Select one of the keywords
Black Notice    by Patricia Cornwell order for
Black Notice
by Patricia Cornwell
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

We are led to believe that Kay Scarpetta is so traumatized by lover Benton's gruesome murder that she has failed to notice all kinds of odd goings-on at the office. Thefts have been escalating, grieving families ignored, and someone has masqueraded as a flippant Chief Medical Examiner in an Internet chat group, with resulting damage to Dr. Scarpetta's reputation. The doctor has missed the signs at work and ignored friends and family. But don't worry, she perks up fast.

The action begins with a voice from the grave, a letter from Benton anticipating his possible death. He asks Kay to give him the gift of going on and to invite her old friend Marino and niece Lucy to dinner. The dinner materializes and dissolves in arguments, which Kay suspects was the cathartic result desired by Benton. Around the same time, Scarpetta discovers that Marino's position is being threatened as well as her own, and she is mobilized to action.

When a decomposed body is found in a cargo container, the investigation takes Kay and Marino to Paris, France and the possibility of a modern werewolf or loup garou . This is cleverly tied in to a real medical condition. A sub-plot follows Lucy and her lover working undercover to expose drug dealers. Another tracks the manipulations of the glamorous and ambitious new police chief Diane Bray. Overall the story is intriguing and absorbing as is usual with Cornwell's writing.

Where I find it weak is in the characterization of Benton's grieving loved ones. Marino is much more emotional and irrational than usual. Lucy lashes out at her aunt and then shuts her out, with no sympathy for her feelings. Though Lucy has been written as a difficult genius, the reaction seems extreme even for her. And then there is Kay herself - she starts the book as an automaton, barely coping and ends it with a new young lover. Life moves on!

Nevertheless I am hooked by these characters and enjoy reading their continuing adventures. Black Notice provides an innovative reason for the development of its serial killer, more episodes in the ongoing saga of Kay, Lucy and Marino, as well as the usual blood, gore, forensic detail and morgue politics that form the background to this compelling series.

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