Thursday, April 10, 2008

At Risk - Patricia Cornwell

I mistakenly bought this book thinking it was part of the Scarpetta series. When I found out it wasn't I was a bit curious to see Cornwell's voice with another character. So far I had only read her Kay Scarpetta books.

For decades, Patricia Cornwell has demonstrated her extraordinary ability not only to entertain and enthrall but to surprise as well. Beginning in January 2006, The New York Times Magazine will serialize a brand-new Cornwell thriller, a book filled with all the chilling suspense, rich characters, and trademark forensics that have made her an international phenomenon. But what she does with those ingredients is a revelation.

A Massachusetts state investigator is called home from Knoxville, Tennessee, where he is completing a course at the National Forensic Academy. His boss, the district attorney, attractive but hard-charging, is planning to run for governor, and as a showcase she's planning to use a new crime initiative called At Risk-its motto: "Any crime, any time." In particular, she's been looking for a way to employ cutting-edge DNA technology, and she thinks she's found the perfect subject in an unsolved twenty-year-old murder-in Tennessee. If her office solves the case, it ought to make them all look pretty good, right?

Her investigator is not so sure-not sure about anything to do with this woman, really-but before he can open his mouth, a shocking piece of violence intervenes, an act that shakes up not only both their lives but the lives of everyone around them. It's not a random event. Is it personal? Is it professional? Whatever it is, the implications are very, very bad indeed . . . and they're about to get much worse.

Sparks fly, traps spring, twists abound-this is the master working at the top of her game.

I didn’t enjoy it as much as the Scarpetta books. I found it a bit uneven. I had trouble getting into the story and understanding who was doing what. There was an old case being investigated with new DNA methods and soon becomes apparent that the choice of the lab involved and this new investigation is not an accident and other interests are being pursued. The second half seemed better to me, more paced and interesting. Especially after the violent attack that leads one of the main characters to rethink what is going on and where are going from there. The story is quite short (comparing to her other books) and was first published as a serial in a newspaper. That might explain why it seemed a bit uneven and why I never felt I really knew the characters and what make them move.

Grade: C

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