Cause of Death

Cause of Death_PatriciaCornwell_1246476




On New Year’s Eve in 1995, Ted Eddings is murdered. It would not be the last death of the year in Virginia, but it would certainly be the most important. Eddings was an AP reporter with a charming demeanor and was one of the few media people Kay Scarpetta allowed even close to the inner areas of her medical examiner’s offices. And now he has been found dead at the end of his diver’s air hose in a restricted area where decommissioned naval vessels are made ready for sale to other nations.

Kay Scarpetta is currently covering the Tidewater ME’s office due to a sudden rash of resignations and absences in that office. When she is notified of the diving-related death, Kay insists on seeing the body in situ. Upon arriving at the shipyard, she unexpectedly encounters delays and outright harassment from both the Tidewater detective in charge of the case and the naval NIS captain in charge of military oversight for the facility. However, as the Chief ME for the state and a lawyer, she has more law on her side than they do and she is finally able to dive.

After discovering the identity of the deceased, Kay notifies Pete Marino of the Richmond PD, since Eddings resided there. Before she can even finish the autopsy, Kay and Pete know that they have the murdered body of a man found in a militarily restricted area, a man who had a large cache of assault weapons and ammunition in his apartment and who possessed a copy of “The Book of Hand,” the philosophical and operational bible for a neo-fascist group, the New Zionists, based in the Tidewater.

And so begins the seventh entry in Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series. And while the title of the novel is singular, the storyline goes with the plural for both words, “cause” and “death.” In less than two weeks time, Kay and company go from a suspicious diving accident to a potential holocaust. And it all makes sense; it all feels plausible.

Cornwell is a master, in this tale, of laying out the puzzle pieces in such a manner that the reader does not know if there are not enough clues or if there are too many. We have a real sense of who the bad guys are, but we are just as perplexed as Scarpetta, Marino and Wesley as to what they are really up to. And since the novel is in Scarpetta’s first person POV, we have no insight into the thoughts of other characters. We only hear what they say, not necessarily why they are saying it or what they really mean when they say it.

Anyone who is this far into the Scarpetta series knows that Cornwell writes gritty police procedurals, not romantic suspense. In fact, for the greater part of this novel, the love life of each major character is in the toilet. But even though any HEA achieved in this series is more likely to be associated with successfully solving a murder than with a couple happily sailing off into the sunset, this book ends well. The crisis is a page-turner and is heart pounding to the last sentence of the book. And, for once, the personal circumstances of all are improved, not perfect, not settled, just improved.

 Cover Art from Goodreads


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