STORYLINE: In Potter’s Field, Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Kay Scarpetta comes up against a crafty and elusive killer whose trail she’s followed before. The story opens on Christmas eve with a naked murder victim in Central Park, and as the tale continues three other police officers die.
Scarpetta teams up with Captain Pete Marino, Benton Wesley and her niece, Lucy (a computer programmer in training with the FBI) to try to apprehend Temple Brooks Gault, who eventually infiltrates the crime fighters’ network (dubbed CAIN) and seems always to be a step ahead of the police. Eventually, Scarpetta and Brooks meet in a dramatic showdown in the New York subway system. The reader sees firsthand that Dr. Scarpetta’s not a woman to trifle with.
Dr. Kay Scarpetta: a no-nonsense, yet sensitive woman who has seen more than her share of the ugly side of humanity.
Captain Pete Marino: A gruff precinct commander who cares deeply for his work and Dr. Scarpetta and is intent on catching the killer.
Benton Wesley: FBI Profiler and Dr. Scarpetta’s lover.
Temple Brooks Gault: A murderer without any hint of a conscience.
I LIKED: the fact that the killer was introduced up front. I knew immediately what he was capable of and how his mind worked. I also liked the fact that Dr. Scarpetta followed her instincts and went to meet with Gault’s parents, which was a key factor to solving the case.
I COULD HAVE LIVED WITHOUT: The descriptions of Gault and his behaviour were so good that I preferred not having them. Cornwell did such a great job that I almost believed he was a living breathing creature – a deadly, evil man given to cruelty. I came up with an effeminate, washed out, sickly looking man with cold eyes and an evil grin, plus being an addict meant he’d do almost anything.
OVERALL COMMENTS: I enjoyed this book because Scarpetta was pitted against someone intelligent, a risk taker who kept me turning the pages. Having not read a Scarpetta novel in years, I was surprised by her relationship with Wesley (who is married). However, I was relieved that neither of them tried to justify what they were doing. The complex relationships within the story tied in with Gault, who also had his own familial issues. Scarpetta herself seemed beset by relationships – the one with Wesley, her sister, her niece, her niece and her former-lover-turned-criminal, and the weird one Gault seemed to think he had with her.
At the outset, I wondered about their delivery of gifts, and what the corrupt cop had to do with the plot line, until he was also murdered by Gault. Sometimes I found the story a little hard to follow, especially the technical aspects and the set-up for catching Gault, but Scarpetta’s confrontation with him at the end made it worthwhile. The identity of the first victim also came as a surprise and made Gault all the more strange. I’m not sure I’d read this book again, but Cornwell created an outstanding antagonist this time around.