Cruel and Unusual (Kay Scarpetta Series #4)

( 123 )


?A knockout? (People) of a thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Cornwell featuring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta.

?Killing me won?t kill the beast? are the last words of rapist-murderer Ronnie Joe Waddell, written four days before his execution. But they can?t explain how medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta finds Waddell?s fingerprints on another crime scene?after she?d performed his autopsy. If this is some sort of game, Scarpetta seems to be the target. ...

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Cruel and Unusual (Kay Scarpetta Series #4)

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“A knockout” (People) of a thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Cornwell featuring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta.

“Killing me won’t kill the beast” are the last words of rapist-murderer Ronnie Joe Waddell, written four days before his execution. But they can’t explain how medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta finds Waddell’s fingerprints on another crime scene—after she’d performed his autopsy. If this is some sort of game, Scarpetta seems to be the target. And if the next victim is someone she knows, the punishment will be cruel and unusual...

When Dr. Kay Scarpetta and Police Lieutenant Pete Marino find the brutally wounded body of a 13-year-old boy carefully propped against a dumpster, and the only fingerprint that of an already executed criminal, their investigation takes a "cruel and unusual" turn. An 11-week NYT hardcover bestseller. Cornwell's previous novels All That Remains, Body of Evidence, and Postmortem have over 3 million copies in print.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A knockout."

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

" 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

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 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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416505402
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 10/25/2005
  • Series: Kay Scarpetta Series, #4
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 116,120
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 4.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia  Cornwell

“It’s important for me to live in the world I want to write about,” says Patricia Cornwell, “If I want a character to do or know something, I try to do or know the same thing.” The award-winning former police reporter spent time working both as an employee of the Virginia Chief Medical Examiner’s Office and as a volunteer police officer before she wrote her first Kay Scarpetta novel, Postmortem. Her preparation paid off—Postmortem was the first novel ever to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, Macavity, and French Prix du Roman d’Aventure awards in one year. She has followed that up with ten other bestselling novels featuring Kay Scarpetta. She then began a new series with her #1 New York Times bestsellers Hornet’s Nest and Southern Cross. She is also the author of two cookbooks, Scarpetta’s Winter Table and Food to Die For; A Time for Remembering, a biography of Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham; a children’s book, Life’s Little Fable; and her #1 bestselling work of nonfiction, Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed. She lives in New York City.

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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:

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."

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 123 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 124 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Many Twists and Turns

    ** 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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2011

    Wonderful Novel!

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2009


    Great book and great characters, as all Patricia Cornwell's books are.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2005

    Delightfully Disturbing

    There¿s a serial killer loose in Richmond, but there is a problem with the main suspect. He was executed before the murders¿ or was he? This is what Kay Scarpetta is up against in Patricia Cornwell¿s novel, Cruel and Unusual. It¿s a typical mystery story, except it¿s infused with new, fresh ideas and complex characters. I am usually a slow reader, forcing myself to al least do a chapter every day or so, but the suspense in this novel was so great that I could neither sleep nor eat until I knew the resolution. I finished the book in a matter of hours. Cornwell¿s book is blunt and grotesque in some parts, but invigorating nonetheless. The ending was surprising and creative, but also rather troubling. If you think you have the stomach for it, Cruel and Unusual is a good read. I would not, however, recommend it to children, insomniacs or people who live alone.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2003

    I though it would be good

    This was my 1st P.Cornwell book. I read half the book and it was too boring to finish. Maybe Postmortem and Body of Evidence is better.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2002


    This is the 4th one that I've read of the series, this one was the worst yet. I'm sorry but it just couldn't keep my interest and I had to force myself to finish this book!!! What a Stupid Story, I hope the Body Farm is good.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2000

    amazing as always

    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. may become determined to read all of her books no matter how early you have to get up the next morning.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2014


    Goldenstripe smiled at her. "What do you mean?" he asked, looking around cautiously. ~Goldenstripe

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2014


    (Omg sorry I fell asleep! Stupid...) Lilywolf visibally flinches at Velvetstar's name. She has barely had time to process what Velvetstar had told her about her lives and she still refused to completely believe it. But she did know one thing. Goldenstripe could not know. If he were to find out the truth he would only blame himself for everything that has happened and Lilywolf didn't want that. She knew it wasn't his fault. So the tabby meows, "Goldenstripe... when I left to go find you... Velvetstar... well she lost another life in the earthquake." Hanging her head, the shecat continues, "It was an accident. Mouse didn't realize Velvetstar was under some debris and when she stepped on it.... I'm so sorry my love. I'm sure she has more lives. She just hadn't woken up when I left..." ~ Lilywolf &hearts

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2014


    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2014


    (Yep,) Goldenstripe padded beside Lilywolf happily, the twolegs herbs dulling the pain that normally would've made him limp. He checked behind them occasionally to make sure they hadn't been spotted until they were a good distance away. ~Goldenstripe

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2014

    Good book, but wrong preview chapter.

    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2013


    By far my favorite!!! Amazing and readable in just days because it is so good!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013

    Good, Easy Read

    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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  • Posted May 23, 2009

    One of Cornwell's best

    I loved the originality of this book. Defiently one of my favorites in the Scarpetta series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    I Knew This Would Be Great!

    Iknew this book would be a good one to rread and would not be able to put down. I love all of Kay Scarpetta's novels. Ms. Cornwell you do such a great job in writing your book's. I hope you write forever and never get tired of doing it. I sure don't get tired of reading your book's.

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  • Posted November 1, 2008

    Another good read

    I thought this book kept its intensity through the entire story. Will be moving on to next book in the series!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2007

    The best series I have read

    Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell. Is the best series I have read, I would read one, and couldn't wait to start the next one. I just had one problem the Titles they are not in order, had to go on line to find out what book was next, because the inside Titles does not go from top to bottom kind of confusing for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2006

    An outstanding page turner

    I read this book for english, thinking that I would just read a chapter or two and go online and find out the facts but I couldn't. I had a two week deadline and read it in one night. It was great, suspensful, and an excellent idea for a book. I love they way she put crime, mystery, and law all into one book. IT WAS EXCELLENT!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2006

    Cruel and Unusual is an outstanding, upbeat novel!!!!

    Through out my reading, I simply couldn't stop!!!! I was always left to pounder, when I did. There was never a dull moment. I had never read a novel by Patricia and now I will always want to for school projects.

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