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Blow Fly (Kay Scarpetta Series #12)

Blow Fly (Kay Scarpetta Series #12)

2.9 304
by Patricia Cornwell

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Readers are in for the shock of Kay Scarpetta's life.


Readers are in for the shock of Kay Scarpetta's life.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Returning to her bestselling Kay Scarpetta series after a foray into nonfiction (Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed), Patricia Cornwell takes her forensic pathologist heroine into another unsettling tale that blends fast-paced action with skillful character development.

After sending Jean-Baptiste Chandonne up the river in The Last Precinct, Scarpetta now faces the vengeance of his insane brother, who is rampaging through the Louisiana bayous, hideously torturing and murdering a number of Scarpetta look-alikes. As if this weren't enough, she's eventually forced to turn to the demonic Jean-Baptiste in an effort to catch yet another killer; but his help comes at a horrific price.

Blow Fly is an engaging, well-crafted story that lures you with a series of chilling incidents. Never one to shrink from disturbing material, Cornwell does a particularly fine job of fleshing out her villains -- a cruel, depraved, and thoroughly intriguing cast of characters who keep the action moving at a steady pace. This powerful entry in the Scarpetta canon mesmerizes with its unflinching glimpse into the darkest depths of the human heart. Tom Piccirilli

Connecticut Post
Patricia Cornwell is on target - and spectacularly so - with her latest Kay Scarpetta thriller...
October 26, 2003
Publishers Weekly
"Please don't go there. The past is the past," sighs New York Assistant District Attorney Jaime Berger, who herself was introduced in Cornwell's last Kay Scarpetta novel, The Last Precinct (2000). Alas, many of Cornwell's fans are bound to agree. One fascinating nonfiction bestseller (Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed) later, Cornwell now returns to Scarpetta, formerly Virginia's chief medical examiner. From the start, however, the formidable author is up against the equally formidable task of getting her charismatic main character off ice and back in action. We encounter Scarpetta languishing in a crumbling little rental house in Florida. She has taken refuge there and become a private forensic consultant after she was driven from her job for her alleged involvement in the murder of a deputy police chief. The violent death of her lover, Benton Wesley, the brilliant FBI psychological profiler, has left her filled with an unappeasable grief. When the coroner in Baton Rouge asks her advice on a cold case concerning an affluent woman found dead of a drug overdose in a seedy hotel, it seems little more than a diversion. Yet it becomes clear that the overdose may be related to a fresh string of serial killings. Also disturbing Scarpetta's somber peace is a troubling letter from someone out to kill her, the sick and obsessed death-row inmate Jean-Baptiste. When Scarpetta is at last allowed to get back to business, she is a feisty, independent powerhouse whose capacity to concentrate and observe rivals Sherlock Holmes's. But too much of this book is bound up in retrospective musings about events in previous books. The great Scarpetta, her fiery crime-busting niece, Lucy, and a colorful supporting cast deserve better. 1,000,000 first printing; Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Mystery Guild main selections; foreign sales to Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Spain and the U.K.. (Oct. 13) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Dr. Kay Scarpetta (The Last Precinct) is back-this time as a private forensic consultant. First, she is called to Baton Rouge to help investigate a socialite's mysterious death and perhaps provide insight about a serial killer on the loose there. Then she receives a letter from Jean-Baptiste Chandonne, the infamous Loup Garou (Black Notice), who nearly killed her several years before. With his execution approaching, Chandonne claims that he has information that could destroy his family's international cartel, but he will only give it to Scarpetta. As she becomes more involved in her investigations in Louisiana, Scarpetta begins to suspect that the crimes are somehow tied to Chandonne and that she has become a pawn in his powerful family's grasp. What she finally discovers stuns her to the core. This is, in some ways, the most shocking Scarpetta installment, and readers new to the series might find it confusing. Fans will definitely want it, though. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/03; a Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, and Mystery Guild main selection.]-Leslie Madden, Georgia Inst. of Technology, Atlanta Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fresh from tussling with a nonpareil real-life serial killer (Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed, not reviewed), Cornwell brings back forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta for her first outing in three years. The interval's been so tough on Scarpetta that now she requires a third-person narrator and chapters short as a gasp. She's left her job as Virginia's Chief Medical Examiner, and she's been mourning her FBI lover Benton Wesley, not realizing her niece Lucy Farinelli helped him fake his death so that he could go underground. Jean-Baptiste Chandonne, the Wolfman Scarpetta blinded and brought to book in The Last Precinct (2000), may be on Death Row in Texas, but he's still as dangerous as ever, promising Scarpetta help in tracking down the killer of Charlotte Dard in Baton Rouge eight years ago if she'll come visit him and promise to give him the fatal needle. Back in Louisiana, Jay Talley, Chandonne's handsome if equally depraved twin, is kidnapping, torturing, and murdering a series of middle-aged Wal-Mart shoppers in literally unspeakable ways. One problem this time, in fact, is that Cornwell never provides any of the unblinking set pieces that have made her so widely imitated. A more serious problem is that the perils feel recycled, shapeless, and so soaked in evil that they're headed nowhere in particular for Sisyphus Scarpetta. First printing of 1,000,000; $850,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild/Doubleday Book Club/Mystery Guild main selection; author tour. Agent: Esther Newberg/ICM
From the Publisher
“[A] grisly fast-paced thriller…utterly chilling.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Patricia Cornwell is on target—and spectacularly so…a story so compelling that even long-time readers will be stunned by its twists and turns.”—Chicago Tribune

“Like a thriller with overtones of espionage, Blow Fly is a novel of complicated relationships, near-Machiavellian maneuvers and, as usual, picture-perfect scenes in which Scarpetta’s forensic expertise comes into play…Enjoy the show—it’s a good one.”—The Denver Post
“Engaging and horrifying…a book that fans will want to read for the sheer voyeuristic quality of watching the characters they know so well go beyond their limits.”—Houston Chronicle

Product Details

Large Print Distribution
Publication date:
Kay Scarpetta Series , #12
Edition description:
Unabridged Edition Large Print
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt


DR. KAY SCARPETTA moves the tiny glass vial close to candlelight, illuminating a maggot drifting in a poisonous bath of ethanol.

At a glance, she knows the exact stage of metamorphosis before the creamy carcass, no larger than a grain of rice, was preserved in a specimen vessel fitted with a black screw cap. Had the larva lived, it would have matured into a bluebottle Calliphora vicina, a blow fly. It might have laid its eggs in a dead human body's mouth or eyes, or in a living person's malodorous wounds.

"Thank you very much," Scarpetta says, looking around the table at the fourteen cops and crime-scene technicians of the National Forensic Academy's class of 2003. Her eyes linger on Nic Robillard's innocent face. "I don't know who collected this from a location best not to contemplate at the dinner table, and preserved it with me in mind . . . but . . ."

Blank looks and shrugs.

"I have to say that this is the first time I've been given a maggot as a gift."

No one claims responsibility, but if there is a fact Scarpetta has never doubted, it is a cop's ability to bluff and, when necessary, outright lie. Having noticed a tug at the corner of Nic Robillard's mouth before anyone else realized that a maggot had joined them at the dinner table, Scarpetta has a suspect in mind.

The light of the flame moves over the vial in Scarpetta's fingertips, her nails neatly filed short and square, her hand steady and elegant but strong from years of manipulating the unwilling dead and cutting through their stubborn tissue and bone.

Unfortunately for Nic, her classmates aren't laughing, and humiliation finds her like a frigid draft. After ten weeks with cops she should now count as comrades and friends, she is still Nic the Hick from Zachary, Louisiana, a town of twelve thousand, where, until recently, murder was an almost unheard-of atrocity. It was not unusual for Zachary to go for years without one.

Most of Nic's classmates are so jaded by working homicides that they have come up with their own categories for them: real murders, misdemeanor murders, even urban renewal. Nic doesn't have her own pet categories. Murder is murder. So far in her eight-year career, she has worked only two, both of them domestic shootings. It was awful the first day of class when an instructor went from one cop to another, asking how many homicides each of their departments averaged a year. None, Nic said. Then he asked the size of each cop's department. Thirty-five, Nic said. Or smaller than my eighth-grade class, as one of her new classmates put it. From the beginning of what was supposed to be the greatest opportunity of her life, Nic quit trying to fit in, accepting that in the police way of defining the universe, she was a them, not an us.

Her rather whimsical maggot mischief, she realizes with regret, was a breach of something (she's not sure what), but without a doubt she should never have decided to give a gift, serious or otherwise, to the legendary forensic pathologist Dr. Kay Scarpetta. Nic's face heats up, and a cold sweat dampens her armpits as she watches for her hero's reaction, unable to read it, probably because Nic is stunned stupid by insecurity and embarrassment.

"So I'll call her Maggie, although we really can't determine gender yet," Scarpetta decides, her wire-rim glasses reflecting shifting candlelight. "But a good enough name for a maggot, I think." A ceiling fan snaps and whips the candle flame inside its glass globe as she holds up the vial. "Who's going to tell me which instar Maggie is? What life stage was she in before someone"-she scans the faces at the table, pausing on Nic's again-"dropped her in this little bottle of ethanol? And by the way, I suspect Maggie aspirated and drowned. Maggots need air the same way we do."

"What asshole drowned a maggot?" one of the cops snipes.

"Yeah. Imagine inhaling alcohol . . ."

"What'cha talking about, Joey? You been inhaling it all night."

A dark, ominous humor begins to rumble like a distant storm, and Nic doesn't know how to duck out of it. She leans back in her chair, crossing her arms at her chest, doing her best to look indifferent as her mind unexpectedly plays one of her father's worn-out storm warnings: Now, Nic, honey, when there's lightning, don't stand alone or think you'll be protected by hiding in the trees. Find the nearest ditch and lie as low in it as you can. At the moment, she has no place to hide but in her own silence.

"Hey Doc, we already took our last test."

"Who brought homework to our party?"

"Yeah, we're off duty."

"Off duty, I see," Scarpetta muses. "So if you're off duty when the dead body of a missing person has just been found, you're not going to respond. Is that what you're saying?"

"I'd have to wait until my bourbon wears off," says a cop whose shaved head is so shiny it looks waxed.

"That's a thought," she says.

Now the cops are laughing-everyone but Nic.

"It can happen." Scarpetta sets the vial next to her wineglass. "At any given moment, we can get a call. It may prove to be the worst call of our careers, and here we are, slightly buzzed from a few drinks on our time off, or maybe sick, or in the middle of a fight with a lover, a friend, one of the kids."

She pushes away her half-eaten yellowfin tuna and folds her hands on top of the checkered tablecloth.

"But cases can't wait," she adds.

"Seriously. Isn't it true that some can?" asks a Chicago detective his classmates call Popeye because of the anchor tattooed on his left forearm. "Like bones in a well or buried in a basement. Or a body under a slab of concrete. I mean, they ain't going anywhere."

"The dead are impatient," Scarpetta says.

--from Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell, copyright © 2003 by Patricia Cornwell, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“[A] grisly fast-paced thriller…utterly chilling.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Patricia Cornwell is on target—and spectacularly so…a story so compelling that even long-time readers will be stunned by its twists and turns.”—Chicago Tribune

“Like a thriller with overtones of espionage, Blow Fly is a novel of complicated relationships, near-Machiavellian maneuvers and, as usual, picture-perfect scenes in which Scarpetta’s forensic expertise comes into play…Enjoy the show—it’s a good one.”—The Denver Post
“Engaging and horrifying…a book that fans will want to read for the sheer voyeuristic quality of watching the characters they know so well go beyond their limits.”—Houston Chronicle

Meet the Author

Patricia Cornwell is one of the world’s major internationally bestselling authors, translated into more than thirty-five languages in more than 120 countries. She is a founder of the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine; a founding member of the National Forensic Academy; a member of the Advisory Board for the Forensic Sciences Training Program at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, New York City; and a member of the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital’s National Council, where she is an advocate for psychiatric research. In 2008, Cornwell won the Galaxy British Book Awards’s Books Direct Crime Thriller of the Year—the first American to win this prestigious award. In 2011, she was awarded the medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Ministry of Culture in Paris. Her most recent bestsellers include Red Mist, Port Mortuary, The Scarpetta Factor, The Front, and Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper. Her earlier works include Postmortem—the only novel to win five major crime awards in a single year—and Cruel & Unusual, which won Britain’s Gold Dagger Award for best crime novel of 1993. Dr. Kay Scarpetta herself won the 1999 Sherlock Award for the best detective created by an American author.

Brief Biography

Boston, MA and New York, NY
Date of Birth:
June 9, 1956
Place of Birth:
Miami, Florida
B.A. in English, Davidson College, 1979; King College

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Blow Fly (Kay Scarpetta Series #12) 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 304 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Patricia Cornwell has been one of my favorite authors for quite some time, and I've been an avid fan of her Kay Scarpetta series (though not the Andy Brazil series). I suppose that may be why I was so disappointed with Blowfly, the eleventh novel in the Scarpetta series. Cornwell created a formidable and impressive heroine in Kay Scarpetta a lawyer, as well as a medical doctor, serving as the Chief Medical Examiner of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Her own experience working as a medical examiner helped her weave a vivid image of that world, and the politics surrounding it. But somewhere, Cornwell has jumped the rails and taken her writing from dark and mysterious into just dark and wounded. Scarpetta, once the indomitable spirit who lets the dead speak and finds the justice, albeit a dark and foreboding chase, now spends much of her time sitting and whimpering to herself about all the bad things that she¿s suffered lately. What was once a model of self determination, now reads like a case of clinical depression and self pity. Also, where the first eight or nine books are able to stand alone, even if the reader hasn¿t read the preceding ones, the last few have read more like chapters than actual books. Blowfly, even more than the others, requires the reader to have pretty much memorized what happened in the two preceding (Black Notice and The Last Precinct) in order to understand the story at all. Blowfly's story line is convoluted and very difficult to follow, even for a reader who is very familiar with the entire series. Characters whose lives and loves are well known to the reader are muddied to the point that they become unfamiliar, and then seem to have changed entirely. One character, long dead, is even resurrected his supposed murder now linked to the present chaos, although none of it had even occurred yet when he 'passed'. There was a profound and unexplained change in Cornwell's writing style as well, that began in The Last Precinct, the book immediately preceding, and continuing with Blowfly. Where the other books have been written in first person, past tense (I walked into the room and saw the victim), the last two have been third person, present tense (Scarpetta walks into the room and sees the victim). The change is dramatic in that it not only distracts the reader it tends to make it sound like a screenplay instead of a novel. It is commonly held that the ending is the hardest part of a novel to write, and Blowfly seems to hold this up. It ends abruptly in the last five pages, leading the reader to wonder if there may be some pages missing. There is no build and release, only a tension that never ends. If the pattern follows, I have no doubt that the next book in the series will pick up as if it is the missing chapters to the unfinished story. Linda Dark Horse
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so excited when I found out that Patricia Cornwell was coming out with a new Kay Scarpetta novel. I counted the days for it's release and ran to the bookstore to get a copy. When I started into it I was shocked to see that she had written it in a third-person style and had done away with Kay's vision of the story. Then after reading for a while I found that Kay wasn't even the main character, really. It centered more around Lucy, who is as confusing as ever. Even the other characters had more scenes than Kay did. The ending was so horrible that it almost seemed to be from a different story. It just tumbled along forever and then just stopped. By far the worst Kay Scarpetta novel ever and I have been reading them since 'Postmortem'. If you still want to read it, borrow don't buy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book and my oh my is it a disappointment! Please tell me this will be the last of the Cardonne family. I am really bummed about how things got revealed with Benton. I really hope TRACE is better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the worst book I ever read. I don't know if this was supposed to be a fairy tale or a Stephen King-type thriller. It certainly wasn't a murder mystery. The crazy Chandonne character has been stretched way past the point of believability. This requires much more than the suspension of disbelief.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not thrilled. How can people that are supposed to love KS live with this one?
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's so funny reading the other reviews. This was definitely her best book so far! I am so bored with Kellerman, Patterson, and Sanford...Lee Child is the best writer so far.....
Andrew_of_Dunedin More than 1 year ago
I have read Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series in order.  My appreciation and enjoyment of the series went from a high level to a very high level, back to a high level … and then plummeted.  Finally, with “The Last Precinct”, I thought that Cornwell's rut might be over and the series was about to climb back into my favorites.  That book felt like a literary “catch-up, catch breath, and prepare to move forward” effort. I was wrong.  “Blow Fly”, the 12th in the series (13 if you count “Winter Table”), has the same “rebuilding” feel about it as did “The Last Precinct”.  However, I was incredibly disappointed in how she handled characters that I THOUGHT were familiar to me.  Lucy … oh, Lucy, you are NOT the same person you were just a few books ago – and while people and characters do grow and evolve, this felt more like “mishandling” than “evolution”.  Even the memory of the late Benton Wesley is fully turned upon its ear with revelations as to who the character was and what his motivations / actions were.  And let's not even talk about Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the medical examiner who barely gets the opportunity to examine the dead for clues as to their demise and to the person or people who led to it. I think I might have really enjoyed this book if it were about characters I hadn't known and loved for years.  In that case, there wouldn't be any inconsistency – we'd just be learning about new characters and their ideosyncracies.  Instead, “Blow Fly” felt like “deep breath and regroup”.  Again. The next book in the series may actually be that breath of fresh air that the last 2 have promised, but it'll be awhile before I find out for sure – after the last 2 books, I'm in no hurry to read it.   Sorry Dr. Cornwell – I admire you and your work / talent, but sometimes things aren't going to feel right to me, and it isn't much of an “honest review” if I gloss over them. RATING: 2 stars.
TKC More than 1 year ago
Patricia Cornwell's character Kay Scarpetta continues to reign supreme in another book in the series.
kip0926 More than 1 year ago
In the last year I have picked up on Patricia Cornwell novels and have loved every one! "Blow Fly" was fast-paced, exciting and a great read to get you away from it all! I highly recommend all of Cornwell's books in the Kay Scarpetta series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BLOW FLY This book is a departure from Ms. Cornwell's usual style of writing. And ... it is brilliant! This book does require that the reader be familiar with the characters from previous Scarpetta books, and it does continue the story line that started in Black Notice and The Last Precinct. Ms. Cornwell has taken a chance in changing her style with this book. It reminds me somewhat of the writing of Steig Larsson. The reader has to keep thinking as the storyline moves from one character to another; we get some interesting insights into the minds and psyches of the characters. I found only one disappointing thing about the book. The ending is rather abrupt, and the readers are told through one of the characters what happens to the "bad guys". After investing time into reading and following the story, and feeling much dislike for the "bad guys", it seems a let-down that we are not given more details. However, I am impressed with this book, and will probably read it again. Bravo Ms Cornwell ... well done! LFB
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ComplicatedGuy More than 1 year ago
Read all of the earlier books in the Kay series years ago and just got back into them now. I get a feeling part of this story comes from Paticia C's own inner demons as her character evolves. Whatever the case it keeps the story line interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story. Feel like I know all the characters... Also like the new setting