Patricia Cornwell’s New Release: Depraved Heart

Kay Scarpetta and her crew are back. Depraved Heart was just released yesterday (10.27.15) in the States. It’s the twenty-third entry by Patricia Cornwell in her ground-breaking Scarpetta series.

From the publisher: Dr. Kay Scarpetta is working a suspicious death scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts when an emergency alert sounds on her phone. A video link lands in her text messages and seems to be from her computer genius niece Lucy. But how can it be? It’s clearly a surveillance film of Lucy taken almost twenty years ago.

As Scarpetta watches she begins to learn frightening secrets about her niece, whom she has loved and raised like a daughter. That film clip and then others sent soon after raise dangerous legal implications that increasingly isolate Scarpetta and leave her confused, worried, and not knowing where to turn. She doesn’t know whom she can tell – not her FBI husband Benton Wesley or her investigative partner Pete Marino. Not even Lucy.

In this new novel, Cornwell launches these unforgettable characters on an intensely psychological odyssey that includes the mysterious death of a Hollywood mogul’s daughter, aircraft wreckage on the bottom of the sea in the Bermuda Triangle, a grisly gift left in the back of a crime scene truck, and videos from the past that threaten to destroy Scarpetta’s entire world and everyone she loves. The diabolical presence behind what unfolds seems obvious – but strangely, not to the FBI. Certainly that’s the message they send when they raid Lucy’s estate and begin building a case that could send her to prison for the rest of her life.

Depraved Heart takes place within 24 hours, much of that time is inside Scarpetta’s head. The action picks up two months after the end of the last novel in the series, Flesh and Blood (2014). Scarpetta is recovering and still in pain from getting speared in the leg while scuba diving a wreck in the Bermuda Triangle during her last case.

The day starts with Scarpetta and Marino investigating what was initially thought an accidental death and morphs into a strange trip down memory lane. A trip that may have devastating consequences for some in the present. Videos are texted to Scarpetta’s phone, videos that she can’t pause or save. She’s riveted to her phone and we’re riveted to the page. Then there’s an FBI raid on Lucy’s estate. A law enforcement officer goes missing. It all seems to be a game, or trap, constructed by an old nemesis, someone the FBI has declared dead.


A colonial era home in Boston, Lucy’s state of the art estate in Concord, agent housing in Quantico, and flash-backs to diving the wreck in the Bermuda Triangle are the back-drops of this story.

As usual cutting edge technology plays a central role. Have you heard of Data Fiction? It’s when a hacker covers their nefarious tracks by creating false information that gives the appearance of the status quo. Say they do it with your bank account. You look at your account and see regular debits and credits, but in “reality” your money is long gone and by the time authorities are notified, so are the criminals. Or how about the idea of criminals creating their own invisibility cloaks using materials that render them invisible to the naked eye and security cameras? Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak was fun and came in handy, but in the possession of a criminal master mind who also happens to be a depraved serial killer, it’s not so cute.

Cornwell fans will be thrilled to read another entry in the series. I was left wondering exactly who is really responsible for what. Who is doing what and why? How much is the work of the old nemesis and how much does Lucy know? What has Lucy done? Is Janet going to become a bigger player in this series? And what’s up with Benton? Sometimes I wonder why Scarpetta even stays with him.

I have no idea how this book would read to someone coming to the series for the first time. Would it be more gripping because you don’t know the characters? Would it be confusing because much of what goes on hearkens back to prior books? I’d be interested to hear from readers whose first experience with Scarpetta is Depraved Heart.

So now here we go again: waiting a whole year to get some answers to these questions.

Title: Depraved Heart
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Review copy provided through TLC Book Tours.

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