Chaos by Patricia Cornwell. (Crime/Suspense Novel, 2016).
Patricia Cornwell has been writing her books about crime-solving medical examiner Kay Scarpetta and those connected to her for quite a while. This recent entry features the expected levels of suspense blended as with effective human drama. It introduces an inventive new method of murderous mayhem that at first defies explanation. Dr. Scarpetta and company must first identify and understand it, then find a way to combat it and neutralize the perpetrators. Without going into too much detail, it involves small remote-control drones–a topic much in the news in real life of late.
With any long-running series, references to past events commonly begin to appear. This is especially true when the protagonist is faced with a recurrent opponent—-particularly a slippery ‘super-villain’ type. Like Sherlock Holmes, who foiled Professor Moriarity’s evil plans repeatedly before their final fatal confrontation, Kay Scarpetta has often defeated the schemes of brilliantly ruthless and vengeful Carrie Grethen, though each time to date Carrie has managed to escape. Will this time be any different?
And is Tailend Charlie, the bad poet/stalker who has been harassing the increasingly famous Kay online in league with the elusive and deadly Carrie?
Is there a link between the unexplained deaths near the Harvard campus (where Kay is based) and the sudden demise of her longtime friend and investigative mentor at his home in Connecticut?
And what part (if any) do Kay’s unconventional extended family and her ever-loyal coworkers play in it all? Can she even fully trust or confide in her beloved husband—since Benton is an agent with the FBI, which has a habit of swooping in and taking over high-profile cases, aren’t his loyalties at best divided?
It all amounts to a fast-paced, involving novel. High-tech and forensic elements are rendered comprehensible to the reader. Past developments and background information smoothly integrates into the present story. The climactic confrontation of Kay vs Carrie is kind of understated but works—revealing in the process somewhat unexpected, yet plausible secrets that seem sure to play a part in future volumes.
Overall, this one is a very good, high-tech mystery/suspense book. Pretty much what one might expect from Cornwell.