Review: Black Notice by Patricia Cornwell

This is the tenth entry in the Kay Scarpetta series, and by now there are thick tendrils of continuity that bind each instalment together. I’ve read every Bosch; every Rebus; every Pickett; every Davenport — and no other series is as tethered, book to book, than Patricia Cornwell’s. 

The central mystery in “Black Notice,” involves an unidentified body discovered in a cargo ship recently arrived from Belgium. It’s vintage Cornwell: the case burgeons fantastically, eventually involving Interpol, and a visit to Paris in aid of Scarpetta’s hunt for the French serial killer Loup-Garou; the Werewolf. Of course the climax is typically brusque, but by now I am accustomed to a long fuse that doesn’t necessarily fizzle, but also doesn’t explode as I’d hoped.

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Review: Point of Origin by Patricia Cornwell

Remember Carrie Grethen? 

You know: she was the partner of Kay Scarpetta’s serial killer nemesis Temple Gault, who our favourite Virginia Chief Medical Examiner dispatched a few books back, in “From Potter’s Field.” 

Well, she’s back, folks — escaped from a New York City hospital for the criminally insane. And she’s made no secret of her desire to exact revenge on Kay, her hyper-intelligent niece Lucy, and Benton Wesley, her FBI-profiler boyfriend.

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Review: Wild Place by Christian White

“When you tip over the first domino,” she said, “you can’t always control how the rest fall.”

Christian White has earned his reputation as a master of the hook, the twist(s), and the surprise ending; and it’s that reputation — nay, more of a guarantee — that compelled me to keep reading through the first hundred pages of his latest, “Wild Place,” which (by design) uncoils conventionally (albeit rapidly) as it establishes its vast array of characters. 

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Review: Unnatural Exposure by Patricia Cornwell

“Unnatural Exposure” opens with Kay Scarpetta investigating the possible link between murders in Dublin, Ireland and Richmond, Virginia. She is increasingly suspicious that Ireland’s serial dismemberments from ten years ago are the work of the same individual they’re dealing with at home.

When the butchered corpse of an elderly woman is found in a landfill, law enforcement intuits the killer has struck again. But further examination suggests not; and when Scarpetta uncovers a pattern of pustules on the body’s torso, followed by a visit to a death scene on Tangier Island, where a woman has died of smallpox, it becomes clear she is up against an even deadlier threat — one that has Scarpetta firmly in their sights, as they leave sinister computer messages under the name ‘deaddoc.’

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Review: Love & Virtue by Diana Reid

Through the prism of two young women at an elite residential college in Sydney, Diana Reid explores feminism, power, privilege, love and consent, as she asks us to re-examine our own perceptions of morality in her exceptional debut novel. 

First year scholarship students Michaela and Eve are at the centre of “Love & Virtue.” They’re both fiercely intelligent, although Eve is the more assured of the two, hailing from a wealthy family, as opposed to our narrator Michaela, for whom the scholarship is vital. 

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Review: She Is Haunted by Paige Clarke

Paige Clarke’s “She Is Haunted” is an exceptional collection of short stories that blend speculative fiction with everyday adversities and traumas. They entertain, challenge and move: sometimes devastatingly, sometimes satirically, and always inventively. They excavate themes of mortality, grief, loss, and identity. 

In the opener, “Elizabeth Kubler-Ross,” a mother bargains with God to keep her unborn child. In my favourite of the 18 stories, “Gwendolyn Wakes,” we meet a super-efficient worker at a government department that provides relationship advice via surveys, who turns out to be as fallible as the rest of us when it comes to relationships. 

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Review: Cause of Death by Patricia Cornwell

Seven novels deep into my Kay Scarpetta reading marathon I’m starting to feel like a broken record, because so much of what I feel works and does not work in “Cause of Death” has been enumerated previously.

This is my favourite kind of crime novel, which begins with one dead body, and explodes into something far more spectacular and far-reaching. The corpse is investigative reporter Ted Eddings, who died — or was killed — during an unauthorised dive in an inactive Naval shipyard. The opening pages are some of Cornwell’s most atmospheric, as Chief Medical Examiner Scarpetta dons a wetsuit, and dives into pitch-black waters alongside a Navy SEAL rescue squad to examine the body. 

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Review: A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz

As far as I’m concerned, there is no better writer of murder mysteries than Anthony Horowitz right now. He is in the form of his life, and the third novel in his Daniel Hawthorne series further ratifies that belief. “A Line to Kill” is an exceptional whodunnit, meticulously plotted, laden with red herrings and disguises, and populated with an eclectic cast of suspects and victims. It’s everything the armchair sleuth could possibly want. 

Once again narrated by a fictionalised Horowitz (who writes about Hawthorne’s murder investigations), “A Line to Kill” is set at a literary festival on the English island of Alderney. Horowitz and Hawthorne are just one of the festival’s highlights: other guests include a blind psychic, a French performance poet, a war historian, and a chef who specialises in (exceedingly) unhealthy meals. 

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Review: The Echo Chamber by John Boyne

With John Boyne, you never know what you’re going to get, which is exciting as a reader, given so many authors write to a particular theme or genre. It means some of his books hit, and some of them miss, but I’ll always pick up his latest, because at the very least it’s going to be interesting, or possibly a masterpiece. 

“The Echo Chamber” is unlike any other Boyne novel I’ve read, clearly inspired by the backlash he received during the publication of “My Brother’s Name is Jessica.” It is a blatant satire of our social media age, which follows a wealthy British family through a turbulent week, as their life of luxury disintegrates through a series of ill-informed decisions. 

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Review: From Potter’s Field by Patricia Cornwell

And so, with “From Potter’s Field,” the cat-and-mouse game between Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta and serial killer Temple Gault comes to a head. 

Gault debuted in “Cruel and Unusual,” and was a shadowy presence in “The Body Farm.” He is the first true nemesis Scarpetta — and her legion of readers — have encountered. 

He is, of course, dastardly ingenious. 

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