Flesh and Blood
by Patricia Cornwell
It’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s birthday, and she’s about to head to Miami for a vacation with Benton Wesley, her FBI profiler husband, when she notices seven pennies on a wall behind their Cambridge house. Is this a kids’ game? If so, why are all of the coins dated 1981 and so shiny they could be newly minted? Her cell phone rings, and Detective Pete Marino tells her there’s been a homicide five minutes away. A high school music teacher has been shot with uncanny precision as he unloaded groceries from his car. No one has heard or seen a thing.
In this 22nd Scarpetta novel, the master forensic sleuth finds herself in the unsettling pursuit of a serial sniper who leaves no incriminating evidence except fragments of copper. The shots seem impossible, yet they are so perfect they cause instant death. The victims appear to have had nothing in common, and there is no pattern to indicate where the killer will strike next. First New Jersey, then Massachusetts, and then the murky depths off the coast of South Florida, where Scarpetta investigates a shipwreck, looking for answers that only she can discover and analyze. And it is there that she comes face to face with shocking evidence that implicates her techno genius niece, Lucy, Scarpetta’s own flesh and blood.
Patricia Cornwell is recognized as one of the world’s top bestselling crime authors with novels translated into thirty-six languages in more than 120 countries. Her novels have won numerous prestigious awards including the Edgar, the Creasey, the Anthony, the Macavity, and the Prix du Roman d’Aventure. Beyond the Scarpetta series, she has written a definitive book about Jack the Ripper, a biography, and two more fiction series. Cornwell, a licensed helicopter pilot and scuba diver, actively researches the cutting-edge forensic technologies that inform her work. She was born in Miami, grew up in Montréal, North Carolina, and now lives and works in Boston.
Catch Up with Patricia Cornwell:
Sometimes vacations are not meant to happen because the hand of fate or murder forces you to have a change of plans. Dr. Kay Scarpetta is packed and ready to leave for the airport for a flight to Miami to celebrate her birthday and get a much-needed vacation with her husband FBI profiler Benton. While preparing dinner and having a light conversation she notices something unusual in her yard. Who would place seven 1981 shiny and polished pennies there in a straight line? How did they get there and why 8 copper pennies? Added in her husband said he saw a flashing light several times and has no idea where it came from and although he alerted her nice Lucy to do some recon over their home, the end result came up blank. But, things would change in a flash with one phone call to inform her of a murder not too far away. Who would kill a teacher as he was coming out of his car with an armful of groceries? As the crime scene unfolds and the police arrive Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta takes control of the situation. With the shields up and the area cordoned off, Detective Pete Marino and Kay begin their questioning; their deductions until Detective Marcedo arrives and things heat up. Learning that the victim was Jamal Nari with a checkered past although thought to be a respected teacher and musician photos and evidence would come to light that he had a shady past.
Marino is a homicide detective and does his job quite well even though he often goes too far and will stop at nothing to get his point across. Working with Kay can be difficult since her standards and requisites for handling a case are strictly by the book except when it’s necessary to break the rules. Explaining the case and describing the scene becomes quite graphic. Marino has his on difficulties and coming up against Detective Machado is one. Former friends and partners now at each other’s throats.
Throughout the novel Dr. Kay Scarpetta relies on the expertise of her husband F.B.I. profiler Benton Wesley. But, the victim has a checkered past and an accused of being a terrorist was killed by a sniper’s rifle. The link seems to be the copper bullets and the copper pennies and the poem titled Copperhead and the fact that her credit cards were hacked four times. Someone wants Scarpetta to take notice but why? With President Obama coming to town to talk about the open hostility toward Muslims, and focusing on terrorism, could these attacks have something to do with his visit? Pete Marino is a Cambridge cop and Scarpetta both knows of two other shootings that fit the same demographics as the one in Cambridge. Teaming up with another precinct in New Jersey and reaching out to the person in charge might help get the answers faster.
When talking about the visit from the President they refer to the problems in the Ukraine and of course there is always a threat from Russia. Marino and Scarpetta are friends yet distant in many respects although each respects the others expertise there is a hardcore undercurrent in their relationship. Each remembering their pasts as the author shares her memories working in her father’s grocery store as the author elaborates on the murders and the link between them and Scarpetta.
Meeting Joanna Nari the reader learns more about why she and Jamal had to move, the reasons behind it and what happens when we meet Mary Sapp the realtor and why she retracted the sale. Enter Bloom from the TPB insurance company and we learn more about why Joanna might not get the money due to her and what role he plays in this complex plot. But, the feud between Marino and Machedo heats up and when Benton finally takes center stage information about the detective comes to light and he just might not be a problem anymore. With Kay’s ballistic expert and Machedo having an affair and the death of Nari still in question why is that the young boy Nari’s wife was counseling confesses to his murder?
As the pieces begin to fall into place the insurance company comes to light even further as we learn that they are great until you want to make a claim. There are many insurance companies that give clients a hard time when trying to collect on a claim and in this case Nari’s wife just might lose it all. So, how much did Bloom give Mary Sapp to renege on the deal for the house for the Naris? What will happen when Marino questions he young teen? What exactly is the meaning of Copperhead and whom did the account belong to? How can someone hack into a twitter account of someone that is dead? The author relates information that will help readers understand the dangers of social media and why families need to delete accounts of family members that are deceased.
With a corrupt insurance agent that does not want to pay on claims, a several individual cases including Patty Marsico, Johnny Angiers, Jamal Nari and now the teen who claimed he shot Jamal, Leo Gantz the evidence seems to point that someone has a vendetta to take out on Scarpetta but why? Each death not an accident but a murder and the weapons might be different but the relationship to the copper bullets and pennies becomes apparent after the third death. Add in Gracie Smithers and her supposed death drowning and the fact that her death appeared staged someone is outsmarting Marino, the FBI but the medical examiner too. But, Marino is still in the loop but things spiral out of control and evidence points to someone close to Kay. Drugs, money laundering, hacking into Scarpetta’s accounts and a link to the Russians this killer is really smart and although at times in plain sight not seen. As Lucy’s DNA comes back suspicious and the breach happened with Scarpetta’s bank account just who is behind these murders you won’t believe. The author describes how the killer is able to hack into Scarpetta’s assistant’s password and why Lucy realized it but did not let on. But Why? With Lucy’s DNA profile changing and the killer’s name brought to light will they be able to get this person before he/she strikes again? The ending will startle readers as both Kay and Benton get close but not close enough. Will they bring back this killer? The ending is a total shock and surprise and the research and descriptions of the bodies, the guns and how they are used plus when Kay gets a lesson in how to become a sniper, readers will be enthralled with those scenes as you too can experience what she did.
A complex novel where Kay Scarpetta becomes more of an investigator than a medical examiner. Find out what happens next when author Patricia Cornwall brings back Scarpetta. When the lens of a camera placed on Lucy and Benton hiding some facts from her, she has to decide in the end can she trust her own Flesh and Blood.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews