Author: Patricia Cornwell
Publication Date: 1/1/90
Blurb (GR): Under cover of night in Richmond, Virginia, a human monster strikes, leaving a gruesome trail of stranglings that has paralyzed the city. Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta suspects the worst: a deliberate campaign by a brilliant serial killer whose signature offers precious few clues. With an unerring eye, she calls on the latest advances in forensic research to unmask the madman. But this investigation will test Kay like no other, because it's being sabotaged from within and someone wants her dead.
In terms of the plot, I was entertained throughout. I wasn't sure whodunit until the big reveal and I suspected, as I'm supposed to, several side characters along the way. Cornwell definitely knows the building blocks to a successful medical crime thriller. It is easy to tell that she comes from the medical side of things and those were definitely my favorite parts of the book--the autopsies, discussions of injuries, etc. The least successful (read: most annoying) sections of the book for me were Kay Scarpetta's interactions with her precocious niece. Evidently her niece is the Doogie Howser of the computer hacking world but without his boyish charm. (and lab coat)
The book is entertaining but it didn't do much for me overall. I will keep going in this series though because my dear friend Maja is in love with it and I think it will get better as I get out of the dated technology era. I bet I would really enjoy this if I read it in twenty years!
At this point, I'm just going to rehash a few plot points for people who may have forgotten. As I keep following series for years (I'm on number thirtysomething with Eve Dallas!), I realize how much I forget about early books. This will serve as a reminder to me (and you?) about the events of book one in this series. Don't read on if you don't want to absolutely spoil the book!
Several women are murdered by someone with a glittery substance on their hands. The perpetrator comes in through open windows. Simultaneously, Kay is near-raped by her psuedo-boyfriend, who'd done something similar to the local newswoman. (whose sister ends up being the last victim) Though she and Marino suspect a few other people first, Kay figures out that the link between all the women is that they'd all called 911 weeks/months before their murder for minor things. The 911 operator is the killer. The glittery substance was borax-based cleanser at his work that he used all the time because he had some random syndrome that made him smell like maple syrup all the time. (seriously) At the end, Kay's niece leaves her window open and the rapist gets in and is going to kill Kay but Marino arrives and shoots him before he can.