Book Review: Cruel & Unusual By: Patricia Cornwell


Welcome to Review Friday

Book Reviews from an Authors Perspective. 



By: Patricia Cornwell

 Book Details:

  • Published: 1993
  • ISBN: 0684195305 (ISBN13: 9780684195308)
  • Hardcover
  • 356 Pages
  • SRP: Unknown
  • Series: #4 in the Kay Scarpetta Novels
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Joes Rating 3 out of 5 Stars

Cruel & Unusual is the second book by Patricia Cornwell I have read. The first, Flesh and Blood I reviewed back in February.

Kay Scarpetta, while waiting to see if the morgue will where she spends the night, gets a call from a Detective Joe Trent with Henrico County, he needs her opinion on the strange wounds of a thirteen year old boy, Eddie Heath, which was found earlier. She aggress to meet Joe first thing the next morning. Why was she up late watching the news, Ronnie Joe Waddell will be executed, via electric chair, by the Common Wealth of Virginia. A single bloody print had been all the evidence needed to convict Waddell of the gruesome murder of Robyn Naismith, an anchorwoman for channel eight. The governor, Joe Norring, had not issued a stay and the body of Waddell is in route to Kay and her staff. Things begin to go wrong from that moment on, putting Kay up to her neck in trouble. Waddell had an envelope tucked into his back pocket that he wanted to buried with, its contents receipts. The morgue makes one mistake after another, forgetting to finger print Waddell, leaving bodies out in the bay, a computer breach, and missing memos. Days later Waddell’s finger prints are found at the home of Jennifer Deighton, who appeared to have committed suicide. Had the state executed the wrong man and somehow Waddell was free? Susan Story the morgue supervisor, begins acting strange, quits her job, telling Kate’s administrator Ben Stevens, instead of her directly. Susan is then murdered along with Warden Frank Donahue, both with the same MO. Susan had made a hefty deposit before her death and Kay a large withdraw, that fact along with Kay’s finger prints on an envelope that the police discover in Susan’s drawer that contained three hundred dollars started the snowball effect. Jason, Susan’s husband, venting his anger and grief, is adding fuel to the fire with his accusations to any one from the press who will listen. He’s feeding them details about the job Kay Scarpetta is doing and the mistakes her department is making. Scarpetta lands in hot water with the Governor of Virginia, who places her on administrative leave till further notice. Scarpetta along Pete Marino, Neils Vander and her old college law professor, Nicholas Grueman, who was Waddell’s pro bono attorney, with the help from the FBI’s Benton Wesley and Minor Downey get to work trying to save Kay from an indictment. Kay also brings her young niece, seventeen year old Lucy, a computer whiz, up from Florida to try to figure out the computer breach. With leading technology, proven investigation techniques, and luck they clear her name while solving the mystery to the displeasure of those involved.

Patricia Cornwell has a gold mine with Scarpetta Series. I think it’s because of Lucy, this book gave me some insight of why she is the spit fire she is. The story was solid and I enjoyed reading the twist and turns as they unfolded, leading me to re-think view what I was certain was going to happen next and who was behind it all.

The Pros:

  • The plot was excellent and could be believed.
  • The characters are strong and as with the other book some I didn’t care for some, while others I adored, that’s a good thing. The Correctional Officers personality and demeanor she nailed, I worked in the DOC for five years so you can trust me.
  • The ending was spectacular, I liked it, I’m sure some didn’t but in life that’s the way it happens on occasion.
  • Patricia Cornwell has a unique writing style, which I like, that flows and makes reading her plot enjoyable, which gets me through the hooptedoodle.

The Cons:

After reading only two books I can see a pattern. Maybe I picked the wrong two to compare. Cruel & Unusual is #4 Flesh and Blood #22.

  • Food is about to be cooked, has been cooked, or they go out to eat, but only on rare occasions do they consume it This happens again and again, in both books, leave it out, and refer to not getting to eat in the story line.
  • The murders, in both stories, two-gun shots to the head.
  • Another similarity, Kay’s attitude, no wonder she doesn’t have any friends and is married to her job.
  • Marino, although a good guy whines way too much.
  • Too much hooptedoodle, all the computer lingo about UNIX, readers could care less, if they wanted to learn about the operation system they would be reading UNIX for Dummies, not Cruel & Unusual.
  • She used a prologue, a poem written by Waddell, can have easily dropped it in to the story.

Patricia Cornwell is an acclaimed Author and at the top of her game, some say the best in her genre. I did learn a few lessons for this book, that’s why I read. Cruel & Unusual showed me by example the following.

  • Series Bait: When writing a series as she has done successfully, I like the way she drops back story in from previous installments, to lure you to read those. That’s why I read this one, wanted to find out more about Lucy. Now I’m wondering who this Mark Character is, were they married, lovers, why didn’t Lucy like him.
  • Epilogue: Patricia Cornwell is among the top when it comes to tying up loose ends by using one.
  • Sounds: I love the way she describes sounds, adds to the story, you read the words but hear the action.
  • Hooptedoodle: To much if it can kill the strongest of plots.
  • Characters: Build strong characters, which have weakness and short comings.

Like this blog the following statements are my opinion and mine alone.

Liking Lucy and wanting to know more about her doesn’t counter balance me despising Kay and her righteous attitude or the whining of Marino, I will not read any more of the series because of it. To keep the Scarpetta novels going, somewhere along the line somebody needs to bring her down a notch.

While researching the Scarpetta novels I came across something that puzzled me so I dug around on the web for a while. The first Postmortem released in 1990, author, Patricia Daniels Cornwell, Body of Evidence 1991, All That Remains 1992, Cruel & Unusual 1993, is listed as Patricia D. Cornwell. Starting with Body Farm in 1994 she chose Patricia Cornwell. Daniels is her maiden name, she and her husband Charles, if you can believe the internet, were divorced in 1989, a year before Postmortem won her acclaim and began her road to stardom with a net worth in 2015 close to fifteen million. According to the internet, not a trusted source of information, her books reflect her life in several ways and there is a lot of her in every character. I deduced she is Lucy, I knew there was a reason she was my favorite.

Joe Clay is a new author, check his work out on his Website, Smashwords and Kindle. Joe can also be found on Goodreads where he answers questions every Friday. To see what Joe is working on visit WIP.


One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s