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The Last Precinct


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About the Author

Patricia Cornwell's first novel, POSTMORTEM, was published in 1990 and won five international awards. Her Scarpetta novels have since become Number One bestsellers throughout the world. She has also published two police procedurals, HORNET'S NEST and SOUTHERN CROSS.


In a continuation of Black Notice, Virginia's chief medical examiner, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, finds herself still under attack by Jean Baptiste Chandonne as she is now accused of murdering rival Diane Bray rather than the Werewolf. Both author and her protagonist seem to suffer from too much burnout, repetition, and lack of new challenges. Much of the book is insufferably morose, and even devoted fans may be put off by Scarpetta's autopsy of her own spirit and psyche. The intelligent, independent woman is a mere shadow of herself as Benton's ghost hovers ever near. The revisiting of old cases does attempt to create what mystery is present here, though it is too easily discerned early on. Cornwell seems increasingly intolerant of her own supporting cast of characters. Kate Reading's narration is far stronger and more varied in the unabridged version, but the abridgment does cut much of the doubt and gloom that weigh down the novel. Not recommended. Packaging of all versions will not withstand typical library usage. Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"My central nervous system spikes and surges, my pulse pounds. I am sweating.... " If only readers would share this response with Cornwell's immensely popular Kay Scarpetta, Virginia's chief medical examiner. But most won't. Kay has plenty of reason to be upset. She's standing in a room in a shabby motel where a body has been found, severely tortured. She's under official suspicion of having murdered maleficent ber-cop Diane Bray (in Kay's last outing, Black Notice). She's suspected of trumping up charges against accused serial killer Jean-Baptiste Chandonne, also introduced in Black Notice. She's reeling from the aftershock of Chandonne's murderous attack on her; she mightily misses her slain FBI agent/lover Dan Belson; she's learned that her gay niece, Lucy, is quitting law enforcement for a private PI firm called the Last PrecinctÄand it's Christmas time. Kay has a lot of support in the midst of this law-and-disorder soap opera, from, among others, Lucy, tough cop/sidekick Pete Marino and Kay's aged friend, psychiatrist Anna ZennerÄand that's part of the problem with this novel. Excessive emoting and way too much talk (including long therapeutic sessions between Kay and Anna) derail momentum time and again; the pages feel soggy with tears. Cornwell does provide intense intrigue, but it's a strain to follow as she connects events and loose ends from several novels. Within this narrative swamp, there's one new and very memorable gator, thoughÄNew York prosecutor Jaime Berger, obviously modeled on real-life ADA (and novelist) Linda Fairstein, to whom Cornwell dedicates the novel; she's sharply drawn and charismatic. Cornwell will win few if any new fans with this overlong, sluggish offering, but her giant readership is so hardcore and so enamored of Kay that the publisher's first printing of one million seems, if anything, conservative. $800,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections; national satellite tour; foreign rights sold in the U.K., Germany, Italy, France, Holland, Japan, Finland, Turkey and Spain. (One-day laydown, Oct. 16) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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