Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell

Its been a while since I've read a Patricia Cornwell novel. I was absolutely blown away by her very early books--Kay Scarpetta and friends were an extremely engaging cast of characters, almost like a favorite TV show, except with realistic and very gruesome plots. We are 20 years along now and, while some of the books have been better than others, the characters are still engaging.

Engaging, but weirder and weirder. It seems with each novel, Scarpetta and crew become a little more psychotic, more like the tortured evil geniuses they are chasing.

Blow Fly is from 2003. I picked it to return to Scarpetta because it is set mostly in my old stomping ground of Baton Rouge, LA.

Scarpetta has retreated to a run-down beach rental in Florida after the traumatic events of the previous books, taking only her loyal secretary. She sets herself up as a free-lance forensic investigator and hopes for enough work to pay the rent. The great love of her life, Benton Wesley is dead, the niece she raised has set up her own very successful business and Pete Marino is trying to drink himself to death.

Into this less than ideal situation, a consultation with the colorful coroner from Louisiana brings the powerful and evil Chandonne family back into the picture. Of course, nothing is as it seems and the dark and brooding characters manage to get through most of the plot twists until the usual abrupt ending.

In this book, Scarpetta has a smaller role than usual, with the series regulars carrying most of the action.

Blow Fly is a dark and violent novel, like all of the Scarpetta books. It is a riveting story with all the characters we've come to know and obsess with.

In an interesting turn of events, at a recent state library directors' meeting, we were all given copies of Conrwell's children's book, Life's Little Fable. It is interesting to see how the author of a dark and violent series approaches a children's book, but I have to admit I agree with the School Library Journal reviewer: "Cornwell's awkwardly stated sentences, which often attempt to rhyme, deter a smooth flow, and Gibson's pedestrian illustrations, while delivering some nice wildlife images, are generally unimaginative. This little fable falls flat.-Barbara Elleman, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI

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