Pros: Fascinating; complex; detailed
Cons: Not the best book to start with if you aren’t already familiar with the series
Rating: 4 out of 5
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Kay Scarpetta is author Patricia Cornwell’s famous investigator. In Predator, she works with other members of the National Forensic Academy—her independent investigation group in Florida—but it seems as though complications and problems crop up everywhere.
PREDATOR is a controversial program run by Kay’s dear friend Benton in the Boston area, attempting to examine the brains of the worst kinds of sociopaths and psychopaths for abnormalities. Kay’s niece Lucy is largely out of touch and seemingly on a path to self-destruction. Investigator Pete Marino is as paranoid as they come, and thinks just about everyone is out to get him. Scarpetta herself is running out of patience with the people around her, particularly Joe Amos, a fellow at the Academy who’s driving everyone nuts.
Meanwhile several cases land in their laps at all the wrong times. One of Benton’s patients suddenly admits to killing someone in Kay’s neck of the woods; a body appears near Walden pond that may be connected to a Florida case; a mysterious call to Marino has him more paranoid than ever; and Lucy’s latest one-night stand might be connected to one or more of their cases. There are bodies with hand-prints painted on them showing up in multiple places, and it seems as though shotguns are putting in an appearance in every case they run up against. Add to that a problem with citrus canker in the area; a narcissistic talk-show host calling herself Dr. Self, and someone who might be deliberately trying to set all the Academy members at each other’s throats, and you might just begin to imagine the densely-woven ball of plot that unwinds meticulously throughout this book.
I’ve heard so much about author Patricia Cornwell and her investigator, Kay Scarpetta, that I had to read one of her books eventually. When I found myself with an hour or two to kill at a mall on Friday and no books with me, I bought one of her novels and settled in at the coffee shop to read. I was instantly hooked.
Cornwell writes in a clinical, almost detached present tense that wouldn’t work for most writers. In most books it would keep the reader distant and uninvolved. Instead, in this case it beautifully conveys the way in which the investigators go about their work without also robbing the story of its emotive impact.
I do wish that I’d chosen to start with a previous book instead of using Predator as my introduction to Cornwell’s cast. The book immediately throws its characters into a chaotic mess of roiling emotions, paranoia and anger fueled by sabotage, and I think this would have more impact after having followed the characters around under more ‘normal’ (for them, anyway) circumstances for a few books. That said, I was still able to get into the characters, get a sense for them and their live, and appreciate what was happening to them.
Obviously since this is the first of Cornwell’s books that I’ve read I can’t speak to ongoing issues, relationships, etc. in the books, but as a first read of her work I definitely enjoyed it and hope to read more soon.