Review

Black Notice (Kay Scarpetta)

by Patricia Cornwell



The latest adventure from Patricia Cornwell's no nonsense heroine
Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner of the Commonwealth of
Virginia, is yet another example of how a solid thriller can be
made even better when adapted for audio. There is much emoting in
BLACK NOTICE, and the chief emotions portrayed --- grief, anger and
fear --- lend themselves well to spoken performance. The result is
that this competent and interesting novel becomes, when performed
aloud, a compelling and very intense audiobook.

Of course, we obtain this result largely because the spoken
performance in question is delivered once again by the excellent
Kate Reading, whose polished and precise narration ably echoes the
formality and precision of series protagonist Dr. Scarpetta. But
look out, Scarpetta is still shell-shocked from a major tragedy in
the previous series entry, POINT OF ORIGIN, so her sense of control
is definitely on the back burner. At least, it gets shoved to the
back burner when Scarpetta finally confronts her grief in some
memorable scenes early on and midway through the story. It's then
that we see that Ms. Reading performs not only a terrific
Scarpetta-in-control, but an amazing Scarpetta-as-a-mess, too. Ms.
Reading movingly brings Scarpetta's grief to life in scenes that
just may have you tearing up yourself, as well as dramatically
fleshing out the frustration and anger that often goes hand in hand
with heart stopping, senseless tragedy.

But fear not, thriller fans. Though Cornwell delivers an effective,
nuanced exploration of the affect of tragedy on loved ones left
behind, the author is interested in other things, too. BLACK NOTICE
generously gives us an unusually creepy serial killer; a new police
commander who has it in for Scarpetta and her longtime detective
buddy, Pete Marino (who's been busted down to patrol cop); a
saboteur in the Medical Examiner's office bent on ruining
Scarpetta's credibility; another crisis and potential breakdown
facing the doctor's overachieving niece Lucy (won't this young
woman ever get her life together?); and lots of clues gained
through autopsies and forensic work. Beginning to end, performer
Reading underscores material that is interesting in itself,
resulting in some involving listening. It's no wonder that no else
has been performing the unabridged versions of the Scarpetta
audiobooks since Ms. Reading began doing so three books ago with
CAUSE OF DEATH.

Because I'm still waiting for a real sit-up-and-take-notice plot
from Cornwell, the Scarpetta series is not yet an absolute favorite
of mine. However, I have a definite soft spot for the series (BLACK
NOTICE is the ninth entry in the Scarpetta oeuvre). This may sound
a bit strange, but I think that what I like most about these
stories is that Cornwell isn't afraid to make her regular cast of
characters crabby and downright unlikable at times. Though
ultimately revealing themselves as heroines and heroes when push
comes to shove, series regulars Lucy, Marino, and Scarpetta herself
are often selfish, impatient, unfair to one another, and frequently
outright dysfunctional.  There's something reassuring in
that, I think. After all, if these people can act like that yet
still manage to rise to the occasion and do the right thing in the
end, maybe the rest of us aren't so bad, either.

Reviewed by Joe Menta, Jr. on January 21, 2011

Black Notice (Kay Scarpetta)
by Patricia Cornwell

  • Publication Date: August 2, 1999
  • Genres: Audiobook
  • : pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0399145168
  • ISBN-13: 9780399145162