This review contains plot spoilers.
Cornwell, Patricia. Body of Evidence. New York: Pocket Books, 1991
Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love
Body of Evidence is book number two in the Kay Scarpetta series. A new killer is on the loose and his victims are all connected by a strange orange fiber found at the scene of the crime. Beryl Madison, a prolific writer, is found dead in her home. Shortly following her murder, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Cary Harper, is murdered in the same fashion. Beryl was a protégée who studied under Harper and become very close to Harper and his sister. Eventually, their killer decides to go after Kay Scarpetta next and from there the plot unravels.
Body of Evidence felt a bit desperate and slapped together. The story came together at the end, but the formula was almost identical to the previous book. Woman is murdered. Another person is murdered. Murderer goes after Kay. How is it they all go after Kay? This wasn’t believable for me as a reader and it felt like a cheap way to get the killer closer to the narrator so catching him would be easy. He would show up at her door eventually, which meant that Cornwell didn’t have to devise any creative ways to track him down.
The narration felt overly dramatic with Kay comparing herself to God at certain points: “I had trained my staff very well. I wondered how God had felt after he created a world that thought it did not need Him” (Cornwell, 281-3). Kay is Catholic so it isn’t entirely out her character to reference God, but it is out of her character to compare herself to God. Kay is stressed, scared, and unsure of herself in this book and the comparison was out of place.
The killer in the story ends up being a paranoid schizophrenic. <sigh> Yes, the book was written in the early 1990s, but come on. Very few schizophrenics have the ability to do organized crime; they don’t function at a high enough level to do so. Cornwell admits this in the narration through Kay's medical knowledge so then, naturally, the killer was also highly intelligent. While not altogether impossible, it felt like a cop-out for having to write a killer that would be more plausible.
In general the book makes mental illness look bad, really bad. The mentally ill characters are dangerous and scary and don’t recover. Instead, they commit suicide and kill people. As a mental health professional myself, this was a really discouraging picture to paint of those struggling with mental illness. Way to feed the stigma, Cornwell. I won’t even get into the rampant homophobia present in the book. I know, I know, early 90s. Times were different back then, but still, I don’t have to like something just because I can put it context.
2 darts out of 5
Bookshelf Project Status: Return to library