Eric_W's Reviews > Black Notice

Black Notice by Patricia Cornwell
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's review
Jan 31, 2009

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bookshelves: mysteries-and-thrillers

** spoiler alert ** I read several of the early Cornwell novels and enjoyed them. Kay Scarpetta was a unique addition to the crime-solving world. At that time Kathy Reich had not appeared on the scene with her own version of the forensic pathologist as crime solver. Eventually though, Scarpetta became a little too self-involved for my taste, with too much psychobabble and self-analysis.
Black Notice, tenth in the series, still has some of the same problems, but my favorite character, detective Marino, plays a more substantial role, and the crime is intriguing. Scarpetta is probably the unhappiest character I have encountered. Her niece Lucy, now an undercover ATF agent still reeling from the death of Kay's FBI agent boyfriend, is undercover in Florida on a very risky operation; she's also a petulant child more reminiscent of the adolescent she was in the first novel when her petulance was perhaps more believable.
A body is discovered in a sealed container on a ship from Belgium that was being unloaded in the port of Richmond. The corpse has assorted European coins in his pocket and appears to be covered with animal hairs. Typically, we learn a great deal about autopsy procedures and little gruesome details, such as sliding skin off fingers for fingerprints, etc., but I found the details concerning her use of e-mail quite unbelievable. That the state medical examiners office would use AOL as its ISP, and that the technical person would set up the accounts on AOL for each employee and assign passwords herself, strikes me as rather unrealistic, if not incredibly stupid. Because of this security-unconscious procedure, a treacherous assistant is able to intercept Kay's e-mail from her boss, and to assume her identity in a chat room on the Internet. He's in league with the new deputy police chief, Diane Bray, who has it in for Kay -- why is never made completely clear -- and Captain Marino, assigning him back into uniform. The weird animal hairs are then discovered on a murdered store clerk, and Marino and Kay are soon off to Paris on the trail of an international killer.
Marino is such a great character (he has the largest display of Christmas lights anywhere — he had to install three new fuse boxes), and the plot itself is so intriguing, I can overlook most of Kay's dour outlook and self-pity. But Lucy really needs to have a personality adjustment or get killed off.
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