Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Book 9 of 2013: Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell

A few weeks back a friend dropped into our house and noticed that I had almost all the Kathy Reichs books lined up on the bookcase and mentioned that I might like Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series of novels. The next time we met him, he handed me a copy of Postmortem, the first book in the series, to borrow.

This book introduces the character of Doctor Kay Scarpetta, County Medical Examiner, as she works to prove her lab's innocence and track down a serial killer. Her niece, Lucy, is visiting; the child's a little genius but has had some issues at home, but Kay doesn't have the time that she really needs to spend with her. And there appears to be a leak to the media coming from her lab, which may or may not have come from someone hacking the computer system there.

I don't think that this really drew me in quite as quickly as the first Kathy Reichs book did. I think part of that was my own fault; I couldn't help but make comparisons between the two books. The voice was different to Brennan's voice, obviously, because they're different characters, but it meant that it took me a little while to get used to. I've read almost all of the Temperance Brennan books over the last year or so, so I suppose I've just gotten used to that voice; I guess I was just expecting more of the same, and I had to keep reminding myself that this was about a different character.

The more I read, the more I got into the story. It really was completely different to the Kathy Reichs style. One of the first things I noticed was that fact that the chapters are much, much longer. There's also not the same cliffhanger chapter endings that I've come to expect from my crime reading. Cornwell gives you a long chapter, with the big reveal at the end. That made it easier to put down at the end of a long night's reading; you'd be rewarded at the end of the chapter with what you've been waiting for, but it didn't quite give you the same incentive to carry on going late into the night.

This book was written in 1990 and like many crime books, it shows its age. At times it was a little bit funny; bits about wishing there was a DNA database and characters lighting up any time, any place (including in the morgue just after examining the body). But this book also relied heavily on technology of the time to tell the story, there's a database at the coroner's office which is hacked but the computer systems are totally unfamiliar to modern ones.

It was unintentionally funny in places because of the changes that have taken place in the twenty-three years since it was funny. But there was also an intentional element of humour, particularly between Kay and the dectective on the case. They sparred off each other well and I liked some of Kay's little internalisations. There were also some lovely little lines as well about the state of the world. It was a nice combination and I think that helped me to get over the fact that I wasn't reading a Kathy Reichs book.

I'm definitely going to read the next one; luckily I have a couple of friends who are willing to lend me them (saving my bank balance and bookcase from being overloaded). I think that as they go through the series and become more 'current' I'll enjoy them more, and I'll enjoy the characters more as well. This one felt like it was just a taster, introducing the characters and setting, I think the next ones will draw me in more.


  1. I've always fancied picking one of these up too, yet never got around to them. I love reading books that are now rather dated, as you say reading people smoking now is extremely rare, so whenever I read a book pre smoking ban it always feels rather funny.

    1. I think they'll probably get better as the series goes on and I'm definitely planning on reading more of them.

      The smoking thing was particularly jarring because as I understood it they were still in the morgue, they just stepped away from the body and then just lit up, hehe.


Let me know what you think. :-)