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Livid: A Scarpetta Novel


Livid: A Scarpetta Novel

Patricia Cornwell opens the latest entry in her long-running Kay Scarpetta series with a definition of the title, LIVID. She actually provides two.

Livid – The dark bluish-purple discoloration of skin after death; To be enraged.

The book’s main storyline centers on the high-profile murder trial of Gilbert Hooke, where chief medical examiner Scarpetta is appearing as an expert witness. She has been longtime friends with the judge, Annie Chilton. It is during this sensational case that they learn of the horrific murder of Annie’s sister, Rachael, who was going through a widely publicized divorce from billionaire Lance Stanwyck.

"LIVID is a very different type of Scarpetta novel that goes well beyond our protagonist’s usual forensic science and shows just how versatile she can be."

Scarpetta dives into the situation with her colleague and brother-in-law, Pete Marino, to find out exactly what happened. It is easy to see in the intensity of their drive over to Rachael’s house that both are embodying the second of the two definitions for “livid.” Scarpetta is well aware that Rachael worked for the CIA, so it might not be as easy as pointing the finger at her ex-husband. Still, nothing will prepare them for the extremely bizarre scene outside the house.

The lawn is scattered with a myriad of lifeless insects: spiders, white-faced hornets, yellowjackets, tiger moths and ladybugs. They are found amongst the grass that appears to have been scorched by something. All the flowers are dead and destroyed as well, leaving room for a much deeper investigation into what really took place there at the time of Rachael’s death.

It is obvious that the intention was not to burn down the property, but something far more sinister. Scarpetta and company begin to turn towards a highly irregular suggestion that involves some sort of ultra-powerful electronic pulse that has caused all the reported death and destruction.

Scarpetta’s research leads her to what is known as Havana syndrome. This condition got its name from an attack in Havana, Cuba, in 2016 that left wilted plants, dead insects and birds all around the line of fire, which consisted of arcing electrical blasts that heat up and magnetize any metal structure in the area and cause significant, deadly damage. For Scarpetta, following through on such a controversial solution will put her in the crosshairs of a powerful foe and one from her past she does not expect.

LIVID is a very different type of Scarpetta novel that goes well beyond our protagonist’s usual forensic science and shows just how versatile she can be.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 28, 2022

Livid: A Scarpetta Novel
by Patricia Cornwell

  • Publication Date: May 23, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1538725185
  • ISBN-13: 9781538725184