Sunday, July 13, 2014

79. "Body of Evidence" by Patricia Cornwell

****Spoiler Alert****
This review contains plot spoilers.

Cornwell, Patricia. Body of Evidence. New York: Pocket Books, 1991

403 pages.

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 

Reviews of earlier books in the series:
1. Postmortem

Sunday, July 6, 2014

78. "The Well of Ascension" by Brandon Sanderson

****Spoiler Alert****
This review contains plot spoilers

Sanderson, Brandon. The Well of Ascension. New York: Tor, 2007.

796 pages.

Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love

The Well of Ascension picks up where Mistborn left off; Luthadel is in chaos after Vin defeated the Lord Ruler. Elend is left as king but his leadership is clumsy and inept. Sazed calls on his fellow Terris(wo)man, Tindwyl, to help train Elend and teach him how to become an able leader. Unfortunately, she is attempting to teach him these skills when three separate armies sit outside the city gates, planning a siege. His people are starving and his soldiers are vastly outnumbered. Meanwhile, ghosts are forming in the mists and the mists are killing villagers in surrounding areas of the Central Dominance. Thus begins Vin’s quest to protect her King and city.

The mist grows thicker: “Chaos and stability, the mist was both. Upon the land, there was an empire, within that empire were a dozen shattered kingdoms, within those kingdoms were cities, towns, villages, plantations. And above them all, within them all, around them all, was the mist” (Sanderson, 243). The plot grows thicker as well.

The Well of Ascension moved a bit more slowly than Mistborn but the tension built up beautifully to a climatic, blockbuster ending. The last one hundred pages flew by but would have been empty had it not been for the first six hundred pages. Through this second installment, readers get to know the characters at a greater depth that makes the loss of several in the end dramatic and upsetting. All the subplots had a purpose and fed into the main plot wonderfully. The romance was plausible and not cheesy. The moral questions were natural to the situation and not rote or trite.

Brandon Sanderson is a truly talented writer. Onward!

3 darts out of 5.
Bookshelf Project Status: return to borrower