Pros: Marino and Toto. Two cool dudes.
Cons: Everyone and everything else.
I have read many of Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta books and normally they're "pretty good", with some better than others. But Cause Of Death is by far the absolute worst one I've come across. With a fragmented story that makes very little sense, a bunch of unlikable characters, an ending that was so bad it literally made me angry, this book was just awful.
The book starts out with Kay hanging out in Tidewater, filling in for the chief medical examiner who has taken a leave of absence due to a death in his family. Thus she is "on shift" when a reporter turns up dead in the river. What was Ted Eddings doing, diving in that restricted area, and why does Kay meet with such hostility from the local authorities when she tries to examine the body to figure out what killed him?
Then, Kay gets back home to Richmond, where her assistant is killed, for no apparent reason. Except he was driving her car, at the time. Could Kay possibly have been the intended target?
Finally we have Kay's obnoxious niece, Lucy. Lucy appears in most of the books in the series, and I've never liked her. No longer a bratty 10 year old, she's now a bratty full grown adult, working for the FBI. As this silly story goes on, it soon becomes clear that Lucy's latest case is tied to the cases that Kay is working.
What I liked about this book:
Kay's friend Marino. He's always a pleasure to read about. He's flawed, knows it, and won't change for anyone. He genuinely cares for Kay, and vice versa. And I also liked Toto. He was a very cool character.
What I hated about this book:
Where to start?
Let's start with the overuse of coincidence. The fact that Lucy's "top-secret" project for the FBI just happens to be related to Kay's case is just ridiculous.
Then there's the fact that the relationship between the two women is so annoying that putting them in the same room together leads to excruciatingly painful dialog. Lucy's always been hung up on the fact that she had a lousy mother. Kay has always tried to make up for that fact and be there for her. You'd think Lucy would appreciate this, wouldn't you. But she's too weighed down by the giant chip on her shoulder to appreciate anything. Lucy, you're an adult now, it's time to move on, and stop acting like a child!
Then there's Kay's romance with the very married Benton. Yes, that's right, Kay's having an affair with a married man. This leads to more painful dialog. A whole lot of "we can't do this" and "this isn't right" and "we should just be friends", followed by jumping into bed.
And I really have to mention Kay's unnatural attraction to her car. Yes, you read that correctly. Kay is weirdly attached to her Mercedes. How do I know the make of her car? Because she mentions it, about a thousand times. But here's the really weird part - simply because her car was involved with something a bit ghastly, she decides she can never get in that car again. I found that a bit strange, but OK, if that's how she feels about it, fine, let her get another car. But get this - she calls the Mercedes dealer and is told they'll be happy to trade her car for another one. No problem. In fact, he'll just drive a car to her and they can exchange vehicles right then and there. Were any forms signed? Nope. Any discussion about registering the car? Nope. Any talk about license plates? Nope. Was anything paid for the new car, including sales tax? Nope. Just a simple "Let's swap keys" and Kay's in a new car. Remembering the last time I bought a car, and how many hours it took until I was finally out of the dealership, I just couldn't believe this ridiculous story.
Later, when Kay finds out that debris in her old car tested positive for radiation, she's very happy she got rid of it. After all, it could be dangerous to hang out in a car that's been exposed to radiation. But does she ever call the guy at the dealer to warn him about the old car? NO!!! I guess it's OK if the dealer drives the car and gets sick. Just as long as Kay's safe.
All of this nitpicky stuff would be tolerable if the story were any good. But it just wasn't. What starts out as a couple simple murders soon develops into terrorism, nuclear reactors, and a weird religious cult and their Bible. It sounds exciting, but it really isn't. Because the pieces of the story don't come together nicely, they're tossed together in a way that makes very little sense. And the ending... oy!. Let's just say the only good part of the book was that the ending finally came.
Body Of Evidence
Point Of Origin