Dr. Kay Scarpetta is working a suspicious death scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts when an emergency alert sounds on her phone with a surveillance film of her genius niece Lucy taken almost twenty years ago. The film clip and then others sent soon after raise dangerous legal implications that increasingly isolate Scarpetta and leave her not knowing where to turn – not to her FBI husband Benton Wesley or her investigative partner Pete Marino. Not even Lucy.
Scarpetta is now launched into intensely psychological odyssey that includes the mysterious death of a Hollywood mogul’s daughter, aircraft wreckage on the bottom of the sea in the Bermuda Triangle, a grisly gift left in the back of a crime scene truck, and videos from the past that threaten to destroy Scarpetta’s entire world and everyone she loves.
My thanks to Hayley and the Harper Fiction team for my review copy and the chance to join the tour.
Depraved Heart is the 23rd Kay Scarpetta novel. I was there back in 1990 when the first book (Postmortem) was released and the first ever publishers ARC I received was for book 6 (From Potter’s Field). Doctor Scarpetta was one of my annual essential reads and I always made a point of picking up the latest release as soon as the hardback hit the shop shelves. But time moved on and for a period of time it became more important that I bought baby food and nappies rather than the books I wanted. My favourite reads suffered and as a result I fell behind on the lives of Dr Scarpetta, Lucas Davenport (from the wonderful John Sandford Prey series) and whichever oddity Mr Stephen King would serve up for our entertainment.
The bodies that consumed the baby food and then filled the nappies have grown somewhat and I am now able to pick up the books I have missed over the last few years and I am catching up on my favourite characters. It seems that while I have been distracted Doctor Scarpetta has been busy!
To Depraved Heart: it is to be expected that by book 23 in a series there will be a requirement to know something of the backstory. Depraved Heart is very much a story which draws upon previous events. The author does bring through sufficient information to allow readers to understand something of what has passed before but this is not a book I would consider an easy jumping on point. There is a vast backstory for Kay Scarpetta and the joy for the reader is in reading through these events in the earlier books, not to try to piece together what has gone before through some of the salient facts in the latest title.
The good news for returning readers is that some significant elements from Kay’s past are returning to haunt her and a fascinating game of cat and mouse is about to unfold. The book opens with Scarpetta at a murder scene but she becomes distracted by call she receives from her niece’s emergency phone. However, it is not her niece, Lucy, that has contacted Kay – instead Kay watches a video clip of Lucy which was recorded some 20 years earlier. Lucy was clearly unaware the video was being recorded but Kay is sufficiently worried about her niece that she leaves the crime scene and drives directly to Lucy’s home to check on her safety.
On arriving at Lucy’s home Kay is shocked to learn that the FBI are searching the property and it seems that Lucy may be a person of interest to them. Kay has her suspicions regarding the person responsible for sending the video and believes that they may also be engineering a ploy to implicate Lucy in a criminal activity. But with no evidence to support her theory and facing an apparent attempt to discredit her own recollections of recent events (which that endangered her own life) Kay finds she is fighting a battle on more than one front.
Depraved Heart is a rewarding read for fans of the series. Scarpetta, Benton and Moreno are in fine form, their interchanges and point-scoring discussions are a joy to read – particularly as this is a conversation heavy story which much supposition and discussion between the characters.
The mystery and unpredictability of the unseen opponent in Depraved Heart made for interesting twists along the way. As I was reading I felt the story dropped pace a little in the middle but then rushed into an explosive ending which seemed to be over all too quickly, the final set piece was quite nasty though so perhaps drawing it out would have been unpleasant for some?
In summary – if you have read the 22 books leading into Depraved Heart you will love this. For those on catch up (as I was) pay attention and stick with it as all becomes clear but there are spoilers for earlier books.
Track the Depraved Heart blog tour at the sites listed below:
Fans of Patricia Cornwell may be keen to know that there will be two opportunities to meet her during November – links below will provide more details on the events which are being held in London and Manchester.
Depraved Heart is available now in Hardback and Digital format.
Patricia Cornwell is on Twitter: @1pcornwell