There are many books in Patricia Cornwell’s “Kay Scarpetta” series. Some are pretty good. Others are disasters. Point Of Origin is somewhere in the middle. Not terrible, but not great, either. I will say that the author does some “different” things in this novel. And I applaud those efforts. While other reviewers of this book fault some of those decisions, I was happy, as I appreciate when an author takes a different path than the norm, and dares to be “out there”.
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For those unfamiliar, Kay Scarpetta is a medical examiner. She holds various titles and positions in the different books, but in all cases, she is the one you want when you have a dead body and you need to find the cause and manner of death. She is the best at this job, that is undisputed.
Her personal life, on the other hand, isn’t always so pretty. There’s always some angst, some complication, in her life that makes things difficult for her. Frequently they involve her niece, Lucy, her police partner, Marino, or her lover, Benton. In this book, her main conflict involves Lucy. For reasons that are never really clear to me, the two women are like oil and vinegar. They love each other fiercely, that’s clear, but they just can’t be in the same room together without the claws coming out. The nastiness that comes between them makes me shake my head and wonder how niece and aunt could be that way (and makes me grateful for the loving relationships I have always had with my aunts).
As far as the plot goes, a ranch has been burned to the ground. It’s tragic, reading about all of the horses killed in the fire, not to mention that single body that was found. But what’s even more puzzling to the investigating team is that the fire burned so hot, and so high, without a recognizable accelerant or fuel source.
At the same time, Kay receives a very troubling letter from an asylum inmate, named Carrie Grethen. Carrie, and her partner Gault were featured in a previous Cornwell novel, and of course, Kay is responsible for Carrie’s incarceration. The letter is bad enough, but it’s soon discovered that Carrie has escaped the institution. Worse, it becomes pretty clear that Carrie is involved in the fire at the ranch. And a few additional fires/murders as well. Worst of all - Kay and Lucy know they have targets on their backs as Carrie is coming after them.
The story was interesting, especially the parts about the fire, and its peculiar qualities. It was also pretty clever the way they discovered Carrie’s involvement with the fire, especially since Carrie wanted them to know she was involved, and they just sort of fell into her trap. Having Carrie be so clever and able to outsmart even the great Kay Scarpetta made her a fascinating villain.
And even though I haven’t read the previous book that featured Carrie, I didn’t find it to be a problem. Sure, Point Of Origin would probably be better, if I’d read The Body Farm previously, but Cornwell makes sure it’s not really necessary.
Then there’s the ending. I don’t know how realistic it was, but it was pretty exciting. And as far as the “different path” that Cornwell took, I’ll just say, again, “good job!”. Sure, it’s not what a reader will expect - but so what? Anytime I’m genuinely shocked by a novel, I’m happy.
But then there were the annoying parts of the book. Like Carrie’s escape from the institution. For a place that’s supposedly very high security, she sure had an easy time of it. Worse, her escape method is never proven; it’s merely theorized. I would have preferred some proof to back up the theory.
Then there’s the mystery of the one horse that escapes the fire. It’s never explained how or why this horse escaped.
And all of the bickering really does get tiresome. Kay and Marino need to just let each other live their lives, without trying to change each other. And the same could be said for Kay and Lucy.
Overall, Point Of Origin is a pretty decent thriller. Not perfect, but not horrible, either.
Body Of Evidence
Cause Of Death