After a few lacklustre entries in the Scarpetta series (culminating with “Blow Fly,” which asphyxiated from profuse intertextuality), I was convinced Patricia Cornwell’s literary franchise had lost its way and apprehensive about continuing my journey through each instalment. But actually, “Trace” is a return to form, and in fact a perfectly suitable jumping on point for series newcomers.
Here, Cornwell brings Kay (and Pete Marino) back to Richmond (where she was previously the Chief Medical Examiner) as a consultant for the newly-installed chief. She’s there to determine 14-year-old Gilly Paulsson’s cause of death, which has the local experts stumped.
Kay and Marino quickly discover trace evidence that links Gilly’s death to Theodore Whitby, a construction worker accidentally killed in the demolition of Kay’s old chief medical examiner building; and there are (of course) connections to ongoing drama in her niece Lucy’s life (in the form of a stalker who attacked a woman staying at her house) who has roped in Kay’s boyfriend Benton Wesley to assist.
I still miss the simpler structure of the early Scarpetta novels, which unfolded through Kay’s eyes, rather than this new third person omniscient narration. For example, chapters told from the perspective of deranged Edgar Allan Pogue add little to the story, and there are times it feels like the same information is being recycled by various characters. But “Trace” is a definite course correction; its core mystery is strong. Bring on the next one.
Number Of Pages: 464
Published: 1st December 2010
Publisher: Little Brown