Autopsy – Patricia Cornwell

Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell
Series: Kay Scarpetta #25
Published by William Morrow on November 30, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
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Scarpetta is back! In this twenty-fifth in the electrifying, landmark #1 bestselling thriller series chief medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta hunts an ingenious killer who has mastered cutting-edge science for the most nefarious ends.
Forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta has returned to Virginia as the chief medical examiner. Finding herself the new girl in town once again after being away for many years, she’s inherited an overbearing secretary and a legacy of neglect and possible corruption.
She and her husband Benton Wesley, now a forensic psychologist with the U.S. Secret Service, have relocated to Old Town Alexandria where she’s headquartered five miles from the Pentagon in a post-pandemic world that’s been torn by civil and political unrest. Just weeks on the job, she’s called to a scene by railroad tracks where a woman’s body has been shockingly displayed, her throat cut down to the spine, and as Scarpetta begins to follow the trail, it leads unnervingly close to her own historic neighborhood.
At the same time, a catastrophe occurs in a top secret private laboratory in outer space, and at least two scientists aboard are found dead. Appointed to the highly classified Doomsday Commission that specializes in sensitive national security cases, Scarpetta is summoned to the White House Situation Room and tasked with finding out what happened. But even as she works the first crime scene in space remotely, an apparent serial killer strikes again. And this time, Scarpetta could be in greater danger than ever before.
In this latest novel in her groundbreaking Kay Scarpetta series, Patricia Cornwell captivates readers with the shocking twists, high-wire tension, and forensic detail that she is famous for, proving once again why she’s the world’s #1 bestselling crime writer. 

I picked up Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell due to its intriguing summary.  I had no idea it was the 25th book in a series until after I had already started the novel.  Autopsy stands well on its own, though, and readers have no need to go back to the other 24 books.  That being said, however, I can’t say I enjoyed this one as much as other mysteries I have read.  It is an easy and fast read; I almost started and finished it on a three-hour flight. But this book just had problems which I could not overlook. The characters did not draw me in, and I could not relate to them. I could not have cared less what happened to any of them, though maybe that’s because I stepped into the series with book 25.

Don’t get me wrong; Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell kept me entertained from the first page till the last. But some of the things in the book just seemed forced—additional plot details that the book did not need.  Without going into too many details, a certain character is exposed to a deadly chemical and almost dies. But in the long run, this had nothing to do with the book’s crime.  It is just an opportunity for drama and added nothing to the plot besides “Oh, this character could’ve been killed!”

I also did not like the “two scientists are dead on a top secret outer space laboratory” part of the plot.  That just ended up being really weird for me, and I did not like how any of it was portrayed.  In general, the parallel plotlines that did not coalesce seemed disjointed. Also, some characters were never given names.  In a Doomsday Commission meeting, the decision-makers were “the president,” “NASA,” and “the vice president.”  No names.  This bothered me immensely.  I cannot be sure if this is because I read an ARC and Cornwell planned to add the names later or what, but…ugh, give me names!  And please, I know the pandemic is something real, but I don’t want to read about it.  I read to escape reality, not to hear more about it.

If I am remembering correctly (I’ve read two books since finishing Autopsy, so things are a little blurry), most everything in the novel occurs via dialogue.  Limited descriptions.  Next to know internal thoughts, despite the fact that Autopsy is written in a first-person POV.  While dialogue is important, you cannot base an entire story off it.  I want to visualize things, and you don’t provide descriptions, it all just seems like a bad movie to my imagination.

What bothered me most, though, about Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell: She doesn’t reveal anything about the “bad guy” until the epilogue.  There’s maybe only one brief mention of this individual in the rest of the novel, if that.  The epilogue goes into how the “bad guy” is connected, what the motives are, when they did things and how.  This irked me to no end.  Speaking of the end, the last few chapters of Autopsy seemed rushed—like Cornwell grew tired of writing and just forced everything together so she could be done with the story.

Overall, there’s nothing about Autopsy that would lead me to read more of Cornwell’s books…especially not 24 others that happened before this one.