Dr. Kay Scarpetta is working a suspicious death scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts when an emergency alert sounds on her phone with a surveillance film of her genius niece Lucy taken almost twenty years ago. The film clip and then others sent soon after raise dangerous legal implications that increasingly isolate Scarpetta and leave her not knowing where to turn – not to her FBI husband Benton Wesley or her investigative partner Pete Marino.
Not even Lucy.
Scarpetta is now launched into intensely psychological odyssey that includes the mysterious death of a Hollywood mogul’s daughter, aircraft wreckage on the bottom of the sea in the Bermuda Triangle, a grisly gift left in the back of a crime scene truck, and videos from the past that threaten to destroy Scarpetta’s entire world and everyone she loves.
It’s been a few years since I last picked up one of Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta books and was a little surprised to find out that this was the 23rd book in the series! I remember loving the earlier books though, and jumped at the chance to review this one.
Let me start with a quick word of warning. The events in Depraved Heart follow on closely from the previous novel, Flesh and Blood. Now, as I’m coming back to the series after quite a break, I’ve not read Flesh and Blood, and there were a few occasions where I felt a little lost so this is not really a standalone story as some of the earlier books were. I’d suggest that you should probably read Flesh & Blood first, and I’ll definitely be going back to do that!
That said, I really enjoyed Depraved Heart. It’s a compact story in terms of timeframe – everything happens fairly closely together, but Cornwell is a master at ratcheting up the tension. Scarpetta is knocked onto the back foot almost immediately as we join the story, and it’s interesting seeing how someone so absolutely capable and professional deals with the events which shake her so badly.
There’s a real psychological battle going on between Scarpetta and the others – she’s left not knowing who she can trust and is forced to deal with events as best she can, and not on her own terms. This is a different Scarpetta from the one I loved reading so much in the early books, and it’s fascinating seeing how the character has developed.
The story kicks off with Scarpetta receiving a video link from her niece’s phone. The video was taken some 17 years ago whilst Lucy was a trainee FBI agent at Quantico. Clearly someone is playing a *very* long game here, and you’re kept guessing along the way as the story twists and turns towards a pretty satisfying conclusion (though leaving you wanting the next book!)
It’s impressive how much Cornwell manages to cram into the short timeframe of the book and the writing is as crisp as I remember it from the beginning of the series. Scarpetta is a great character, though I was slightly less convinced by the ultra-competent hacker genius niece who at times felt a little too good to be true. That said, I’ve not really seen the character develop over the series and the last time I remember seeing her I think she was in her late teens/early twenties. Benton was as mysterious as ever, and Marino doesn’t appear to have changed in the slightest.
Overall, Depraved Heart was a good, solid quick read and if you’ve enjoyed any of Patricia Cornwell’s earlier books, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one. I really enjoyed meeting Dr Kay Scarpetta again and will be delving back into the series (certainly with Flesh and Bone) to see what else I’ve been missing. Probably not a great starting point for readers new to the series though – if you’ve got this far without having read any of the Scarpetta books, get yourself back to the first one, Postmortem. You’ve got a *lot* of catching up to do!
Thanks to Hayley at HarperCollins for the review copy. As always, the opinions in the review are entirely mine. The blog tour continues tomorrow at crimeworm.wordpress.com. Enjoy!