In this 18th installment of Patricia Cornwell’s bestselling series, Kay Scarpetta is assigned to Port Mortuary “at Dover Air Force Base where U.S. Armed Forces Medical Examiners take care of all military casualties” and other special cases. “It is literally a port for the dead.” Scarpetta’s past is catching up to her while she completes “a training fellowship to master the art of Computer Tomography-assisted virtual autopsy.”
"A young man who was walking his dog in the park has been murdered. But how? Only a tiny spot on his back gives any clue. . ."
Cornwell takes us back to Scarpetta’s early career when she was in the Air Force stationed in South AfricaCornwell takes us back to Scarpetta’s early career when she was in the Air Force stationed in South Africa as she was paying off her school loans. She had an ugly case there involving two American women who were brutally killed in what appeared to be a hate crime. All these years later, being at Dover made her feel the shadow of that time breathing down her neck.
Recently she has been made the head of a new facility: the “Cambridge Forensic Center in Massachusetts, a joint venture of the state and federal governments, MIT, and Harvard.” This highly technological center has been haunted by mistake after mistake, and Scarpetta vows she will have the place running like a charm. She had put her second-in-command, Jack Fielding, in charge during the time she spent away; not only does she come back to chaos, he is missing in action. No one has seen him or knows where he is.
A young man who was walking his dog in the park has been murdered. But how? Only a tiny spot on his back gives any clue --- until they realize that his insides are all torn up, and slivers of something no one has seen before seem to be what killed him. Then the morning after he is brought into the morgue, he is found with blood in his body bag. Could he have been put there before he died? If so, who made this appalling mistake? Or was it a mistake?
While Scarpetta is trying to figure out her corpse, Benton Wesley is working on a case wherein a young man confessed to killing a little boy by hammering nails into his skull. Wesley doesn’t believe this person is guilty. He also harbors suspicions that the case may be related in some obscure way to the one Scarpetta is handling. Two more bodies emerge, which strengthen his feeling that the cases are somehow connected.
Scarpetta doesn’t have to find all the answers herself. The series team of players are in full character: Benton Wesley, her husband and former FBI profiler; Lucy, her niece and genius technology maven; and Pete Marino, a former cop and now her investigator. PORT MORTUARY is written in the first person, and readers get the full perspective of Scarpetta from her own words. This brings the book into fuller context and fans closer to the heroine who has been around the block a few times.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien on January 5, 2011