Wednesday, 7 January 2015
Flesh And Blood
Flesh And Blood
by Patricia Cornwell
Harper Collins ISBN: 978-0007552429
Dr. Kay Scarpetta...
One of the most popular names in modern literary crime fiction. A pulp hero of almost superhuman prowess for the late 20th and early 21st Century.
One of the greats.
I’ve been reading her exploits, courtesy of her writer Patricia Cornwell, for around 20 years now. Ever since a long departed colleague lent me a copy of The Body Farm, her fifth Scarpetta novel. I quickly brought myself up to speed on the prior novels, once I’d read that one, and have been buying or, as of the last 15 years or so... receiving as gifts, each year’s new Patricia Cornwell novel, the majority of which have been focussed on Scarpetta and her surrounding family of characters Marino, Benton and, another one of the great heroes of what I like to think of as modern day pulp fiction, Lucy Farinelli.
Regular readers of this blog, and this yearly post, will know by now that it’s been my Christmas ritual for at least a decade, probably more, to read the first chapter or two of the new Scarpetta novel after receiving it as a gift every 25th December. Preferably washed down with a glass of Baileys or, depending on the time of day, a good old cup o’ tea. It’s always the first Christmas book I read and, due to the amount of rushing around I usually have to do at this time of year, it’s usually the last book I finish in any given year.
This year was no exception and, as I have for the last few years, I’m able to read the results of a writer who I now follow on Twitter and can see where the research she tweets about comes into the book I read at year’s end. So I was wondering, right the way through this book, how scuba diving would find its way into this one. And I’m also pleased to see that she’s continued to embrace Twitter, a social media I once wouldn’t have a kind word for if it wasn’t for the wonderful people I’ve connected with on there over the years, by making certain factors in Scarpetta’s latest case Twitter related. This is good, if somewhat scary, stuff.
The novel is, as you would expect from an author of Cornwell’s high calibre, an absolutely enthralling, page turning, thriller which will keep you guessing until the end. The style is matter of fact but not without the character’s/writer’s joyous personality informing the reader and letting the audience see past the facts and into the heart of the matter... be that good or, as it usually is when death is the order of the day, tragic. It’s all in here and up to the usual high standard of Cornwell’s best work and fans of Scarpetta will, I’m sure, love this one.
Like a lot of her later works, the book tends to compress a small time scale into a lot of pages but, in this case, it takes three small periods of time so, it’s true to say that this one shows a longer period of time taken to solve the case or, in this case, reach a logical conclusion. I really don’t want to give too much away on this but I will say that “long time fans” of the characters in this story will be more than happy with the identity of this year’s trouble maker. So I’ll keep fairly tight lipped (tight fingered?) on that particular facet of this red hot thriller.
Now there was a time when Cornwell was, almost, quite blasé with the final fates of her characters and, in her early works, people you had grown to love would get killed off. She tried this again a number of years ago but, after a couple of books, a certain character she’d killed off made a return to the pages, with a justification which, to be fair, fits right into the dark and shadowy world that some of these characters have to inhabit sometimes but, to be honest, would probably be seen as a bit of a push if you weren’t that familiar with the way she weaves her stories. Like most people, I suspect, at least the ones who read the books in order (an absolute must as the characters change, adapt and grow from tome to tome), I’d got kind of comfortable with the tight knit group she places around her lead character and I wasn’t expecting any fatalities this time around. Was I right to be lulled into that trap?
Well, I wish I could tell you but, honestly, without saying too much about the ending and then the epilogue/wrap up to the novel (something she usually includes, where things are explained/clarified and usually made right again)... all I can say is... I don’t know. Truly, don’t know. Cornwell is a master (or mistress?) of her craft and her writing style is often considerably clinical although, frankly, she does turn a phrase like some of the best poets when the style suits the situation and, in Flesh And Blood, she does something which I can’t recall her quite doing before... well maybe once but certainly not in the way she handles it here.
I said that she is a master of her craft and the ending of this book and the way the reader will react to it hinges on one word. It’s a certain kind of word in the English language and it even has a name... but I’m not going to tell you what that name is because that may give the game away... to the extent that the game could be given away... which is pretty much not giving anything away to be honest. However, what I’m trying to say here is this...
With one word.
Just one word.
The very last word of the novel, in fact... she changes the game and leaves the reader in a very bad place. Bad because... we need the next book in the series to find out what the heck just happened. Which means waiting another year, at least, for the next one to come out. I don’t expect the action to take up from where we leave it here... Cornwell tends to move the time along between books. I suspect we’ll find out what happened as a flashback reference a chapter or two into the next one. But lives are on the line here... I think...
I don’t know. I’m not sure. I’ll have to wait and see.
All I can honestly say I know is... Flesh And Blood is another brilliant piece of crime fiction from the razor sharp, dissecting mind of Patricia Cornwell and fans, old and new, should have a blast with it. And now I’m in something of a quandary because, frankly, I need to wait until next year’s Christmas ritual to find out what just happened. I’m hoping to still be around to read and write about it and, hopefully, so will some of the regular readers of this blog... I just hope you don’t leave it until next Christmas before returning to my reviews. Have a good read.