Book Review of Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell – A Well Written Novel
My Rating – 3.9 out of 5
Plot Summary (Storyline) – Autopsy
Patricia Cornwell’s protagonist for this series is Dr. Ray Scarpetta, an Italian-American forensic scientist who is now Chief Medical Examiner for Virginia having just been transferred from Boston. Her husband Brenton is a profiler and consultant to the US Secret Service. Unfortunately, Dr. Scarpetta’s predecessor at the ME’s office, Dr. Elvin Reddy was a political-minded person, whose first priority was to shield the department and himself from any controversy and forward his political ambitions. The secretary he left behind, Maggie, focuses more on putting obstruction in Kay’s way than helping her in any manner. It is in this disturbing dynamic that Kay has to step into the role.
As luck would have it, the nude body of a woman is found displayed by the railway tracks in Daingerfield Island, across the Potomac River. She has a contusion at the back of her head, both her hands have been chopped off and to top it all, her neck has been slashed ear to ear, almost to the vertebra. After a while, her identity is revealed as Gwen Hainey, a biomedical engineer. She had just moved into the neighborhood of Kay’s sister Dorothy and seemed not only unfriendly but rude. She had just joined Thor Laboratories, who are into cutting-edge medical research, even aboard a satellite.
Her rental doesn’t look lived in and she seems to be involved in something fishy at her place of work. Since the murder happened on the patches of a National Park, the Feds (in the form of US Park Rangers) are involved in the investigation. The attending officer at the scene, Blaise Fruge, informs Kay that another woman, Cammie Ramada, was found drowned near the scene and Kay’s predecessor, Dr. Reddy, had quickly termed it as death by drowning and not suspicious. Kay feels that there may be a connection between the two, but when she goes to find the autopsy reports of Cammie, she discovers that there isn’t one! It was never done…
In another side story, kay and Benton are called into the White House to discuss the bizarre incidents in a Thor Laboratories satellite up in space. Two of its crew are found dead, and the third escaped unhurt, took an escape pod, and landed in Kazakhstan, to be promptly whisked away to an unknown destination by the Russian Military. Kay has to conduct a rudimentary post-mortem on the two victims in space, with the help of two astronauts from ISS, and she discovers that both crew members have been killed with some kind of a weapon and left to rot away by the third crew member, Jared Horton. It is now imperative that Jared be apprehended.
Conclusion – Book Review of Autopsy
There are various story threads floating about in the story, including Kay’s relationship with her niece Lucy, who is a survivor of great personal tragedies arising out of the Coronavirus pandemic. The characters are well fleshed out and the storylines are multiple but not confusing. Though the end is satisfactorily complicated, one tends to ask the necessity of such elaborate subterfuge. The pace is brisk, the science made easy for the laymen and women, and these days one always wonders if all the research that goes on in this world, would actually bring love and peace in this world.
For fans of the crime thriller and police/forensic procedurals, this promises to be a perfect read with all the right elements in the right quantities.
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