Select one of the keywords
Trace    by Patricia Cornwell order for
by Patricia Cornwell
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Dismissed five years ago from her position as Virginia's Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Kay Scarpetta has been living in Florida, working as a consultant. Scarpetta is asked by phone to return to Richmond to assist in the investigation of the suspicious death of a fourteen-year old girl, Gilly Paulsson. The call was supposedly made by the newly-appointed Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Joel Marcus, an odd man who vehemently dislikes Scarpetta. Upon arrival at her once home turf, Scarpetta finds many changes. The building which housed Kay's offices is under demolition, and the site presents another suspicious death of construction worker Theodore Whitby. Autopsies show traces of identical paint chips and bone dust on both victims, leading Scarpetta to conclude homicide. Scarpetta is reunited with ex-cop and friend Pete Marino, there to assist and protect her.

Gilly's distraught mother Suzanne Paulsson, is confused about the circumstances of her daughter's death (supposedly from the flu), and disturbed by the unexplained disappearance of her basset hound, Sweetie. Suzanne has sordid 'skeletons in her closet', as does ex-husband Frank Paulsson, a physician residing in Charleston, South Carolina. Frank is known to be connected with Homeland Security, putting him under the scrutiny of the FBI. Marino dives into a situation with Suz Paulsson, a a relationship that might jeopardize the homicide investigations. In Florida, Scarpetta's niece Lucy Farinelli has established a successful investigation firm, 'The Last Precinct'. Partners in the firm include Rudy Musil, and actress, ex-cop turned investigator Henri(etta) Walden. Psychiatrist (Kay's lover) Benton Wesley is in Aspen, Colorado working on a case. He is counseling Henri, who was brutally attacked in Lucy's home. Mixed in is the stalking of Lucy, and a bomb found in her mailbox by partner Rudy. Key character Edgar Allan Pogue, an ex-employee in the Anatomical Division of the old CME's office, is a delusional psychotic bent on vengeance towards any persons he feels have 'done him wrong'.

This is a complex forensic mystery, that can become frustrating to the reader. The story involves the intersection of investigations by Lucy and Rudy in Florida, and Marino and Scarpetta in Virginia, with Lucy's situation hidden from Aunt Kate throughout most of the book. It's not a fast page-turner. There are many loose threads that remain unanswered, as well as characters left by the wayside. The abrupt ending left me wondering. I found the novel (supposedly written to bring Scarpetta back into the limelight) to be a set of mini-stories that come together only loosely, and waver throughout. However, the award-winning Cornwell does her usual excellent work in writing of forensics and pathology, and Trace explores the sinister seclusion of the human mind, with haunting results.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews