I had such grand plans to re-read (or read anew, in some cases) every single Scarpetta mystery this year, before the release of “Autopsy” at the end of November. That’s 25 books, by the way. And here I am, August already, and I have read ― oops ― five. But I’ll stay the course, friends. I made you a promise.
Anywho ― here we are with “The Body Farm,” in which Chief Medical Examiner and FBI consultant Kay Scarpetta (alongside series regulars, Detective Pete Merino and FBI agent Benton Wesley) investigate the murder of 11-year-old Emily Steiner, whose brutal maiming matches the modus operandi of escaped killer Temple Gault; who eagle-eyed readers will remember from “Cruel and Unusual.”
But ― for there is always a but ― certain forensic clues discovered during a second autopsy handled by Kay lead to some fairly intense experiments carried out at the University of Tennessee’s Decay Research Facility (also known as The Body Farm) which could potentially hijack the direction of the investigation.
Meanwhile, there is more trouble afoot: the FBI agent in charge of the case has killed himself; and Kay’s whip-smart, computer-ace nice Lucy (now working at Quantico (gosh, they grow up fast, don’t they!) is charged with violating security protocols; a federal crime, which has serious consequences.
So, there’s a lot here, but it’s is no messy hodgepodge; it’s intricately plotted, as always, aided by Cornwell’s steady, restrained prose. The final revelation genuinely surprised me, too. In hindsight it’s so obvious, but Cornwell does such a good job of focusing your attention on other matters imperative to the narrative; you’re too worried about Lucy and the complexities of Kay’s personal life to deliberate on the plausibility of suspects.
When I call “The Body Farm” workmanlike, I mean it as affirmatively as possible. It does everything I want from a mystery of this type.
Number Of Pages: 384
Published: 1st February 2011
Publisher: Little Brown