Crime fiction,  Forensic

From Potter’s Field by Patricia Cornwell

If you have following this blog in the last year, you surely know that every time I feel overwhelmed by work, I take solace in novel from the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell. Seeing overworked and stressed Scarpetta navigate her professional and personal lives while surviving on coffee and sandwiches makes me feel I am not alone. So, this October I turned to the series for some comfort, and it was not the experience I expected.


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From Goodreads:

In From Potter’s Field, #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Cornwell enters the chilling world of Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta—and a bold, brilliant killer from her past.

Upon examining a dead woman found in snowbound Central Park, Scarpetta immediately recognizes the grisly work of Temple Brooks Gault. She soon realizes that Gault’s murders are but a violent chain leading up to one ultimate kill—Scarpetta herself.

From Potter’s Field takes Scarpetta, Benton, Marino and eventually, Lucy to New York City and Cornwell takes for granted you know how the streets and the places, therefore lacking in description and taking for granted that the readers know the social implications of each place. I found this displacement technique quite unsettling, which I think was Cornwell’s goal: Scarpetta is no longer in charge and this time, she really is in danger.

And because she is in danger, she has a whole squad taking care of her, which actually means stopping her from doing the things she knows have to be done. Her relationship with Benton takes quite a lot of the narration and although I do like them together, I felt as if Scarpetta is on slippery ground: she is not jealous of Benton’s wife, yet she yearns for him. I hope their relationship evolves in the next installments and does not leave her as a moaning and fragile lover.

As for the crimes, they were boring, really boring. I was already tired of Gault in the previous book, but in this one it came a moment when I did not care whether they got him or not. When I pick up a Scarpetta novel, I kind of take for granted that it will be adreanline-rush, and that I will have trouble putting the book down to do my chores. Well, this did not happen with From Potter’s Field and I cannot but wonder if the decline in the series you already warned me about has started.

I wish I could say more about the book, but I cannot. It took me three weeks to read and I felt as if I had read nothing. I was not entertained, I was not thrilled to go back to Scarpetta and I was not relieved to be overworked and on a few more coffees than I should.



  • vicky blake

    I read her until the one with the orange hairy man that she let into her house and then I thought never again. And I was always slightly concerned about her ‘great room’ !

    • Elena

      I haven’t, but I do know that the series rely very much on previous plots, so I’m sure how much one can enjoy reading one of the latest books without having read the previous ones. I do recommend you the first one, “Postmortem” because it takes place in 1990. Remember when crimes were solved without DNA? Me neither! (Well, obviously Sherlock and Miss Marple are good examples, but the 90’s are close enough for us to remember them as ‘modern times’ and, at the same time, there is this new thing called DNA profiling that sounded like magic back then…)

  • crimeworm

    I can’t bear Lucy – she’s such a f-ing genius! Sorry, but she’s AWFUL! I think that the characters are, when amalgamated, Patricia Cornwell – she loves cooking like Scarpetta, is a similar age, but I think she regards herself as having Lucy’s intellect. Always thought that – my bizarre personal theory!

    • Elena

      And a very good theory indeed! I have always taken for granted that Kay is Cornwell’s alter-ego. Actually, I picture her very similar to Cornwell. As for Lucy, I can’t stand her either and if the series progress this way, I’m not sure I’ll keep reading…

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