Book Review – Cruel & Unusual – Author: Patricia Cornwell

Issue #14
Blog #11-2015
Section: Book Reviews
Blogger: Joseph Clay
Cruel and Unusal
3 Stars out of 5

Book Details:

  • Published: 1993
  • ISBN: 0684195305 (ISBN13: 9780684195308)
  • Hardcover
  • 356 Pages
  • SRP: Unknown
  • Series: #4 in the Kay Scarpetta Novel Series
  • Genre: Mystery

Cruel & Unusual is the second book by Patricia Cornwell I have read. The first, Flesh and Blood I reviewed back in February.

Kay Scarpetta is waiting to see if she can go home or will see be spending the night at the morgue. The phone rings, will who ever is on the other end have the answer she is waiting on? Nope, the call is from  Detective Joe Trent with Henrico County, he needs her opinion on the strange wounds that was found on a thirteen year old boy, Eddie Heath. She agrees to meet Joe first thing the next morning.

Why was Kay up late watching the news? Ronnie Joe Waddell will be executed, via electric chair, by the Common Wealth of Virginia.

A single bloody print had been all the evidence needed to convict Waddell of the gruesome murder of Robyn Naismith, an anchorwoman for channel eight. The governor, Joe Norring, had not issued a stay and the body of Waddell is in route to Kay and her staff.

Things begin to go wrong from that moment on, putting Kay up to her neck in trouble. Waddell had an envelope tucked into his back pocket that he wanted to buried with, its contents receipts.

The morgue makes one mistake after another, forgetting to finger print Waddell, leaving bodies out in the bay, a computer breach, and missing memos.

Days later Waddell’s finger prints are found at the home of Jennifer Deighton, who appeared to have committed suicide. Had the state executed the wrong man and somehow Waddell was free?

Susan Story the morgue supervisor, begins acting strange, quits her job, telling Kate’s administrator Ben Stevens, instead of her directly. Susan is then murdered along with Warden Frank Donahue, both with the same MO.

Susan had made a hefty deposit before her death and Kay a large withdraw, that fact along with Kay’s finger prints on an envelope that the police discover in Susan’s drawer that contained three hundred dollars started the snowball effect.

Jason, Susan’s husband, venting his anger and grief, is adding fuel to the fire with his accusations to any one from the press who will listen. He’s feeding them details about the job Kay Scarpetta is doing and the mistakes her department is making.

Scarpetta lands in hot water with the Governor of Virginia, who places her on administrative leave till further notice.

Scarpetta along Pete Marino, Neils Vander and her old college law professor, Nicholas Grueman, who was Waddell’s pro bono attorney, with the help from the FBI’s Benton Wesley and Minor Downey get to work trying to save Kay from an indictment.

Kay also brings her young niece, seventeen year old Lucy, a computer whiz, up from Florida to try to figure out the computer breach.

With leading technology, proven investigation techniques, and luck they clear her name while solving the mystery to the displeasure of those involved.

Patricia Cornwell has a gold mine with Scarpetta Series. The Cruel & Unusual story line was solid and I enjoyed reading the twist and turns as they unfolded, leading me to re-visits my thoughts on what I was certain was going to happen next and who was behind it all.

The Pros:

  • The plot was excellent and could be believed.
  • The characters are strong. The Correctional Officers personality and demeanor she nailed, I worked in the DOC for five years so you can trust me.
  • The ending was spectacular, I liked it, I’m sure some didn’t but in life that’s the way it happens on occasion.
  • Patricia Cornwell has a unique writing style, which I like, that flows and makes reading her plot enjoyable.

The Cons:

  • Too much hooptedoodle, all the computer lingo about UNIX, readers could care less, if they wanted to learn about the operation system they would be reading UNIX for Dummies, not Cruel & Unusual.
  • She used a prologue, a poem written by Waddell, can have easily dropped it in to the story.

[Bloggers note: The book review of Cruel & Unusual was originally published on 3-20-15 on Joseph Clay – Author Official Blog. The review was moved to this site 5-18-18.]

©2018 ThunderHorse Publishing


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