#LipglossmaffiaBookClub: Trace || Patricia Cornwell
I hope you have been keeping up with the #LipglossmaffiaReadingChallenge, if you haven’t, it’s never ever too late to start. I have to admit though, I have been slacking off because this time last year, I had already finished thirty books and now, I can’t even boast of reading fifteen and I think it’s affecting me. So, I’m going to change that very very soon, for updates on that, you should follow me on Instagram at @lipglossmaffia.
For my sixth pick, I chose…
*A Book With A One Word Title
Title: Trace || Patricia Cornwell
My Ratings: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: 2004
Summary: Her return as consultant pathologist in the mysterious death of a teenage girl ruffles a few feathers. Yet Gilly Paulsson’s death has stumped the best in the business.There is no obvious cause; nothing suspicious except for the fact that Gilly shouldn’t be dead. Then Sacrpetta uncovers trace evidence: Gilly Paulsson was murdered. But why? For Scarpetta, what began as a forensic puzzle expands into a larger, far more alarming picture. But still the vital pieces are missing.
I don’t want to believe I have outgrown Patricia Cornwell. Damn it! I used to love her. But this book didn’t hit my sweet spot. I am honestly not sure what changed; my taste in writing style-wise or her writing. I think it’s both.
Trace is another Kay Scarpetta novel. When the first Scarpetta novel, Postmortem, was written in 1990, Dr. Scarpetta was Chief Medical Examiner for the city of Richmond, Virginia. Her partner in so many investigations, Pete Marino, was a Detective with the Richmond PD and her niece Lucy Farinelli, who was more like her daughter, was a schoolkid.
Over the course of the Kay Scarpetta novels between Postmortem and Trace, Scarpetta has been fired from the job and moved to South Florida, where she works as a freelance consultant. Lucy Farinelli has grown from chubby schoolgirl to FBI Agent, then DEA, and now runs a private investigative service called The Last Precinct, where Pete Marino is now working for her.
I will give Patricia Cornwell credit; she has allowed these characters to grow organically, and their trajectories over the longer arc of the series of novels have made sense, and also contained logical surprises. Nobody has gone completely psycho and ended up actually being the villain or anything crazy like that. However Lucy has become a somewhat morally challenged character who, while still doing the right thing in a sometimes Old-Testament way, still skirts laws domestic and international while doing The Last Precinct’s work. Marino is one of the most interesting characters, a man of greater depth and sensitivity than one would have expected on reading Postmortem, when he seemed like a hotheaded, perhaps ‘cowboy’ kind of dude.
Kay Scarpetta is the most consistent character – she is the spine of the body of each story. She is a great creation in the history of crime fiction, there is no doubt in my mind – incisive, brilliant, yet vulnerable to inner demons, not nearly as superhuman as she seems to other characters in the novels.
And truly, Patricia Cornwell knows how to make you turn the page and just keep reading. The prose style is immediate, clear, the descriptions often elegantly, precisely rendered, as are most of her characterizations. That said, I was annoyed by Trace. I felt, as I finished, a sense of “that’s it?” I did not review it here, but I felt exactly the same way upon reading the Scarpetta novel preceding this one, Blowfly.
What Cornwell does that puzzles me and leaves me as a reader unsatisfied is introduce and explore a character, their quirks, their internal landscapes, then more or less leave you hanging. It’s almost as if I now know too much about them. For instance, in Trace, Chapter 24 is entirely devoted to showing us that Dr. Scarpetta’s replacement as Chief Medical Examiner is a troubled man. Perhaps not psycho, not dangerous, but troubled – by anxieties and phobias. There is a definite sense that we are being brought inside this character’s head for a reason. However, unless I missed something completely, this never pans out.
If I have any other issue with Cornwell’s writing perhaps it’s her lack of humor. I don’t always expect crime novels to contain leavening moments, but there were some flashes of it in the early Scarpetta books that often brought a nice pause to the story at hand, a little breathing room. In more recent years the tone of each story has grown darker, and in a way more paranoiac. The world Kay Scarpetta inhabits is a deeply depressing one – even in triumph, even when the ‘bad guy’ or ‘gal’ is caught and put away, or done away with, we can’t quite feel like the balance between good and evil is righted, even if only for a moment.
I am perhaps guilty of having biases about crime fiction, suspense and mystery novels, and I suspect anyone who would disagree with my review of this book might find my outlook simplistic. Perhaps that is the case. Oh well.
These are some of my favourite quotes from the book.
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