Crime fiction,  Forensic,  Medical Humanities

Body of Evidence (Scarpetta #2) by Patricia Cornwell

Body of Evidence is the second of the Kay Scarpetta novels. My wonderful man bought me a gorgeous hardback edition containing both Postmortem and Body of Evidence. I read Postmortem last Christmas and decided to read a book (Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper) before facing Scarpetta #2.


From Book Depository:

A reclusive writer is dead. And her final manuscript has disappeared …Someone is stalking Beryl Madison. Someone who spies on her and makes threatening, obscene phone-calls. Terrified, Beryl flees to Key West – but eventually she must return to her Richmond home. The very night she arrives, Beryl inexplicably invites her killer in …Thus begins for Dr Kay Scarpetta the investigation of a crime that is as convoluted as it is bizarre. Why would Beryl open the door to someone who brutally slashed and then nearly decapitated her? Did she know her killer? Adding to the intrigue is Beryl’s enigmatic relationship with a prize-winning author and the disappearance of her own manuscript. As Scarpetta retraces Beryl’s footsteps, an investigation that begins in the laboratory with microscopes and lasers leads her deep into a nightmare that soon becomes her own

First of all, the main attraction of Body of Evidence, as in the rest of the Kay Scarpetta novels, is Kay herself. She is a middle-aged woman, professional, beautiful, a good cook and very, very, intelligent. Every time I open a Scarpetta novel, I want to work harder than I already do and somehow, I’m inspired by her. I’ve also learnt that a woman may need to work harder than a man to be recognized the merit she legitimately deserves even though these two first novels were written and set in the early 1990’s. This gives the novel some vintage feeling: DNA is a novelty, computers are something I would certainly not recognize, mobile phones do not exist and everyone keeps using public telephones. If you’re accustomed to reading modern crime novels, this will struck you as too outdated at the beginning, but with Body of Evidence, I set my mind to think in an early-1990’s mood as I try to do when reading Sherlock Holmes’ novels. It certainly gives the text a different feeling.

For all those crime fans out there, you already know Patricia Cornwell is an incredible crime writer in the most commercial and addictive sense. Someone at Goodreads described her books as the  “popcorn” of the genre and I agree. But I would also like to highlight how complex and well-tied the plot is: everything is connected and although I’m one of those readers who like to stop and try to solve the mystery, it was impossible for me to figure out any of these. One thing I did not like though is that it follows a similar plot structure to Postmortem and somehow, Kay is way too involved in the case (with all its consequences, good and bad). Also, Body of Evidence is very meta: the victim is a writer so that will put Kay in touch with more writers and even the publishing world. For us readers, this makes the story much more interesting.

I would recommend Body of Evidence to any crime fiction fan although I really doubt if there are many out there who haven’t read Cornwell yet. It took me some time, but now I couldn’t be happier I discovered her novels. Kay Scarpetta is a true role model and it inspires me to be better at my job and spend more time doing research. After all, she has a degree in Medicine, another one in law and is connected to the FBI. Her personal life may be a mess, but characters need to be flawed to be more likeable, and for Kay, it’s her personal life what makes everything more difficult. Oh that and how wonderfully amazing she is!



  • Ellie Warren (@patchworkbunny)

    I really enjoyed the earlier books for that sort of historical element. So much has changed! I did find the series went downhill as it went on and I gave up after Back Notice (book 10). I don’t know if she’s picked her game up since, she is certainly still popular.

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