland, have the same MO as four found in Virginia. She fears that the same killer is responsible for both.

Her fear goes into overdrive when she receives a photo in her email that could only have come from the killer of a fifth recently found body in Sussex County.

The murders are not all totally consistent, however. The most recent victim was exposed to a smallpox-like virus. A woman on Tangier Island off Norfolk has apparently died from the virus and others on the island appear to be sick from it.  Scarpetta herself has been exposed to it.

To solve the mystery, Scarpetta calls on her niece Lucy, an FBI computer expert for help. Lucy enables her aunt to take a virtual tour of the room shown in the photograph from the killer.

Besides fighting to bring the killer to justice, Scarpetta has to fight for her budget, fight to keep the misinformation from the public, fight egocentric politicians, and fight her own nature when it threatens the relationships she holds most dear.

Unnatural Exposure by Patricia Cornwell
G. P. Putnam. ©1997. 338 p.
1997 bestseller #6; my grade: A-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni