Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Predator by Patricia Cornwell

I felt like reading something a little different, so I picked up a mystery/thriller. This is 14th in Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpettta novels. I've read one of Patricia Cornwell's books before, a nonfiction investigation into Jack the Ripper. I've never read any of her Kay Scarpetta novels before, however. After this book, I don't intend to read any of her other Scarpetta novels.

The book weaves the stories of Dr. Scarpetta, her niece Lucy, her boyfriend Dr. Benton Wesley, and an unnamed other character. Dr. Scarpetta is the head of the Academy that trains forensic scientists and death investigators, and is funded by her niece Lucy. She works closely with Pete Marino, an ex-cop with a love for motorcycles. Dr. Wesley is in Massachusetts working with the Predator project, an attempt to map out the brains of serial killers while Scarpetta is in Florida investigating the disappearance of two women involved in a cult and the two South African boys they have adopted.

Unfortunately, the stories of the main characters do not weave together smoothly. They are jerky and often unrelated. Even after re-reading or returning to earlier episodes in the book with the characters, I was confused about how the stories were related. I had difficulty seeing how the unnamed character fit into the story until the very end of the novel. Usually, it's a good thing to keep some parts of the story unrevealed until the end in a mystery, but Cornwell could have done a much better job of bringing this character into the story without revealing the extent to which the character was involved.

The book was written in the present tense, which is an unusual choice for a book unless it is also written in the first person. Cornwell's choice of tense felt awkward and uncomfortable. I had difficulty finding a connection with or feeling for any of her characters. It is possible that I have missed some nuances in the characters by reading one of the novels that is deep into the series as opposed to one that is at the beginning. I may have to go back and read one of her first Kay Scarpetta novels just to find out.

Overall, I would probably not recommend this book to anyone unless they are a die hard mystery/thriller or Patricia Cornwell fan.

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