This is Patricia Cornwell's first book in the Scarpetta series and it was my introduction to Kay Scarpetta, ME. Written in 1990 when fingerprinting te...moreThis is Patricia Cornwell's first book in the Scarpetta series and it was my introduction to Kay Scarpetta, ME. Written in 1990 when fingerprinting techniques were considered high-tech; DNA matching was considered only slightly more scientifically sound than throwing a dart at pictures of suspects; and, computers had dark screens with green letters, I had to let go and succumb to a major mental time warp. Cornwell includes ample scientific terms and procedures for the time and I can only imagine how much more complex her explanations would have to be today to explain VPN, firewalls, DNA matching, cellular phone data, and so on.
But what probably wouldn't change are the characters themselves. Scarpetta and Marino, Lucy and the commissioner, Boltz and Bertha are all created with significant depth and breadth that they would be recognizable in any Virginia hospital, police station, home or government office. Scarpetta and Marino are flawed but worth rooting for; I admired them but wouldn't want to be friends with them. The point of view was firmly Scarpetta's and the significant amount of internal dialogue complimented the action rather than detracting from it. I appreciated that the author only wrote from her POV; today's authors are too liberal with jumping in and out of their characters heads, causing mine to spin and giving me a case of ADD.
My degree in psychology is only undergraduate, but I would think the profile of the criminal would also still be relevant today. Some characteristics in this book of sociopathic behavior are still prevalent today in books, movies and in the news. And determining how much and what kind of informatoin to leak to the press to inflame or lure or force the suspect into hiding is probably still a debate that goes on today when politicians fear that a serial killer is not within their grasp.
Although I see similarities in all the characters to those in other books (the overbearing, disappointed Italian mother, the flighty and irresponsible sister, the ambitious and morally corrupt commissioner, the hardened street cop, the escalating sociopathic killer), I thought Kay was unique. She's attractive but we join her mid-life when success and love aren't coming easy. She's been through a divorice, she's been in a new job for 2 years surrounded by a pretty good staff who've grown familiar with each other, she's been increasingly involved in her niece's life, she has a relationship with someone... opening the book is being invited into her life in progress. This is why these books can be more satisfying than YA novels - in a capable author's hands, the sum of life experiences and beliefs make a character richer and more complex (read: interesting).
The tension and suspense are handled well; I read this book in 3 days. It wasn't that I couldn't put it down; it's that I wanted to pick it up again and find out what happened. I liked that the politics were messy and there were twists I didn't see coming (I'm not someone who's focused on trying to solve the mystery myself - I'm more of a tourist when I'm reading, content to let the author be my guide). In the 90's, women professionals were not as prevalent as they are today but the grudges and resentment men have toward professional women still strike notes of truth today - it's not difficult to imagine how Scarpetta was feeling under all the pressure.
Overall, I really liked this story. I will probably read another one. And I think Patricia Cornwell's website is pretty cool. It reminds me of J.K. Rowlings' site with a focus on the theme of the books and fun ways to explore them and author's blog. If I were a big fan, I'd have spent more time there. And who knows... I may read another book and begin making regular visits to Scarpetta's virtual office.(less)
This is the first Dean Koontz novel I've read. And I didn't really 'read' it, like I'd hoped. Similar to other folks in my book club, I skimmed a lot....moreThis is the first Dean Koontz novel I've read. And I didn't really 'read' it, like I'd hoped. Similar to other folks in my book club, I skimmed a lot. I read the first sentence, got the gist and sped over the lengthy descriptions.
He creates vivid pictures and I agreed with one of the group's favorite scenes when Mr. Vess, arms and fingers outstretched is seducing a spider so he can taste and experience its essence and soul. But every scene was treated that way with a lot of description so the reader feels as if he or she were there. That's okay, but if thrillers are like roller coasters, this one had one steep hill at the beginning where you felt the adrenaline rush and then you're stuck in the car, slowly navigating the twists and turns on the rails so you can observe the scenery around you, not experience the ride. I feel he wrote it so you would vicariously experience the two main characters' emotions but he wasn't creating any for the reader. A case in point is that it took 60-70 pages for Chyna to free herself from being shackled to a table and chair.
This was a selection for book club, and a great selection because we embrace reading books each of us normally wouldn't pick up on our own. I was 70% of the way done by the time we met and our rule is 'spoilers allowed' so the people who finish the book can talk freely. I heard the ending and it seems satisfying; however we thought of alternate endings that would have given us just one more adrenaline-pumping hill at the end before getting off the ride.(less)
Maybe it's the weather - dark, cold, long winters - that influenced the writing of authors Steig Larssen and Jo Nesbo. The Snowman is told more concis...moreMaybe it's the weather - dark, cold, long winters - that influenced the writing of authors Steig Larssen and Jo Nesbo. The Snowman is told more concisely than the Dragon Tattoo series, but no less richly. The characters are precisely and fully drawn, the plot is tightly woven, the crimes are horrific, the dialog is smart and the moral and philosophical beliefs (guilt, revenge, ethics) driving the characters are as prominent as their resulting actions.
I like reading stories in international locations that make the geography, politics, culture and language much more than obligatory scene-setting. I feel as though I actually visited Norway and got to meet people their who shared their offices and homes and reluctantly pulled back the curtain on their ambivalent feelings about their Olympic heroes and royalty, television and celebrity pop culture.
But at the heart of any horror / crime novel is the detective, or in this case investigator, Harry Hole. I felt at first as though I'd missed some key events in his life, chalked it up to some healthy background that the author outlined to whet my appetite about his complex life and then discovered there were prior Harry Hole stories (at least one). It didn't detract from this story at all, though. And the history was sparingly narrated and shared in appropriate places (unlike the worst example I've ever seen in the Sookie Stackhouse novels where her past is reguritated sequel after sequel after... you get the piture).
I enjoyed how flawed Harry was, which can only be expected in his line of work. He's worn down almost to the bone - and soul - fighting alcoholism, his broken love life, lonely lifestyle and the burden of his profession. The ending was satisfying and Harry's sense of justice for the villian made absolute sense.
The book is scary, gruesome, poignant and touching. I read this in two days in broad daylight. I wouldn't be brave enough to read this on a winter night in Oslo or anywhere it was snowing and dark.(less)