Thursday, March 2, 2006

Predator, by Patricia Cornwell

By Christina VanGinkel

Patricia Cornwell's character, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, is once again back in full swing, doing what she does best, helping solve crimes of murder, in her new novel Predator. Some things have a familiar feel to them from some of the other novels she has written with Dr. Scarpetta as the main character, such as Dr. Scarpetta's enigmatic, but hard to pin down niece Lucy, and her love interest Dr. Benton Wesley, and even her long time friend, Pete Marino. What is different though, is when this novel kicks off; there is a definite tension building with all of these characters interaction with each other.

While Dr. Scarpetta is now working for the National Forensic Academy in Florida, Benton Wesley is working on a project to better help those in charge understand what drives the mentally insane or more accurately the newly termed compulsive murderers, otherwise known as serial killers. Lucy begins this novel doing what she has done best throughout many of these books, and that is being mysterious while enjoying the monies earned from her software programs she has developed with a mind that is on the genius level. Pete Marino meanwhile has developed a love of Harley's and black leather, much to the chagrin of Dr. Scarpetta, who amongst other issues, is having a difficult time dealing with this man who at one time she considered a good friend, maybe even her best friend.

Add to this melee of happenings the unlikable, and not very good at what he does Dr. Amos, and you have a recipe for sure disaster. He mishandles everything from how he deals with the students he is suppose to be teaching (think sleeping with the students, even though he is supposedly a newly engaged man), to making Marino an enemy when he steals his ideas for some reenactments that are not even that popular with those that they should be. As the story gets going, you will also come to realize that he is definitely digging into places he has no business being, which can surely lead to nothing good. To top off all of Dr. Amos's downfalls, he is terrible at taking orders, let alone from the likes of a woman, even the notorious Dr. Kay Scarpetta herself, or should I say especially Dr. Scarpetta!

While they are all dealing with personal issues between themselves, there are slashed tires, cryptic messages, and the dealings with psychopaths. If not all of that were enough, people are disappearing. When a local police department is notified that two women and the children they have living with them have disappeared from a church rented home, everyone just assumes that they fled back to the South Africa they had escaped from because of current issues dealing with the adoption of the two children. When the church wants to rent their house out, a neighbor takes it upon herself to notify somebody a little further up the chain of command. When Dr. Scarpetta hears the name of one of the women, Pete Marino had just relayed the same name to her from an eerie message he has received over a phone line that nobody should have had the number to.

Throw in the murder of a woman who had complained about the way citrus inspectors dealt with the locals, and you will find yourself in the middle of a novel that has so much going on, you may wonder how it could all be in one book. Not only is it, you will have no problem following along, as Patricia Cornwell can weave a tale of murder like no one else can.

When I heard that the fictional lead character of this, and other novels by Patricia Cornwell, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, won the Sherlock Award in 1999, for the best detective created by an America Author, I was not at all surprised. Patricia Cornwell actually portrays this character so well, she could probably win an award given to a real detective, as so realistic is this character portrayed by this author. Predator will leave you looking behind yourself, locking your doors, and considering the motive of all those around you. It is also sure to send you in search of all the other novels by this author if you have not yet read them.

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