Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell

Release date: 12/6/2011

Red Mist is another strong entry in the Scarpetta Series. In some ways I liked it more than last year’s Port Mortuarybecause the action is more consistent throughout. In Port Mortuarythere was a lot of Scarpetta sitting around thinking and being paranoid. In Red Mist Scarpetta is on the move in Savannah, Georgia. She’s not on her own turf, doesn’t have the trappings of her power base, and isn’t in charge. She’s also gone to Georgia against the advice of her FBI profiler husband, Benton, and others. So there’s much more action. However, Scarpetta being who she is, there’s still a lot of paranoia. From the get-go nothing is going right for Scarpetta. The car she rented wasn’t available and she finds herself driving a smelly old van to the Georgia Prison for Women where she’s to meet with one of the inmates.

The issue of manipulation is set up early in this novel. When we first see the warden she’s re-shelving a book about manipulation, Kathleen, the prisoner Scarpetta visists, is a compulsive manipulator, and Jamie Berger’s manipulation of other people’s egos for her own purposes is duly noted. In contrast, Scarpetta is blunt and honest, but the manipulation, both subtle and blatant, converges to put her pre-disposition to paranoia into overdrive.
Red Mist starts on June 30th and ends on July 4th. Scarpetta is going to visit Kathleen, the mother of Dawn Kincaid. Dawn is the woman who tried to kill Scarpetta in Port Mortuary. Kathleen is the woman who sexually abused Cornwell’s long-time employee Jack Fielding when he was underage. Dawn Kincaid, we learned in Port Mortuary, is actually the child of Kathleen and Jack.
Scarpetta’s meeting with the warden is weird, the meeting with Kathleen is weird, and then Scarpetta unexpectedly meets with Jamie Berger. Berger, Cornwell fans know, is a high powered New York City DA and Scarpetta’s niece Lucy’s former lover. Marino is in the picture, of course, and eventually Benton and Lucy join the fray as well.
People start dying. A major character among them. An old case is re-opened and Scarpetta finds herself embroiled in a mess created by several other women. There’s some good “old fashioned” forensic investigative work in this novel. The final scene at the house I thought was a little too quick and neat, but otherwise this was a satisfying read.

As usual Cornwell slips in some helpful medical/health advice. Did you know that menthol in throat lozenges actually causes temporary loss of vocal cord functioning? You’re better off finding some slippery elm throat lozenges which are all natural and have no menthol.

Photo by Mark Coggins printed in silver on both end papers.

I know a few people who were fans of Cornwell’s earlier novels that stopped reading the series. They’ve asked me if I think the series has gone down hill. I do think that Cornwell went through a bit of a slump of some kind, but the last three books seem to be getting the series back on track. For some readers I’ve wondered if they just got tired of Scarpetta because she’s a strong, but deeply flawed character and Cornwell seems to be trying to explore those flaws. Or did Cornwell’s move away from first person narration distance early readers? (Note: She is back to first person narration.) I stopped reading the series for a few years but then went back to it because I enjoy the characters even if I don’t always like what Cornwell does with them. I took a break from the series because I got dismayed by the cruelty, inhumanity, and terror Cornwell was exploring through the perspective of the serial killers and their victims. Now, however, she’s back to focusing on Scarpetta’s perspective and I much prefer that. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Scarpetta and her crew.

Cornwell revamped her website to coincide with the release of Red Mist. Check it out here.

Red Mist
Putnam, December 6, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-399-15802-5
498 pages
Source: requested review copy


  1. I heard an interview with Patricia Cornwell on The Book Report recently, it was quite interesting, if you are interested in listening to it, go to in the archives. I really enjoy the show, there is also showtimes etc. on the site that you can look at for other shows and interviews.

  2. Thanks, Kelly! I just listened to the interview and enjoyed it, too. What a great resource–I book-marked the website and will listen to more interviews throughout the week.

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