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Cruel and Unusual (Kay Scarpetta Series #4)

Cruel and Unusual (Kay Scarpetta Series #4)

4.2 124
by Patricia Cornwell

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When convicted killer Ronnie Joe Waddell is executed in Virginia's electric chair, he becomes what should be a routine postmortem case for Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta. But the murders continue, as everyone connected to Waddell begins to die—including a member of Scarpetta's staff....With some help from her seventeen-year-old niece, computer whiz Lucy


When convicted killer Ronnie Joe Waddell is executed in Virginia's electric chair, he becomes what should be a routine postmortem case for Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta. But the murders continue, as everyone connected to Waddell begins to die—including a member of Scarpetta's staff....With some help from her seventeen-year-old niece, computer whiz Lucy, as well as from her loyal friend Lieutenant Marino and FBI agent Benton Wesley, Scarpetta musters all her forensic expertise and investigative skills to uncover shocking secrets that will have vast repercussions. "Cruel and Unusual" moves bestselling author Patricia D. Cornwell in dramatic new directions, confirming the extraordinary range and power of this prize-winning writer.

Editorial Reviews

Larry King
A page-turner...I dare you to start reading Patricia Cornwell's new book and then be able to put it down. —USA Today
Taut, high tech and eerily credible...with each book, her scalpel is getting sharper.
A knockout...the best work yet from Cornwell...disturbing...compelling...the most successful case thus far for Dr. Kay Scarpetta.
Baltimore Sun
A first-rate thriller...as taut and terrifying as Silence of the Lambs...Cornwell's boldest, darkest work yet.
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Classic Cornwell...chilling...riveting...utterly convincing.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The fourth mystery to feature Virginia's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kay Scarpetta (after All That Remains ) is the most intricately plotted and fully characterized novel yet in Cornwell's admirable series. From its opening at the autopsy of convicted killer Ronnie Joe Wadell--after his execution in the electric chair--to its final moments with Scarpetta facing a special grand jury indictment, the novel connects old crimes and cover-ups to current politics in an intriguing puzzler. On the eve of Wadell's death, a teenage boy in Richmond, Va., is mutilated in a murder that echoes the killing of a TV news anchorwoman 10 years before, the crime for which Wadell was convicted. Next, a fingerprint at the home of a recently murdered psychic is identified in FBI files as the executed killer's, suggesting to Scarpetta that tentacles from the first murder may be reaching out from the past. The Christmas Day murder of her own morgue supervisor suggests those tentacles may have penetrated her office. Scarpetta's computer-whiz niece Lucy, Richmond homicide investigator Pete Marino and an old FBI friend help Kay save her reputation. That this complex case seems to end abruptly is surely due in part to the reader's reluctance to come to the last page. Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections. (June)
Library Journal
Outstanding medical crime writer Cornwell offers yet another Dr. Kay Scarpetta thriller, in which the fingerprints of an executed killer turn up at the scene of a new murder. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/93.
School Library Journal
YA-In this fourth Kay Scarpetta mystery, the chief medical examiner for the state of Virginia is once again challenged by gruesome murder and confusing evidence. How could the fingerprints of Ronnie Joe Waddell appear at the scene of a murdered psychic after Waddell was executed in the electric chair? In the midst of many puzzling matters come other difficult issues to confront Kay as she tries to do her job. She becomes the object of hysterical media attention, and finds that she herself might be indicted for the very crimes she is trying to solve. Someone is sabotaging her efforts by hacking into her computer files and leaking information. Exasperated, she calls upon her niece, Lucy, a 17-year-old computer whiz, whom readers will remember from earlier ``Scarpetta'' novels. Along with FBI agent Benton Wesley and police chum Pete Marino, Lucy helps Kay solve the murders and ferret out the traitor in her office. YAs will enjoy the teen's angst and the exciting twist at the book's end.-Carolyn E. Gecan, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA
Emily Melton
Popular Kay Scarpetta, chief medical examiner of Virginia, is back in Cornwell's latest, which will no doubt rocket onto the best-seller lists, as have "Postmortem" (1990), "Body of Evidence" (1991), and "All That Remains" (1992). This time Scarpetta's involved in the strange case of Ronnie Joe Waddell, a convicted killer. Waddell is executed, and Scarpetta performs the autopsy. Then she is called to the scene of an apparent suicide. When the death begins to look suspiciously like murder and the dead Waddell's distinctive fingerprint turns up at the scene, Scarpetta's determined to solve the mystery. But she quickly finds that her job, her reputation, and even her life, are on the line in a complex and sensitive case involving prominent officials who have everything to lose if the truth is uncovered. Cornwell has written a gripping, intense story full of the graphic details of death. She obviously knows her forensic stuff, and she's got a knack for inventing tricky, attention-getting plots. But this time out, she takes so long to develop all the disparate plot pieces that the complicated climax, crammed into a few short pages, leaves the reader feeling slightly cheated and wondering why all the loose ends don't quite get tied up. All in all, though, it's an "edge-of-your-seat" read that's sure to be extremely popular. Buy plenty of copies.
Kirkus Reviews
On the eve of longtime Death Row inmate Ronnie Joe Waddell's execution, Virginia chief medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta (All That Remains, Body of Evidence, etc.) gets a call about the kidnap-murder of young Eddie Heath—a homicide that has uncanny similarities to Waddell's handiwork. And the eeriness continues after the execution—when Waddell's fingerprint is found in the home of a second murder victim, and when Susan Story, Kay's morgue supervisor, spooked by the autopsy on Waddell, is killed with the same gun that shot Eddie. Kay has to deal not only with the specter of Waddell again at large (escaped? switched with another inmate? misidentified through his prints for someone else?) but with a security leak in her own office, as a breach in her computer files and the theft of her records put her on the spot as a suspect in Susan's murder—and point to corruption that reaches further than Kay can imagine. Cornwell's accustomed forensic flair, plus the bonus of an unusually baffling and intricate plot, make this her best book yet—and a new high point in her meteoric rise. (Literary Guild Dual Selection for August)

From the Publisher
"A knockout."

"Ingenious...a first-rate storyteller."
Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Engrossing...an extremely effective novel of suspense, in all its varieties...Corwell's sleuth is the best in the business."
Entertainment Weekly

"Classic Cornwell...chilling...riveting...utterly convincing."
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Publication date:
Kay Scarpetta Series , #4
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
6.39(w) x 9.55(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Monday I carried Ronnie Joe Waddell's meditation in my pocketbook, I never saw the sun. It was dark out when I drove to work that morning. It was dark again when I drove home. Small raindrops spun in my headlights, the night gloomy with fog and bitterly cold.

I built a fire in my living room and envisioned Virginia farmland and tomatoes ripening in the sun. I imagined a young black man in the hot cab of a pickup truck and wondered if his head had been full of murder back then. Waddell's meditation had been published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and I had taken the clipping to work to add to his growing file. But the business of the day distracted me and his meditation had remained in my pocketbook. I had read it several times. I supposed it would always intrigue me that poetry and cruelty could reside in the same heart.

For the next few hours I paid bills and wrote Christmas cards while the television played mutely. Like the rest of Virginia's citizens, whenever an execution was scheduled I found out from the media whether all appeals had been exhausted or the governor had granted clemency. The news determined whether I went on to bed or drove downtown to the morgue.

At almost ten P.M. my telephone rang. I answered it expecting my deputy chief or some other member of my staff whose evening, like mine, was on hold.

"Hello?" asked a male voice I did not recognize. "I'm trying to reach Kay Scarpetta? Uh, the chief medical examiner, Dr. Scarpetta?"

"Speaking," I said.

"Oh, good. Detective Joe Trent with Henrico County. Found your number in the book. Sorry to bother you at home." He sounded keyed up."But we've got a situation we really need your help with."

"What's the problem?" I asked, staring tensely at the TV. A commercial was playing. I hoped I wasn't needed at a scene.

"Earlier this evening, a thirteen-year-old white male was abducted after leaving a convenience store on Northside. He was shot in the head and there may be some sexual components involved."

My heart sank as I reached for paper and pen. "Where is the body?" I asked.

"He was found behind a grocery store on Patterson Avenue in the county. I mean, he's not dead. He hasn't regained consciousness but no one's saying right now whether he'll make it. I realize it's not your case since he's not dead. But he's got some injuries that are real odd. They're not like anything I've ever come across. I know you see a lot of different types of injuries. I'm hoping you might have some idea how these were inflicted and why."

"Describe them for me," I said.

"We're talking about two areas. One on his inner right thigh, you know, up high near the groin. The other's in the area of his right shoulder. Chunks of flesh are missing ' cut out. And there's weird cuts and scratches around the edges of the wounds. He's at Henrico Doctor's."

"Did you find the excised tissue?" My mind was racing through other cases, looking for something similar.

"Not so far. We've got men out there still searching. But it's possible the assault occurred inside a car."

"Whose car?"

"The assailant's. The grocery store parking lot where the kid was found is a good three or four miles from the convenience store where he was last seen. I'm thinking he got into somebody's car, maybe was forced to."

"You got photographs of the injuries before the doctors started working on him?"

"Yes. But they haven't done much. Because of the amount of skin missing, they'll have to do skin grafts ? full grafts, is what they said, if that tells you anything."

It told me they had debrided the wounds, had him on intravenous antibiotics, and were waiting to do a gluteal graft. If, however, that was not the case and they had undermined the tissue around the injuries and sutured them, then there wasn't going to be much left for me to see.

"They haven't sutured his wounds," I said.

"That's what I've been told."

"Do you want me to take a look?"

"That would be really great," he said, relieved. "You should be able to see the wounds real well."

"When would you like me to do this?"

"Tomorrow would work."

"All right. What time? The earlier the better."

"Eight hundred hours? I'll meet you in front of the ER."

"I'll be there," I said as the anchorman stared grimly at me. Hanging up, I reached for the remote control and turned up the sound.

"...Eugenia? Can you tell us if there's been any word from the governor?"

The camera shifted to the Virginia State Penitentiary, where for two hundred years the Commonwealth's worst criminals had been warehoused along a rocky stretch of the James River at the edge of downtown. Sign-carrying protesters and capital punishment enthusiasts gathered in the dark, their faces harsh in the glare of television lights. It chilled my soul that some people were laughing. A pretty, young correspondent in a red coat filled the screen.

"As you know, Bill," she said, "yesterday a telephone line was set up between Governor Norring's office and the penitentiary. Still no word, and that speaks volumes. Historically, when the governor doesn't intend to intervene, he remains silent."

"How are things there? Is it relatively peaceful so far?"

"So far, yes, Bill. I'd say several hundred people are standing vigil out here. And of course, the penitentiary itself is almost empty. All but several dozen of the inmates have already been transported to the new correctional facility in Greensville."

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"A knockout."


"Ingenious...a first-rate storyteller."

Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Engrossing...an extremely effective novel of suspense, in all its varieties...Corwell's sleuth is the best in the business."

Entertainment Weekly

"Classic Cornwell...chilling...riveting...utterly convincing."

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Meet the Author

Patricia Cornwell is recognized as one of the world’s top bestselling crime authors with novels translated into thirty-six languages in more than 120 countries. Her novels have won numerous prestigious awards including the Edgar, the Creasey, the Anthony, the Macavity, and the Prix du Roman d’Aventure. Beyond the Scarpetta series, Cornwell has written a definitive book about Jack the Ripper, a biography, and two more fiction series among others. Cornwell, a licensed helicopter pilot and scuba diver, actively researches the cutting-edge forensic technologies that inform her work. She was born in Miami, grew up in Montreat, NC, and now lives and works in Boston. Find out more at PatriciaCornwell.com, at Facebook.com/Patricia.Cornwell, on Twitter: @1pcornwell, and on Instagram: @1pcornwell.

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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Cruel and Unusual (Kay Scarpetta Series #4) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 124 reviews.
AirForceWife810 More than 1 year ago
** spoiler alert ** I am currently reading the entire Scarpetta series in order, and I have to say that this is my favorite so far. There were so many twists and turns in this book that really kept me thinking. I really enjoyed that part of it. There were a couple disappointments in this book. First, I hate that Dr. Scarpetta's lover, Mark, had been killed somewhere in between the last book and this one. Although this is a crime/murder book, I enjoyed the brief moments of romance. Second, although they knew who the killer was in the end and the case was basically solved, the killer was not actually found and is still at large in the end. With all the twists and turns and things that transpired in the book (corruption within the justice system, specifically in the ME's office), the ending did complete the story for me. They got to the bottom of who was involved and why things happened. I suppose that to chase the killer at that point would just be extra pages of writing that was not really suspenseful anymore. After reading the first three books in this series, I was just surprised that the killer was not found or killed in the end. Cornwell took a different path than in her first three books. Overall, this is an excellent book. I really enjoy Patricia Cornwell. I love how scientifically accurate she is. With an understanding of anatomy, physiology, and chemistry, Patricial Cornwell writes at a higher level that keeps me interested. Her books don't just appeal to an elementary level. Yet, I think that she explains things well enough that a person without a scientific background would understand the tests and findings presented in the book.
J_Lewis_Summers More than 1 year ago
I love Patricia Cornwell because I am never able to figure out "who dun-it" before the end of the book! This book in particular had enough twists and turns to keep me from putting the book down!
flyinlion More than 1 year ago
Great book and great characters, as all Patricia Cornwell's books are.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Patricia Cornwell has an amazing talent for bringing Dr. Kay Scarpetta into life. I have read almost all of her books and have loved all of them. She ties characters together in such a fashion that we remember and love them. It is exciting to watch the relationships change and grow in each story. I recommend this and all her other books to be read. BEWARE...you may become determined to read all of her books no matter how early you have to get up the next morning.
Samantha1020 More than 1 year ago
How does she do it?!? How does Patricia Cornwell take me on breathless and heart pounding rides with each of her books? I read her books at a frantic pace trying my best to figure out what is going to happen next. Even when I think that I have figured it out...usually I am completely wrong and am left blown away by the ending. I pulled this own off of my own shelves as I was craving some Scarpetta adventures and this book didn't disappoint. Last year I managed to read three books in this series (out of order on two of them) and I'm hoping on reading many more this year. How could I not want to after enjoying each of the books in this series so much? In this book Scarpetta does the autopsy for Ronnie Joe Waddell who was a death row inmate and recently executed. From the very beginning things seem off with both Scarpetta's findings and everything relating to Ronnie's recent demise. Before long Scarpetta is drawn deep into an investigation where there are more secrets than answers. Sigh! This book just about threw me into a bookish hangover. If every book was as good as this one I would get nothing done ever and my house would be in shambles. That is the plain and simple truth! I did nothing while reading this book other than read it. I had a three day weekend and while usually I would have worked around the house....you know, accomplished stuff but instead I sat curled up with this book all day long. It was completely worth it though! If you want fast-paced intense read then you should really give this series a try! One of the things that I liked most about this book was how this author took what seemed to be an impossible scenario and really made me believe it. I spent the majority of my time trying to figure out what the heck was going on while reading this one. It was so crazy and every time that I thought maybe I had some of it figured out, the author managed to turn the tables around on me so that I was lost once again. Kay gets wrapped up in these cases and especially with this book it felt like there was a target on her head. It added another layer of tension that made me want to read even faster. I love how we are getting to know these characters more and more in each book. What surprised me was how much Lucy had changed and grown from the earlier three books. I also really found it interesting as I have read the most recent two books in this series to see how elements in regards to her character were now coming to play in this one. I love how authors do things like that! The ending of this book was the only thing that made me slightly frustrated. I guess I just expected more (trying not to spoil anything here) and didn't quite get what I was looking for. Overall though I found this to be yet another amazing addition to this series! Final thoughts are basically this in a nutshell: read this series! Patricia Cornwell has basically cemented herself and this series on to my favorite must read list. I will read all of the books in this series and the sooner the better in my opinion. I have nothing but good things to say about this series and this book. A very intense ride but so completely worth it! I would recommend these books (I do think you should read them in order if I'm being honest to enjoy the characters and their relationships more) to mystery and thriller fans alike. Highly, highly recommend! Bottom Line: Yet another amazing addition to this mystery series! I need more! Disclosure:
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I posted that before I was done. I just saw your post and that was really nice of you. I'm okay, I can't really think about it right now or else I won't get anything done. Not to say I have to move on, but for now I have to keep moving or else I don't do well. Anyways, thank you for that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought the book after reading the free preview chapter on my nook color. The preview chapter you have on the nook is not the same book. Crule and Unusal was good read though.
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By far my favorite!!! Amazing and readable in just days because it is so good!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Continues part of story line from book 3 which now continues in book 5. You would benefit from reading them in order.
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