Review: The Last Precinct by Patricia Cornwell

“The Last Precinct” picks up right where “Black Notice” left off: Kay Scarpetta, injured and reeling from her brutal takedown of the French serial killer, Loup-Garou — ‘the Werewolf.’ Which makes the abrupt shift to first person present tense (from first person past tense) all the more discombobulating; a minor pet peeve, but something that stuck in my craw for the duration.

This eleventh novel in the series is overstuffed; pockmarked with intrigue, but its narrative impetus curtailed by excessive talking and retreading over events from Scarpetta’s previous cases. The individual pieces are fascinating, but the fused result is muddled, like the merging of multiple jigsaw puzzles; one at a time, please.

In “The Last Precinct,” Kay is accused of killing deputy police chief Diane Bray and fabricating evidence against ‘the Werewolf.’ The only way to prove her innocence is to revisit an earlier crime in New York from years ago and connect that murder to his recent spree. Meanwhile, Scarpetta is still — still! — dealing with the fallout of Benton Wesley’s demise; and her niece Lucy is at another career crossroads. 

There’s more good than bad, and when Kay is doing actual investigative work the book sings; but this one felt more like another instalment in a soap opera than a thriller. Long conversations with her therapist provide fascinating insights into Scarpetta’s current psyche, but these passages are long, and sabotage the plot’s propulsion. The climax is satisfying, but by the time we’ve reached it, we’ve collected so much detritus along the way. A 500 page crime novel really needs to deserve that length; I’m not convinced “The Last Precinct” does. 

ISBN: 9780751544886
Pages: 544
Imprint: Sphere
Publisher:Little, Brown Book Group

 

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