My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Cruel & Unusual by Patricia Cornwell, the fourth in the “Kay Scarpetta” series was a solid book with a little more edge than some of the others, hence the 4 rating. Two key parts of this one that appealed to me:
1. Scarpetta learns more about the prison system, in particular how a newly killed inmate’s finger prints could show up on a dead body several days after the inmate died. The “gimmick” has been used before, but Cornwell keeps it tightly wound until the end of the book. It’s a page turner, for sure. You think you’ve figured it out, but more details come out. And it gets very scientific, which really helps push you closer to the edge of not wanting to stop reading it. That said, the technology is almost 25+ years old compared to today’s standards, so it’s nothing earth-shattering at this point. It was something to read in the 90s to truly get the best impact. Still a good read today, I’m sure.
2. Kay and her niece, Lucy, continue to play the game of mouse and cat, so to speak. I’m not sure who is the mouse and who is the cat anymore. But what’s fun here is that Lucy ends up helping on the case, despite the risks. And it call comes down to computers, which again, are much more advanced in the last ~30 years. Reading how people thought back then, how they interpreted and stored files, is amusing for someone in the technology field. I read this shortly after it came out but I was still very close to technology way back then.
The series is still solid at this point. And I’d recommend this read for someone who isn’t too particular about tools and techniques in the fields of investigation, criminology, computers and DNA changing significantly over the years. Enjoy this for the puzzle it was at the time, not the slightly slower path it would be today. All in all, as much as she annoys you, Scarpetta is one of those people I wish I knew in real life. A bit too brilliant in some ways tho!
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