Nov 10 2013 10:45pm

Fresh Meat: Dust by Patricia Cornwell

Dust by Patricia CornwellDust by Patricia Cornwell features Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta, trying to unravel a posed corpse's impossible death while her FBI-profiler husband involves her in the case of D.C.'s sexual predator, the Capital Murderer (available November 12, 2013).

I've enjoyed following Kay, Benton, Lucy, and Marino through the years, but it’s hard to believe this is the 21st installment in the Kay Scarpetta series that started with Post Mortem in 1990.

Marino is now a cop with the Cambridge police and he’s calling Kay because of a body found at MIT on the athletic fields: a young woman who was posed dramatically and has no apparent injuries, but is dead nonetheless. She may be a young woman who is the plaintiff in a 100-million dollar lawsuit that is week away from trial.

Kay is still stinging from Marino’s sudden departure from the Cambridge Forensics Center (CFC) and she isn’t sure she can work with him again. He has already fallen back into the old cop persona that she doesn't like.

Kay is also wrestling with her own demons at the moment. She has just returned from a gruesome case of a tragic shooting that left twenty-seven children dead at an elementary school. Her mind keeps experiencing flashbacks:

Television and production trucks were everywhere, and we made sure all of the blinds were drawn. Dark brown carpet. Thick slicks of dark coagulated blood that I could smell as it began to decompose. Sticky on the bottom of my shoes as I moved around inside that room. There was so much blood and I tried so hard not to step in it, to work the crime scene properly. As if it mattered.

Her husband Benton Wesley has been in D.C. for over a month working on the Capital Murders, and it’s proving difficult. He’s shared case information with Kay, even though he wasn’t supposed to, and Kay runs the murders through her mind.

A woman with a clear plastic bag over her head and duct tape around her neck, a designer duct tape with a black lacy pattern, and clear plastic rapidly sucks in and out, her eyes panicked as her face turns a deed blue-red. Pressure builds, causing a light scattering of petechial hemorrhages across the cheeks and eyelids, tiny pinpricks blooming bright red as vessels rupture/ Fighting to stay alive but restrained somehow and then all goes silent and still, and the final act, a bow fashioned from the same designer duct tape is attached under her chin, the killer wrapping his gift to inhumanity.

Benton is butting heads with his boss, Ed Granby, who seems to be contradicting everything Benton says about the Capital Murders, and it appears Granby might have his own agenda. Benton is convinced that people high up in the government don't want the killer caught. Is the Bureau trying to get rid of Benton? Kay is worried about him and her worry is heightened when she cannot get hold of him and he isn’t where she expected him to be.

As is typical in Scarpetta’s life, she finds out that Lucy is right in the middle of Marino’s murder case. Lucy knows the dead woman and has a unique connection to her.  What else does Lucy know or what is she hiding? You’ll never know if Lucy doesn’t want you to.

Benton becomes involved in Marino's case, and there are clues that it could be related to his D.C. cases. Kay becomes worried that perhaps the serial killer staged the MIT body just for Benton, but she can't let it interfere with her job.

Then I will myself to feel nothing at all. It's not helpful to react the way a normal person would. I banish what will interfere with my clinical discipline and reason, I run it off and far away from me. After all these years I'm good at emptying myself out.

Scarpetta always worries more about her family and friends than she does herself and she has good reason. These cases are more sinister than first thought, and they will all be forced to battle a predator like nothing they've ever known before. Throw in drugs, organized crime, and corruption, and you've got another entertaining novel by Patricia Cornwell.

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Kim M. Hammond is an avid mystery reader and aspiring writer who hails from Cleveland, Ohio. She also guest blogs at Mystery Playground.

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1 comment
Deborah Lacy
1. DeborahLacy
Thanks for a great review Kim. I haven't picked up a Scarpette novel in awhile. It might be time to do so again.
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