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Cruel and Unusual (Kay Scarpetta #4)

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4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  77,790 Ratings  ·  539 Reviews
“A knockout” (People) of a thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Cornwell featuring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta.

“Killing me won’t kill the beast” are the last words of rapist-murderer Ronnie Joe Waddell, written four days before his execution. But they can’t explain how medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta finds Waddell’s fingerprints on another crim
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ebook, 416 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Scribner (first published January 1st 1993)
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eileen l gaudette-crowe I find that the number of characters enriches the book; each one deepens the flavor of the stock, so to speak. Having characters that reappear…moreI find that the number of characters enriches the book; each one deepens the flavor of the stock, so to speak. Having characters that reappear throughout the series gives it a continuity and richness that it would not otherwise have. I reread these books numerous times and never get bored because there is much more going on than a simple murder mystery.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Tea Jovanović
Javno priznajem da sam ja jedini krivac što je ovaj nastavak kasnio... :) Želela sam da ga prevedem a nisam imala vremena da se bavim prevođenjem... :)
Faye
Re-read: Oct-Nov 2015

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The plot: Kay is dealing with three separate cases - the autopsy of an executed prisoner, the murder of a young boy, and the apparent suicide of a middle aged woman who was a self-professed psychic. When another murder occurs Kay becomes convinced that all of these cases are linked to each other.

While I enjoyed this book a lot, I felt it wasn't as strong as the previous novels in the series. Kay is still a wonderful, strong female character with an interes
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Tara
This book made me feel like I'd missed a book between this one and the last one. I actually stopped and double checked because some very major things in Kay's life seemed to have happened between books and they are just sort of unceremoniously dropped in our laps. I hope these events at least happened to make way for other potential things to happen. (view spoiler) ...more
Matt
Dec 12, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Cornwell’s fourth novel presents some of her best work yet. With twists and turns throughout, the storyline, Scarpetta goes through a gamut of emotions before the reader’s eyes. With the execution of a child killer, Scarpetta’s autopsy seems to be a foregoing conclusion. When called to help with the discovery of a murdered teenager, Scarpetta begins to probe deeper and discovers things are not what they seem. Could the executed man be someone other than the convicted killer? With added deaths, t ...more
Charlynn
There was something slightly off-putting about this fourth novel in the Kay Scarpetta series. While key personal details were skimmed over, trivialized, and told post the actual events in past novels, in Cruel and Unusual, Cornwell killed off an important if not often seen character between books, dropping the news in an offhand manner and never actually dealing with it or its implications for her heroine. Granted, the focus of the series is not on Dr. Scarpetta's personal life, but, when said p ...more
Maurean
I’ve recently finished reading Patricia Cornwell’s “Cruel & Unusual”, the 4th installment (but only my second reading) of her Dr. Kay Scarpetta series, and I have to say that I enjoyed it, quite a bit. This was actually my third book by Cornwell, having originally “discovered” her by reading “Isle of the Dogs”; she has an interesting voice and sense of place in her writing, and I find Dr. Scarpetta to be a believable and very sympathetic character. While I haven’t read every installment, I a ...more
Sherri F.
#4 of Dr. Kay Scarpetta series and 4th I've read just not in order and some I liked more than others. Very intelligent medical, forensics & computer sci language, but still good stuff. This one did remind me a lot of #1 in not only there were multiple murders happening, but that (1) KS was eventually being targeted or set up to look like she may have done 1 or some of them or was somehow involved; (2) someone broke into the medical examiner's database (UNIX system?) for confidential info or ...more
Daniel
Feb 28, 2012 Daniel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Kay Scarpetta is in it up to her neck this time. A death row inmate, Waddle, is executed, but before his body is even cool, murdered corpses start piling up with Waddle's fingerprints found at the scene of the crime. Next thing you know, people are dropping like flies, some of them close to Dr. Kay, and she is publicly implicated in the deaths.

Cornwell has written a workably entertaining mystery here. The plot is engaging and bubbling with intrigue, and the writing isn't hampered by too much
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Donna
Jan 28, 2015 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
This was 3.5 stars, but I will round up because I read another book today, that I absolutely hated so this one gets elevated by comparison.

I like the main character in this series. She is flawed but strong. The author describes her well including her struggles and disappointments. The other characters were also well thought out. The story moved along quickly. I have read three other book by this author, and I either really liked them or I really didn't. There doesn't seem to be a middle road.
Andy
I only really read this as I was sick the other day at work and needed some way to keep awake in the evening of my long day with nothing to do. With the small choice available in the staff room it was either that, James Patterson or the Twilight books. Tough choice. I'm very rarely without a book or two on my person so more fool me.

In the interests of disclosure I actually used to read the Scarpetta novels when younger (probably read about the first 6 or 7) but eventually gave up when I realised
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J
Jun 15, 2012 J rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
BEWARE. I DON'T HIDE, OR FEED, MY REVIEWS WHETHER THEY HAVE SPOILERS OR NOT. I JOURNAL FOR MYSELF, NOT YOU.

This is early (no. 4) in the saga of Kay Scarpetta, medical examiner, M.D. and J.D., cook and friend extraordinaire!

Book starts out with the execution of a man on state death row.

But Scarpetta et al. soon have reason to wonder who, exactly, was executed.

Turns out someone's done something nefarious with the fingerprints of the dead inmate (switching the fingerprints of the deceased to someon
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Brandon Cardona
Mar 05, 2013 Brandon Cardona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit that I am now hooked on this series by Patricia Cornwell. This is the 4th one in the Scarpetta series, and they all move along really well. However, I do have a small complaint or two with the 4 I have read so far. The first problem? They are sorta "Who-Dunnit" type novels, yet I see no way to guess who the killer actually is, since Cornwell likes to bring the actual killer in to the story in the last 50 pages or so. Prior to that, you don't meet that character. One of the things ...more
Simone
May 05, 2015 Simone rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another novel true to form for Kay Scarpetta. I found the manner of the initial incident very interesting, it worked to set into motion a set of possibilities that didn't seem possible at first, but tied together in a very nice pattern.

In fact, my main critique for the novel is not the plot, or the science involved, it is actually Kay's relationship with her niece Lucy, and moreover, the niece herself. Lucy is meant to be an early teen at this point, I'm not sure exactly what age, I prob
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Lani
Oct 14, 2013 Lani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(spoilers)

I'm starting to notice a trend. First, all bad guys die at the end with the exception of the serial killer in this book. He conveniently disappears. So, we don't get to enter the mind of the criminal during police interviews, or watch the legal system in action during the criminal trials. There's also always at least one politically powerful man who HATES Kay and wants bad things to happen to her. He always ends up getting fucked over by some mix of his misfortune and Kay's luck.

I also
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Emily
May 31, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
WARNING: If you intend to read this as a part of the Scarpetta series and haven't read the previous three books, you might not want to read this review.

Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta's duties include autopsies of inmates executed by the state of Virginia. Her latest proves to be a little unusual. Then, when other people connected to the case start dying and the fingerprint of the executed man shows up at the scene, Kay's office is called into question. She's trying to solve several murders
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Elle
Feb 02, 2012 Elle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I'm slowly but surely catching up Kay and her life, and I am enjoying the books.

This would of easily got 5 stars except for one thing, the ending. I read this book literally shaking with nerves at certain points (this may also have to do with the fact I was reading it the night before a big interview but heh, blame the book) and I was expecting a hugely exciting ending.. but it just didn't happen.

It felt insanely anti-climatic and even though the book had some amazing twists and turns, it failed
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Lindsay Foster
Jan 20, 2012 Lindsay Foster rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John
It may not be Silence of the Lambs or Gorky Park, but still Cruel and Unusual has pretty much everything you could possibly want from a forensic science thriller--minus a really solid ending. This is probably the best Cornwell book I've read so far. She does a great job of allowing her main character, Kay Scarpetta, to do some old-school detective work, and, thankfully, not all the elements of the mystery are solved within the confines of a laboratory. Like in most great detective stories, Scarp ...more
Gina Rheault
Apparently unrelated crimes, including an execution that doesn't really happen, converge on the Virginia medical examiners office, and lead to strange places, meanwhile plunging the heroine into a public relations debacle of false accusation. I loved the smart women leads: medical examiner Kay, and niece Lucy. Characters are good, but not great, and the writing is okay, but not great, the technical detail delivered tediously, and the pre-denouement seems artless: this happens then that happens, ...more
Beth
Feb 15, 2012 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
Thanks Meghan for letting me borrow this book and recommending the Kay Scarpetta series to me! I definitely enjoy Patricia Cornwell's writing and evolution of the mystery. This wasn't my favorite of her books - I just felt that there was a lot of computer talk about systems that are irrelevant and unrelatable to regular life and it was hard to follow. One of the things I love about Cornwell is it is difficult to figure out who did it, but sometimes it's so random, you question how you arrived at ...more
Edward Beavers
Oct 09, 2014 Edward Beavers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cruel and very unusual.

I don't know what I was expecting when I began reading this book but, I was expecting about 1/2 way through to learn the convict was not who they thought he was. Msg. Cromwell continues a great ability with. the story and her characters..
Nicol
Mar 26, 2012 Nicol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
This is the beginning of a good mystery and hunt, and in this book I was wondering who was dead or alive, who killed who,an who was released or still in prison and generally what the hell was going on, which makes a perfect page turner. But I think the real shocker about this book is that Cornwell just kills off a character in between books and just causally mentions it at the beginning - again making you feel like you must have missed a book somewhere and I am not sure why she did this! If she ...more
Kim
Dec 02, 2010 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This has been my favorite so far! Loved this one all the way through....she (Patricia Cornwell) can get a bit too "clinical" for me sometimes...but I forgive her. The only other thing that bugs me...is all the drinking they do...do real people really drink that much? Since I don't drink, well, I drink water and soda and juice, but you know, since I don't drink alcoholic beverages I just wonder if all the drinking they do is "normal".... anyone? I'm looking forward to the next one....I'm LOVING t ...more
Shawn Byrnes
Jul 08, 2009 Shawn Byrnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was a bit skeptical over whether or not I should have picked this book up. This is due to the fact that I hated how the previous one ended. However, I must admit that I was really wrong. This book was great and my new favorite of Cornwell (who I think is the master at this genre) This book was totally creepy, and I loved every page, and the fact that the killer runs at the end, really intrigues me to keep up on these novels. The thing I love about Cornwell, is that she makes getting from point ...more
Melissa
Nov 12, 2015 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I was intrigued with this book. It showed how corruption in our govt can really happen. Started out a kid got murdered and a prisoners fingerprints was found at the scene. The thing is this prisoner was suppose to have been executed by the electric chair. Kay's assistant Susan is found murdered and Kay gets the blame. Turns out Susan is in on trying to make it look like the prisoner was not dead. someone went to great links into covering a lot of things up.

My opinion of this book is it kept me g
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Hannah
Jul 30, 2012 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the beginning of this book I thought I had missed something important somewhere seeing how an important character is killed off and it is simply skimmed over! Not like PC to skim important details.
I also thought that a big deal was made of a "pregnant woman" being murdered but she was only 10 weeks pregnant so it would have been unlikely that the murderer would've known she was pregnant anyway. The story wasn't as engaging as the preceding three but it was still good and better than many bo
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Tori Marvin
The book had a very good plot and had me hooked all the way up until the ending. It SUCKED!! I would recomend reading it to those who like the murder mystery genre, but just be forwarned that the ending doesn't hold come up to the standards of the rest of the book. It folows Dr. Kay Scarpetta in an investigation of murders thta apear to be done by a copy cat of a man that was exicuted at the begining of the book. It turns out that there was a HUGE consipracy and the man that was exicuted wasn't ...more
John Carter McKnight
A terrific setup, right from page one: a high-profile execution by electric chair of a sensitive poet who committed a brutal murder of an anchorwoman years ago. But, that night his fingerprints are found at a crime scene staged to look like the original killing.

Book 4 in the series is substantially better than book 3, the tight, engrossing, clever plot told with real tension, high stakes, palpable fear. I enjoyed it for the reasons other reviewers here seemed to have been put off: excellent tec
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Drusie's Biblio
You can translate this review on: http://labibliotecadidrusie.blogspot.it/
Voto: 6/10
Ho letto diversi racconti con protagonista Kay Scarpetta, non in ordine temporale, e devo ammettere che preferisco i primi, tra cui questo.
Siamo nei lontani anni '90, dove i pc erano più o meno all'inizio (si parla di 486!) e i cellulari non esistevano ancora. Perfino il lumalite, che ora si vede in moltissimi telefilm, aveva appena fatto la sua comparsa.
Nonostante quest'ambientazione 'preistorica', ho trovato la
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Erin
Feb 13, 2014 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like I zoned out on this one a lot. Mostly because the audio copy I had was bad, so I'd get an echo etc. I also don't think I liked the narrator at all. It felt like she was explaining things to a child most of the time. But, I liked her better than the first narrator. Plus, this book was ENTIRELY telling not showing.

I really, really did not like the fact that Mark James was killed off page. Yes, it became more important to the plot towards the later part of the book, but it was just a ca
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USA Geography Cha...: Cruel & Unusual by Patricia Cornwell 1 1 Dec 29, 2014 09:51PM  
The Women's Myste...: #4 Cruel and Unusual 2 17 Oct 21, 2013 07:39PM  
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1025097
Patricia Cornwell sold her first novel, Postmortem, in 1990 while working as a computer analyst at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia. Postmortem, was the first bona fide forensic thriller. It paved the way for an explosion of entertainment featuring in all things forensic across film, television and literature.

Postmortem would go on to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony,
...more
More about Patricia Cornwell...

Other Books in the Series

Kay Scarpetta (1 - 10 of 23 books)
  • Postmortem (Kay Scarpetta, #1)
  • Body of Evidence (Kay Scarpetta, #2)
  • All That Remains (Kay Scarpetta, #3)
  • The Body Farm (Kay Scarpetta, #5)
  • From Potter's Field (Kay Scarpetta, #6)
  • Cause of Death (Kay Scarpetta, #7)
  • Unnatural Exposure (Kay Scarpetta, #8)
  • Point of Origin (Kay Scarpetta, #9)
  • Black Notice (Kay Scarpetta, #10)
  • The Last Precinct (Kay Scarpetta, #11)

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