Written by Patricia Cornwell — Have you ever been stuck in an interminable traffic jam on the motorway? One where time seems to slow down as you stare, bored, out of the window and pray for rescue? In a nutshell, that’s how I felt while reading this book. Flesh and Blood is the 22nd to feature Kay Scarpetta and in truth the series appears to have run its course and deserves to be towed away to the scrapyard, so tired is the formula.
The story begins on Scarpetta’s birthday. With her history of forensic expertise, she is now the chief medical examiner for the state and husband Benton Wesley is an FBI profiler. They’re preparing to fly to Miami for a celebratory vacation. The break is long overdue and both are looking forward to it. But seven pennies, all bearing the date 1981 and polished to a dazzling shine, laid on the wall behind their home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, soon put a spanner in that works. As the pair puzzle over their find, Kay’s phone rings. It’s Detective Pete Marino, who wants her help at the scene of a murder just five minutes’ drive away. A high school music teacher has been gunned down while unloading groceries from his car. The shot that killed him is uncannily accurate and no-one seems to have seen or heard a thing.
It soon becomes clear that a talented sniper is on the loose, and as the list of victims grows, a worrying trend is also uncovered. Each target has tenuous links to Scarpetta or the people she holds dearest. As fans will know, Kay has very few people in her life that can be truthfully described as her own flesh and blood, but the ties that bind her and her little clique together are stronger than those created genetically. By the end of this book, it will be a miracle if anyone at all is left. All Scarpetta followers will know the clique to which I’m referring. In addition to Marino and Benton, she also has her niece Lucy – a loose cannon if ever there was one – plus assorted colleagues, both good and bad. And unfortunately that makes things all too familiar and predictable. I think newcomers would find this a difficult book to fathom, as so much of the back story is, literally, taken as read.
Over the years, our heroine Scarpetta has been through so many scrapes that she must be superhuman. In this book she barely raises a scalpel, but instead goes on a dangerous dive, co-pilots a helicopter and learns the basics of sniper style shooting – perhaps we should rename her Jane Bond, 008?
I’ve thought long and hard about why this book doesn’t hit the spot and have come to the conclusion that rather than a whodunnit, it is more of a ‘I don’t really care who did it, just get me out of here’ feeling. The reveal, when it eventually comes, is more than a little disappointing and leaves the way clear for book number 23 in the series… You have been warned! The story never really gains momentum – not helped by the fact that a good portion of the first quarter is spent with Scarpetta and Marino stalled in heavy Boston traffic, so no hope of any momentum there. I really struggled to engage with Flesh and Blood and kept finding excuses so I could put it down and do something more interesting with my time, like colour co-ordinating my wardrobe or catching up on the ironing. The plot reads like Cornwell put a load of leftover story lines together and just hoped for the best. Sadly, the strategy didn’t work and the reader is left feeling cheated and dissatisfied.
CFL Rating: 2 Stars