Book of the Dead

December 10, 2008 - Book of the Dead (Patricia Cornwell). Kay Scarpetta returns in the continuing series from the author. In this outing, Scarpetta, Marino and Lucy use their new home base in Charleston, South Carolina to investigate a series of seemingly unconnected murders.

The victims here are a young tennis star, murdered in Rome in a bizarre fashion; a boy abused to death in Charleston; a distraught woman also murdered in Charleston. Possibly connected to the case is the murder of a Canadian tourist in Rome. But, how are these cases connected? That's what Scarpetta and co. must figure out. And, after 500+ pages, they do.

The novel takes its title from the book at Scarpetta's independent morgue where she keeps track of the people she autopsies. It's mentioned that the book of the dead is for Scarpetta's eyes only. But, at one point, a creepy hearse driver sneaks a peek. Ahh! An important plot point. Uh, no. Neither is the creepy hearse driver even though he eventually ends up in that book himself.

That incident is indicative of the novel as a whole. Lots of red herrings and tangential information with very little relevance to the main plot. The killers are revealed, but their motivation for murder is painted only in the broadest terms. The basic psychological questions of "Why?" are left unanswered as more space and time is devoted to the increasingly uninteresting personal relationships among the characters.

Overall, the book is a pretty quick read, but that's mostly because you can skip over a lot of what's here while you look for the few parts that really matter.