Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell

“Her anguish and terror came from where no one should have to go, a wrenching hopeless place. It’s not true that we are never given more than we can bear. Only it isn’t given. It simply happens.” 

Another visit with Scarpetta and her gang has come and gone. Like real life visitors, at least enjoyable ones, you wait and wait for the day of their arrival and then, before you know it, they’ve been and gone.

What happened during this visit? Well, as usual, someone is after Scarpetta. Do they want to fuck up her career? Hurt those close to her? Kill them? Kill her? It’s looking like ‘yes’ to all of the above.

From the publisher: #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Cornwell delivers the next enthralling thriller in her high-stakes series starring Kay Scarpetta—a complex tale involving a serial sniper who strikes chillingly close to the forensic sleuth herself.

It’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s birthday and she’s about to head to Miami for a vacation with her FBI profiler husband Benton Wesley when she notices seven pennies on a wall behind their Cambridge house. Is this a kids’ game? If so, why are all of the coins dated 1981 and so shiny it’s as if they’re newly minted? Then her cellphone rings, and Detective Pete Marino tells her there’s been a homicide five minutes away. A high school music teacher has been shot with shocking precision as he unloaded groceries from his car. No one heard or saw a thing. It’s as if God did it.

In this 22nd Scarpetta novel, the master forensic sleuth finds herself in the middle of a nightmarish pursuit of a serial sniper who seems to leave no evidence except fragments of copper. The shots are so perfect, they cause instant death and seem impossible, and the death scenes aren’t crime scenes because the killer was never within hundreds of yards of the victims. The victims seem to have nothing in common, and there is no pattern that might indicate where the Copperhead will strike next. First New Jersey, then Massachusetts, and then into the murky depths off the coast of South Florida, where Scarpetta dives a shipwreck, looking for answers that only she can discover and analyze. There she must face an unthinkable truth that points in the direction of her techno genius niece, Lucy, Scarpetta’s own flesh and blood.

Scarpetta is worried about her niece Lucy, who appears to be having relationship troubles again in between flying around in her helicopter, driving an uber expensive sport car, and being a computer genius whose gruff, non-communicative demeanor turns on both women and men; husband Benton is intimate and sexy for a few minutes and then off FBI-ing and unreachable until he pops up again; the newish thing is that Marino’s loud mouth and temper tantrums don’t seem to bother Scarpetta as much as they used to.

Fascinating weapons forensics carry this story. Sniper stuff. Bullet trajectories. Ballistic fingerprints. Have you heard that they’re looking for a way to add a unique “stamp” to the firing mechanisms of small arms weapons that will allow investigators to match a spent casing with the weapon that fired it?  “A microstamp is etched on the firing pin or some other component of a gun so it will be transferred to a cartridge case. The point is to have a microscopic code that links a spent case with the gun’s serial number.” Apparently this is a controversial concept and only being done in California at this time. I’d like to know why this is controversial. Does if effect accuracy? Rub the NRA the wrong way?

On the emotional side of things, Scarpetta digs into herself on a deeper level:

I should get in touch with my fear so I’m not angry
I’m got to find out this is all my fault.
Not it isn’t, dammit, and when I peel back anger I find more if it. Under more of it is rage. Beneath rage is a black pit I’ve never climbed inside. It’s the hole in my soul that would take me to the place where I might do something I shouldn’t.

I’m hoping her mental health will be explored further in future books, especially that black pit which might lead to some interesting character development.

My only complaint about Scarpetta novels is that these books are over too fast. There’s a brief moment of happiness before the paranoia creeps in, a crime scene is investigated, paranoia increases, some factual discoveries are made, theories are bantered about, more clues are found, the theory thickens, Scarpetta can’t get a hold of key people, relationships become strained, and then WHAM! the book is over and the pack is frolicking together and/or eating Italian food. This one includes the happy pack ending, but then there’s a cliff hanger.

Oh well, at least for me Benjamin Franklin’s adage that visitors, like fish, smell after three days doesn’t apply to this book.

Hope to see you again next year, Kay Scarpetta.

Goodreads link: Flesh and Blood
Author website: Patrica Cornwell
Publisher: William Morrow, November 11, 2014
Source: bought it on my Kobo
Recommended to: established readers of the Kay Scarpetta series. Readers who have never read Cornwell are better off starting at the beginning of the series.

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