Book of the Dead (Kay Scarpetta Series #15) [NOOK Book]


Kay Scarpetta is starting over with a unique private forensic pathology practice in Charleston, South Carolina. And the death of a sixteen-year-old tennis star will usher in a string of murders more baffling?and terrifying?than any that have come before.

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Book of the Dead (Kay Scarpetta Series #15)

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Kay Scarpetta is starting over with a unique private forensic pathology practice in Charleston, South Carolina. And the death of a sixteen-year-old tennis star will usher in a string of murders more baffling—and terrifying—than any that have come before.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In mortuary parlance, the "book of the dead" is the morgue ledger; for most of us, nothing more than a grim accounting of the recently deceased. For forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta, though, these morbid sign-out sheets are questions waiting to be answered. As she sets up her new South Carolina private practice, she realizes that these questions seem to be piling up at any alarming rate, leading her to suspect that a serial killer or killers are on the loose. A first-rate forensic thriller.
Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Cornwell's 15th novel to feature Dr. Kay Scarpetta (after 2005's Predator) delivers her trademark grisly crime scenes, but lacks the coherence and emotional resonance of earlier books. Soon after relocating to Charleston, S.C., to launch a private forensics lab, Scarpetta is asked to consult on the murder of U.S. tennis star Drew Martin, whose mutilated body was found in Rome. Contradictory evidence leaves Scarpetta, the Italian carabinieri and Scarpetta's lover, forensic psychologist Benton Wesley, stumped. But when she discovers unsettling connections between Martin's murder, the body of an unidentified South Carolina boy and her old nemesis, the maniacal psychiatrist Dr. Marilyn Self, Scarpetta encounters a killer as deadly as any she's ever faced. With her recent switch from first- to third-person narration, Cornwell loses what once made her series so compelling: a window into the mind of a strong, intelligent woman holding her own in a profession dominated by men. Here, the abrupt shifts in point of view slow the momentum, and the reader flounders in excessive forensic minutiae. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Forbes Magazine
Charles Dickens would be impressed with both the characters in this book and their names, e.g. Dr. Marilyn Self, a malignantly conniving, deranged TV psychiatrist. The tale's heroine, Kay Scarpetta, is a private forensic pathologist grappling with the murder of a famous teenage American tennis champ in Rome. At the same time, she has to deal with the murder of a malnourished and badly beaten child. Scarpetta's relations with her colleagues, not to mention those with her significant other, are tumultuous and tangled. All these characters have varying levels of unredeeming traits. What a walloping, riveting mix of mystery, adventure and psychology. Author Cornwell certainly is skilled at dissecting the not always attractive innards of human nature. (25 Feb 2008)
—Steve Forbes
Library Journal

This 15th book in the Kay Scarpetta series focuses more on the relationships of the familiar characters than the mystery. Nemesis Dr. Marilyn Self is back to plague Kay as her new private forensic pathology practice tries to find the links among murders in Italy and Charleston, SC. There are many other hurdles and some surprises along with some inevitabilities. The new locale and a cliffhanger ending show the series is still worth following. Narrator Kate Reading is as familiar to Scarpetta fans as the characters are. Recommended. [Cornwell's Postmortem is the only novel to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity awards in a single year; Book of the Dead is also available as downloadable audio from]
—Joyce Kessel

Library Journal
This just in: Kay Scarpetta seeks peace of mind by moving to Charleston, SC, and opening a forensic pathology practice. And then the sabotage begins. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Pioneering pathologist Kay Scarpetta (Trace, 2004, etc.) goes up against a wraithlike killer whose self-appointed mission is to "relieve others of their suffering."Practice, practice, practice. If only 16-year-old South Carolina tennis phenom Drew Martin had stuck to the court instead of going off to Rome to party, her tortured corpse wouldn't be baffling the Italian authorities, headed inexplicably by medico legale Capt. Ottorino Poma, and the International Investigative Response team, which includes both Scarpetta and her lover, forensic psychologist Benton Wesley. But the young woman's murder and the gruesome forensic riddles it poses are something of a sideshow to the main event: the obligatory maundering of the continuing cast. Wesley still won't leave Boston for the woman he tepidly insists he loves. Scarpetta's niece, computer whiz Lucy Farinelli, continues to be jealously protective of her aunt. Scarpetta's investigator, Pete Marino, is so besotted by the trailer-trash pickup who's pushing his buttons that he does some terrible things. And Scarpetta herself is threatened by every misfit in the known universe, from a disgruntled mortician to oracular TV shrink Marilyn Self. Cornwell's trademark forensics have long since been matched by Karin Slaughter and CSI. What's most distinctive about this venerable franchise is the kitchen-sink plotting; the soap-opera melodrama that prevents any given volume from coming to a satisfying end; and the emphasis on titanic battles between Scarpetta and a series of Antichrists. Proceed at your own risk.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101155905
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/2/2008
  • Series: Kay Scarpetta Series , #15
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 16,445
  • File size: 804 KB

Meet the Author

Patricia  Cornwell

Patricia Cornwell was born on June 9, 1956, in Miami, Florida, and grew up in Montreat, North Carolina.

Following graduation from Davidson College in 1979, she began working at the Charlotte Observer, rapidly advancing from listing television programs to writing feature articles to covering the police beat. She won an investigative reporting award from the North Carolina Press Association for a series of articles on prostitution and crime in downtown Charlotte.

Her award-winning biography of Ruth Bell Graham, A Time for Remembering, was published in 1983. From 1984 to 1990 she worked as a technical writer and a computer analyst at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia.

Her first crime novel, Postmortem, was published by Scribner’s in 1990. Initially rejected by seven major publishing houses, it became the first novel to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity awards as well as the French Prix du Roman d’Aventure in a single year. In Postmortem, Cornwell introduced Dr. Kay Scarpetta as the intrepid Chief Medical Examiner of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1999, Dr. Scarpetta herself won the Sherlock Award for best detective created by an American author.

Following the success of her first novel, Cornwell has written a series of bestsellers featuring Kay Scarpetta, her detective sidekick Pete Marino, and her brilliant and unpredictable niece, Lucy Farinelli: Body of Evidence (1991), All That Remains (1992), Cruel and Unusual (1993) [which won Britain’s prestigious Gold Dagger Award for the year’s best crime novel], The Body Farm (1994), From Potter’s Field (1995), Cause of Death (1996), Unnatural Exposure (1997), Point of Origin (1998), Black Notice (1999), The Last Precinct (2000), Blow Fly (2003), Trace (2004), Predator (2005), Book of the Dead (2007) [which won the 2008 Galaxy British Book Awards’ Books Direct Crime Thriller of the year; she is the first American ever to win this award], Scarpetta (2008), and The Scarpetta Factor (2009).

In addition to the Scarpetta novels, she has written three best-selling novels featuring Andy Brazil: Hornet’s Nest (1996), Southern Cross (1998), and Isle of Dogs (2001); two cook books: Scarpetta’s Winter Table (1998) and Food to Die For (2001); and a children’s book: Life’s Little Fable (1999). In 1997, she updated A Time for Remembering, and it was reissued as Ruth, A Portrait: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham. Intrigued by Scotland Yard’s John Grieve’s observation that no one had ever tried to use modern forensic evidence to solve the murders committed by Jack the Ripper, Cornwell began her own investigation of the serial killer’s crimes. In Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed (2002), she narrates her discovery of compelling evidence to indict the famous artist Walter Sickert as the Ripper.

In January 2006, the New York Times Magazine began a 15-week serialization of At Risk, featuring Massachusetts State Police investigator Win Garano and his boss, District Attorney Monique Lamont. Its sequel, The Front, was serialized in the London Times in the spring of 2008.

Both novellas were subsequently published as books and promptly optioned for adaptation by Lifetime Television Network, starring Daniel Sunjata and Andie MacDowell. In April 2009, Fox acquired the film rights to the Scarpetta novels, featuring Angelina Jolie as Dr.Kay Scarpetta. Cornwell herself wrote and co-produced the movie ATF for ABC.

Often interviewed on national television as a forensic consultant, Cornwell 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, NYC; and a member of the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital’s National Council, where she is an advocate for psychiatric research. She is also well known for her philanthropic contributions to animal rescue and criminal justice as well as endowing college scholarships and promoting the cause of literacy on the national scene. Some of her projects include the establishment of an ICU at Cornell’s Animal Hospital, the archaeological excavation of Jamestown, and the scientific study of the Confederacy’s submarine H.L. Hunley. Most recently she donated a million dollars to Harvard’s Fogg Museum to establish a chair in inorganic science.

Her books are translated into thirty-six languages across more than fifty countries, and she is regarded as one of the major international best-selling authors. Her novels are praised for their meticulous research and an insistence on accuracy in every detail, especially in forensic medicine and police procedures. She is so committed to verisimilitude that, among other accomplishments, she became a helicopter pilot and a certified scuba diver and qualified for a motorcycle license because she was writing about characters who were doing these things. “It is important to me to live in the world I write about,” she often says. “If I want a character to do or know something, I want to do or know the same thing.”


Patricia Cornwell writes crime fiction from an unusually informed point of view. While many writers are, as she says, conjuring up "fantasy" assumptions regarding what really goes into tracking criminals and examining crime scenes, Cornwell really does walk the walk, which is why her novels ring so true.

Before becoming one of the most widely recognized, respected, and read writers in contemporary crime fiction, she worked as a police reporter for The Charlotte Observer and as a computer analyst in the chief medical examiner's office in Virginia. During this period of her life, Cornwell observed literally hundreds of autopsies. While the vast majority of people would surely regard such work unsavory beyond belief, Cornwell was acquiring valuable information that would not only help her write the groundbreaking 2002 study Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed but would also enrich her fiction with uncommon authenticity.

"Most of these crime scene shows... are what I call ‘Harry Potter' policing," she said in a candid, heated interview. "They're absolutely fantasy. And the problem is the general public watches these, 60 million people a week or whatever, and they think what they're seeing is true." If Cornwell comes off as a bit vehement in her criticism of television shows meant to simply entertain, that's just because she takes her work so seriously.

Not that Cornwell's novels are ever anything short of entertaining, even if their grisly details may require extra-strong stomachs of her readers. She has created a tremendously well-defined and complex character in her favorite fictional crime solver Dr. Kay Scarpetta. Cornwell introduced medical examiner Scarpetta in her first novel, Postmortem in 1990. Today, Scarpetta is still cracking cases and cracking open cadavers. (She has even inspired a cook book called Food to Die For: Secrets from Kay Scarpetta's Kitchen.) In addition, Cornwell writes more lighthearted cop capers in her Andy Brazil & Judy Hammer series.

Good To Know

Cornwell knows what its like to shatter records. Her debut, Postmortem, was the only novel by a first-time author to ever win five major mystery awards in a single year.

Cornwell may be a former crime solver, but she shudders to think that her books could actually contribute to crime. In fact, she says she has received "thank you" notes from prisoners who claim they have gleaned information from her books that might help them cover their tracks while committing future crimes.

If parody is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then Cornwell has a fan in Chris Elliott. The professional wisenheimer published a hilarious takeoff on her true crime book Portrait of a Killer called The Shroud of the Thwacker.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Patricia Daniels Cornwell (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Boston, MA and New York, NY
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 9, 1956
    2. Place of Birth:
      Miami, Florida
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Davidson College, 1979; King College
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 445 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 446 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2008

    I Quit

    I have read all Cornwell's Scarpetta novels and with each one I found myself liking the books less and less. Now I quit! I don't think I can endure Cornwell's writing or the character,Kay Scarpetta. Scarpetta, with each novel, becomes more and more self-centered and arrogant. It is apparent in each novel that she thinks she is better than everyone else. She constantly puts Pete down because of his lack of education, his grammer, and his appearance. (When he does lose weight, it is weeks before she even mentions noticing it to him.) Eventually, the only character I was left liking was Pete, and with this novel she even makes him unlikable. As I read 'Book of the Dead,' I felt like I was reading a first draft because each chapter began with an incomplete sentence stating the location and time. There were many, many places in the book where Cromwell did this. She also kept repeating, word for word, from previous chapters and from her previous books as though she didn't have enough new material for this book, or just didn't care enough to come up with something new. I usually read her books in one or two days, but this one took me almost two weeks to finish. I started reading and became angry with the characters. The story was confusing and I got bored with. I would put the book away for a while, soometimes even days, then would try reading it again. I kept doing this for the duration of the book. When I finally finished it, I felt drained. I have never liked the abrupt endings to her books, and this one didn't stray from that. It seems like even Cornwell gets bored and just wants the story to end so she rushes through to get it over with.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 15, 2008

    Good book

    I was saddened by the problems Marino and Dr Scarpetta ran into. I feel like they should have ended up together, Marino has been there for the Dr and it seems in the storys as shes more snotty or to good for him and it makes it harder for me to like her as a character.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2010


    We have read alot of her books but this is the last one, It was so bad that we could not finnish it.And have gotten rid of it. We will never buy another.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2008

    Oh, Patricia, what happened to your fine writing

    I think Patricia Cornwell needs to go back and re-read her first book. I used to love her books. She was kind to Martino even though he drove her nuts and she loved her niece. She loved cooking for them. I miss the life they used to share.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2007

    Outstaning Book

    You go Patricia, this is a great book! All my friends love it and they are buying it for their family members for Christmas. We just can't wait to see what Dr. Kay has going next. We like Lucy too, she is something else. What a wonderful writer you are. All we can say is you go Girl keep up the great work. I think what makes you such a good writer is that you live in the world you write about.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2012

    Shame on you Patricia

    I have read all of Patricia's novels up until this one. I started reading and discovered the most filthy language she's ever used. I started to throw it out, but decided to give it a chance. When she told of the attempted rape by Marino, of all people, that was it for me! She must have been having some type of repressed anger going on in her personal life. Go read Postmortam Patricia! Now there was a good book! Shame on you for this one! No more for me!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 19, 2009

    Worst in the Scarpetta series by far.

    Poorly conceived and executed. The author, usually one of my favorites, had a really bad book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2009

    this will be my last Scarpetta novel!

    I used to really like the characters, but in this book, everything seemed to fall apart. The characters, plot, setting, everything about this book seemed contrived. The plot was outlandish and the author couldn't seem to hold it all together. I was very disappointed!! I'm glad I bought the book on clearance and didn't spend a lot of money on it!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Big Disappointment

    All this book offered was thousands of dull, boring conversations. Very little action and I could have cared less about the characters. The relationship (?) between Benton and Kay was dull. The off the wall Lucy was not even remotely likable. She's a spoiled brat. Marino went nutso and nobody really cared...including this reader. And Dr. Self was a self-inflicted bore. I am just sorry I spent so much time trying to get something out of this awful book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2009

    I Give Up!

    Kept hoping Cornwell would return to her earlier good reads. Was a fan for years. But Wesley's a Wuss...Lucy's nuts...and Kay's turned to jelly. I'm like Marino....I'm outa here!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2009

    very disappointed

    i've read her book of jack the ripper and was impressed with her writing style. i had high hopes for this book as i love a good psychologicla thriller. boy, was i wrong. the prologue grabs you, but then the rest of the book just dddrrrrrrraaaaaggggsss. there are characters introduced but for aboslutely no reason i can figure out, and the entire thing seems to be written so she can show off her understanding of the process behind forensic science. i wish she had focused more on the serial murders and the reason for them instead of building the characters then not taking them anywhere. i don't think i'll read any of her books again. honestly, i'm surprised it made the new york times bestseller list.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2009

    Giving this author up for good

    I used to love reading these books early in this series when Kay Scarpetta solved murders using forensic science. I gave them up when they became more about the disfunctional charaters in Kay's life than solving murders. I had not read one in a few years so I thought I would give them another try. Big mistake! This book is more wierd psychology than forensic investigation. All of the same charaters are still around and more messed up than ever. I won't try again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2008

    Not the best Scarpetta ever!

    This novel was definitely not the best Cornwell has ever written. The blatant airing of her political point-of-view about Bush and the war was unnecessary and distracting. People who say she needs to reread her first Scarpetta novels are right on. I used to love all these characters and I found that I had no sympathy toward any of them, except possibly Marino. The relationships between all the main characters has become so disfunctional it takes away from the story and you can't help thinking they would be better off apart from each other as opposed to working as the team they are supposed to be. Kay used to be someone who was looked up to, a wiser women who was both intelligent and warm. Now she comes off as distant and a bit out of touch. I will continue to read PC's books, but am disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2008

    Don't loose your old fans!

    I have read every book in the Kay Scarpetta series. I fell in love with the characters on the first read....and grew to love them more with each book.....loved their vulnerabilty, their weakness, strengths, and demons. They each had such power and depth as individuals. This book is so disjointed and so technical...I'm a crime buff...but it seems more about the technology than the characters....and nothing feels connected. I don't feel like I'm reading about the characters I know. I'm 3/4 of the way through...and I will finish it....but the only person who's feeling I understand are Marinos. Lucy and Kay are closed up....and Benton.....have long wondered what he is about.....and this book makes it worse...are we supposed to dislike him? Love your writing...and I'm always waiting at the bookstore for your next book...think now I'll wait for some reviews.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2008

    Dead loser....................

    I first want to say that I had a hard time staying awake to read this one. I had to reread several pages over and over, and it took a long time to make it through. I love Pete Marino, and I HATED what she did to his character.I have read everthing this woman has written but my question is who wrote this book? I started Double Cross by Patterson, and finished it in a week.This book delivers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2008

    Cornwell needs to change direction

    I was a huge Cornwell fan for years, but her last four or five books have been disappointing. Her characters, especially Kay Scarpetta, have become caricatures, and not particularly likeable ones. Marino is the only likeable regular character in the series at this point. No one ever seems really dead, and the situations become more and more unreal. Cornwell needs to go back to where she was when she began this series to save it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    great crime thriller

    Dr. Kay Scarpetta and her long time lover Benton Wesley are called to Rome to work with a team investigating the death of sixteen-year-old tennis star Drew Martin. Her body was left in a prominent location so that her mutilated corpse would be found quickly huge chunks were cut out of her body and her eyes are gouged out and sand was placed in them before they were glued shut. The killer who will come to be known as the Sandman thinks he is doing the victim a favor by putting her out of her misery. Before they fly home Benton gives Scarpetta a ring and then she returns home to South Carolina where she has opened up her own pathology practice Coastal Forensic Pathology Associates. ---- The Sandman is also in Charlotte where he is scoping out his next victim a woman who, like Drew, also appeared on Dr. Marilyn Self¿s talk show. Dr. Self has volunteered to be a patient in Benton¿s study coordinated at McLean University in Massachusetts because the Sandman is e-mailing her pictures of his handiwork. Kay is involved in the case and is also trying to deal with the fact that someone is trying to run her out of town, Marino¿s angry moods, Lucy¿s snooping into her personal life and a nosy neighbor who likes to make trouble for her. ---- Patricia Cornwell always writes crime thrillers that are fantastic but BOOK OF THE DEAD, though superb, is a bit of a departure for her. The author concentrates more on the relationship between Kay and those she cares about and their feelings some revelations are revealed as well as a shocking act that nobody who knows those characters could ever see coming. The cast comes alive in a way they have never done before and readers will feel connected to them in a way they have never done before. Ms. Cornwell admits to being proud of BOOK OF THE DEAD and she should be. ---- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2014

    Dazed & Confused

    What has happened to these characters??? I have read all of the Scarpetta series since the first book, and this one just makes no sense! I can't believe how bad it is. Am having a hard time finishing the book. Hopefully the author was just off her game for this one in the series , because usually they are so great you can't put the book down. This is what I am hoping anyway, because I purchased the rest of the series, including the latest, on my Nook.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2014

    Losing Luster

    I used to love the Kay Scarpetta books. I feel like they are slowly declining each book and I am reading them more out of habit then enjoyment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2013

    Love Patricia C.!

    I really don't understand how readers are complaining about how Scarpetta has changed and she has a huge chip on her shoulder. If you haven't noticed the gal has been through a lot! There is nothing worse than a stagnant book series ( a la Stephanie Plum-girl, at some point you've got to pick-up some skills and not act like an unprepared idiot ) Scarpetta can't stay the same! Hello, unrealistic. And, p.s. are you kidding me Pete Marino supporters??? That man is one step up from a pig.

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