Friday, November 16, 2007

Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell

This is actually not a book I read for any of my current challenges. I've read all the other Scarpetta books and bought this one last week. I've liked most of the other books, but I'm not as sure about this one.

In this one, all of the regular characters are back: Kay; Lucy, her computer-gifted niece; Benton, her lover; Rose, her secretary; and Marino, her investigator and friend. The plot revolved around a series of gruesome murders linked to a famous self-help doctor who has appeared in another one of the novels.

Strengths of Book of the Dead: As always, the forensic science parts are totally cool. It's like James Bond gadgets but with Lucy and Kay in charge. Nice bit of female power. Scarpetta continues to be a strong character filled with flaws and nuances. She is not boring, and Cornwell has allowed her to grow during the series of books.

Weaknesses of Book of the Dead: (Spoiler alert - many of my issues will give away major plot points!) Everyone, and I mean everyone, is much too tragic in this one. Rose is dying of lung cancer ... Lucy has a brain tumor .... Marino loses his mind (and is left in sequel limbo) ... Benton is confused and bewildered ... Kay is engaged but with lots of doubts. I can see a crisis, or even two, in a well-written story, but this became way too melodramatic. Oh, and Rose is dating Kay's main competitor! Come on!

Then there's the murder plot. The reader knows all along who the murderer is but not who he really is. Cornwell pulled his identity out of her hat, and there was no real way for the reader to have that moment of "a-ha" - that's how it all tied in. There were facts the reader couldn't have known that were pertinent to his identify. Further, the ending left Marino lost and in limbo, and it didn't resolve any of the melodrama of cancer and brain tumors. It felt like Cornwell simply ran out of words, or wanted to make sure readers would buy the next book. (Spoiler ended!)

Overall, I was quite disappointed in this one. It was not as well-written as others in the series. The plot was much weaker, and I really didn't like the plot twists for the major characters. I wonder if this happens with other long-running book series. Do the authors run out of ideas for their characters? Do they get too comfortable, sure of themselves and more accepting of less quality in their writing? If you've read this one, I'd love to know what you think. I'm also curious to know if you've had the same experience of being disappointed in the latest book in a favorite series.


Literary Feline said...

I gave up on this series after reading Blowfly and Trace, both of which were huge disappointments to me and the point where I finally decided I didn't care about the characters anymore. I still follow reviews though because I know others are still reading her and enjoying her books. I am sorry this one disappointed you.

As for series books in general, I do find sometimes that the longer running series don't seem to quite live up to my expectations. One thing I've discovered in my case is that if I read some (not all) series book in hardback (because I can't wait a year for the paperback, I'm so excited), I may not enjoy the book quite as much as if I were to read it in paperback. For some odd reason, I think sometimes the format of the book impacts my enjoyment. Isn't that weird? Maybe subconsciously it's the fact that I paid more for it? I haven't been able to figure it out.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Patricia Cornwell lost me when I started the third book (forget the title) and realized it was the same book over and over and over.

Tien said...

i read post mortem before, but i wasn't interested in it. i guess science fic just isn't my type. i fall asleep reading atlantis. god, how boring can that guy get? but the idea david gibbons have is interesting though.

anyway, looked forward to reading more reviews from you!

BookGal said...

Literary - I think this one did me in on this series too. I'm just going to follow the reviews, too.

I think I agree with you. I do expect more from a book when I've paid for a hardcover book. I think it's a subconscious thing, but it might be that I'm really anticipating the next one in a series and it's hard to keep the quality up as a series gets longer (and older).

Pres - I agree. It does feel like she repeats herself.

Tien - Thanks for visiting. I've never heard of David Gibbons. I'll check out your site for more.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm new to posting at someone else's blog, but wanted to comment on the latest Cornwell.

The writing is so off the wall. The characters have gone south.

Have you checked out her homepage? It's pretty weird. She says that the negative reviews at amazon and barnes and noble are part of a conspiracy and calls on her fans to respond with their own reviews. She also mentions a government conspiracy as the cause of the nay-sayers ... and then tosses in a battle over Ruth Graham's burial for good measure.

I've read everything Cornwell has written and have watched the downhill slide over the past several volumes, so the rant is particularly painful to read.

But, I guess what really stuns me is her paranoia. I wrote a negative review, giving examples of just plain bad writing, character development and the obvious absence of any editing staff.

She calls those of us who wrote negative reviews "hateful people."

I've never seen agenda-pushing like this.

All of a sudden, there are a boatload of 5-star reviews at amazon ... originally, the reviews were not at all positive. Most of the posters are first time reviewers. It's just weird.

Would love to hear what others think of the website.

BookGal said...

Anon - I've read some interviews with her and seen some things she's written. It does seem quite strange - I wonder if it's for the publicity or if she is really that full of herself. Thanks for visiting.

Trish said...

I only have one Patricia Cornwell book, but I've never gotten around to it (I think I've had it for about 8 years). One day... I try to leave the scary stuff to TV rather than my books.

Anonymous said...

Love the site, BG. Will visit often, as I'm a booklover, too.

Dewey said...

I used to read these, but they really became tiresome, so I stopped. I think it's like you say, that they run out of ideas. It makes me forgive Bill Watterson for stopping Calvin and Hobbes when he did.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but then you have writers like Grafton who continue to turn out great stories. Got my hands on a copy of "T is for Trespass," and loved it. Gave me some faith.

I'm a big fan of Kinsey Millhone and will be sad when "Z is for _______" is released.

Am also reading "The Collectors," as "Stone Cold" just dropped on my desk and everyone says I need to read TC before starting on SC. I read "The Camel Club" a long time ago. So far, so good.