Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
Good afternoon from a very sunny North Yorkshire. Web have had a very lovely weekend doing, well, a bit of everything. Walks, shopping, visiting new places. We've managed to pack quite a bit in already and it is only 2pm!
Today's review is a real blast from my past, and which also features on Malcolm Kershaw's list of books. For those of you who have no idea what this means, I'll explain. The year before I read the wonderful Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson. This took place in a crime bookshop where a string of murders had been committed in the same style as those featured in a blog piece by the bookshop owner, Malcolm Kershaw. The book is a terrific read, and features a number of beloved crime novels, including the one I am reviewing today.
On with the review!
A serial killer is on the loose in Richmond, Virginia. 3 women have died, brutalised and strangled in their own bedrooms. There is no pattern. The killer appears to strike at random - but always early on Saturday mornings.
So when Dr Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Officer, is awakened at 2.33am, she knows the news is bad: there is a fourth victim. And she fears now for those that will follow unless she can dig up new forensic evidence to aid the police.
But not everyone is pleased to see a woman in this powerful job. Someone may even want to ruin her career and reputation.
I actually cannot believe it is 30 years since this book was released and the edition I read, was the 30 year celebratory edition which included a fascinating interview with the author, Patricia Cornwell. Initially Cornwell had written 3 novels which failed to be published. It was only when her agent suggesting writing about a background character they were fascinated with, a certain Dr Kay Scarpetta, that Cornwell penned Postmortem, and that rest as they say is history.
Indeed Scarpetta paved the way for a number of authors - Kathy Reichs, Tess Gerritsen and Karin Slaughter to name a few. At the time, this was brand new, it provided a peek behind the curtain into the mortuary and we found ourselves becoming fascinated by forensics, blood splatter and the host of techniques employed in the lab.
The plot, we learn, is very loosely based on the very true Southside Strangler. It is terrifying. I can honestly say, looking back, how I managed to read this whilst living on my own, without barring every door and window, I don't know. An unknown man breaks into female's homes, binds them, tortures them and then strangles them. There is no pattern to the victims. The only constant is the murders take place over the weekends. We have no clue who this figure is.
The novel has dated slightly. There are floppy disks, computer programmes that take days to run and I can almost hear the whir of the dot matrix printer.
But, in so many ways, it is just as exciting as when I first read it. Scarpetta is a great lead, blonde and icy, an interesting back up team and detail aplenty as to what actually happens in a morgue. I can see why it made Malcolm's list!