Feb 14, 2011

The Weeknight Book Club. Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell.

Well, ring those bells and fling around those streamers.  I finished this novel.  It has taken me weeks.  In the process, I've finished quite a few other novels, watched some TV, gone to work, slept, ate out, gone shopping and done some gardening.  You get the picture.  I found it very hard to 'get into' this book but I had to persevere.  You see, I have succumbed to the Kindle One Click Syndrome.  It's so easy to buy books on Amazon you tend to forget just how many you have and are yet to read.  I was determined to one day be able to add this book to my 'Books I've Read' collection.

I could be dramatic and say that the effort nearly took it all out of me.  But perhaps I should dispense with the theatrics and talk about the book.  I am linking to what I think is an objective and accurate book review here which also has an interesting discussion after it.

As you know, I've been going through a bit of a murder mystery obsession at the moment.  One by one, I've rediscovered favourites from my teens - Ruth Rendell, Agatha Christie and now Patricia Cornwell.

Port Mortuary is the latest Kay Scarpetta novel in Cornwell's best selling series.  It brings together Kay with her niece Lucy, old flames and workmates as well as Scarpetta's husband.  It is set in the present time within the US Defence forces and the related aspects of pathology, psychiatry and military sciences.  Scarpetta has been away on a secondment and returns to her old lab to find it neglected and in chaos.  The chief pathologist whilst she was away has disappeared, leaving disorder and negligence in his wake.  He was also an ex lover of Scarpetta's.  A body is delivered to the morgue but it appears that perhaps the body was not dead at the time it was placed in the morgue refrigerator.  In a nearby suburb, a young child is found dead in his family's front garden with nails in his head.  There is a confession from a very troubled but intelligent young man.

How does this all fit together?  If you get past the first two thirds of the novel, be prepared for a fast moving plot that helps it all make sense.

That was my biggest problem with Port Mortuary.  It was so slow and hard to read at the beginning.  Told from Scarpetta's point of view, the plot dragged with her internal dialogue and flashbacks to the past.  As a literary device, this didn't really work for me.  I couldn't empathize with the way Scarpetta's mind was working.  Sometimes I like reading novels because of the journey the main character takes through the chapters as opposed to the plot twists.  No joy here for me.

I found the background about robotics and the ethical issues surrounding the tragic loss of fit young men (from all sides) in the dubious wars that the US and other countries are engaged in informative.  But.  I just didn't feel the urge to turn the page (or press the forward arrow in the case of the Kindle) because there didn't seem to be anything else going on besides this presentation of contemporary American military life.

Having finished Port Mortuary, I am keen to go back to earlier Scarpetta novels.  For old times sake.  To see if I can rediscover that page turning fever Cornwell novels used to evoke in me.  In the mean time, I've decided to delve into Royal biographies.  Starting with chic but misunderstood Mrs Wallis Simpson and her Prince.


  1. I used to enjoy Patricia Cornwell novels and bought them the minute they appeared in the book shop, but the last two or three have been absolutely terrible, and I didn't even give Port Mortuary a second look. It's sad when a previously reliable author seems to lose their magic.
    I love reading and feel quite amazed at how much I enjoy reading on the kindle. Everything about the kindle is good - including the fact that if I don't have my reading glasses I can just make the print bigger. Excellent. Also love being able to sample a book. And the speed with which I can order and receive a new book - at a reasonable price.

  2. Kate: I have reached the same conclusions as you about Patricia Cornwell and Kindles.

    SSG xxx


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