Category forensics

2011: #60 – A Hard Death (Jonathan Hayes)

Book #60 was A Hard Death, the second book in Jonathan Hayes’s Edward Jenner series. The back of the book reads:

Brilliant forensic pathologist Edward Jenner returns in this explosive sequel to Precious Blood—an edgy, electrifying thriller set in a small-town coastal community where nothing is as it seems.

Edward Jenner, introduced in Precious Blood, has survived the horrific ordeal of the Inquisitor serial killings in New York, but not the political fallout. His state medical license suspended, Jenner finds himself banished to Douglas County in coastal Florida, working as a medical examiner in the balmy seaside resort of Port Fontaine.

But there’s a seamy underside to picturesque Douglas County. First Jenner finds the bodies of a murdered man and woman decaying in a sunken car. Then an anonymous call in the middle of the night leads him to a gruesome discovery in the heart of the Everglades. He finds traces of a shadowy criminal conspiracy, and soon learns that he can trust no one.

With his life on the line, Jenner refuses to walk away and let the murderers go unpunished. The result is dark Florida noir, a fierce, edge-of-the-seat thriller from an emerging master of the genre.

I didn’t read the first book in this series. Despite there obviously being a lot that happened, you get the gist of it through this book. Jenner took things into his own hands while in New York, and as a result he is now working in Florida, trying to lay low and just do his job. But when the man who hired him is found dead, just the first in a chain of strange events, laying low is no longer an option.

This isn’t a happy book. Hayes does a nice job of maintaining the noir feel, even when there is a little bit of romance involved. I thought the forensics were well handled, and was interested in the portrayal of the migrant farms, of both the workers and the people who run them.  And Jenner is a man who believes in doing what’s right, no matter the consequences to himself.

My one complaint is that Hayes goes a bit overboard with making the bad guy bad. There’s one aspect of him that is particularly horrifying, and I’m not sure it was necessary. The guy was bad enough without throwing in that extra dysfunction.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and look forward to not only picking up the first in the series, Precious Blood, but seeing what comes next.

This book was a review copy.

Other reviews:

Book Review: A Hard Death by Jonathan Hayes « Leeswammes’ Blog
Book Review: A Hard Death by Jonathan Hayes – Blogcritics Books
A HARD DEATH – Jonathan Hayes | Brain Candy Book Reviews
Booking Mama: Guest Review: A Hard Death
Jen’s Book Thoughts: A HARD DEATH – Jonathan Hayes

Page count: 432 (’11 total: 16,574) | Approximate word count: 129,600 (’11 total: 5,931,629)

2010: All Together Dead (Charlaine Harris)
2009: Breathers (S.G. Browne)
2008: Twisted (Andrea Kane)
2007: Hollywood Station (Joseph Wambaugh)
2006: The Slippery Slope (Lemony Snicket)
2005: The Rebels (John Jakes)

Used in these Challenges: ARC Reading Challenge 2011; Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge 2011;

2009: #88 – Unnatural Exposure (Patricia Cornwell)

unnatural Book #88 was Unnatural Exposure, the eighth book in Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series.  The back of the book reads:

When the body of an elderly woman is found dismembered in a Virginia landfill, forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta initially believes that the clues mirror that of a serial killer she’s encountered before. But upon further investigation she discovers puzzling pox-like eruptions on the woman’s body that, perhaps, point in another direction.

The killer then contacts Scarpetta via e-mail, and she enlists the aid of her computer-savvy niece, Lucy, to help track this monster through cyberspace. When Scarpetta learns that the Virginia victim was exposed to a high-tech virus that might unleash an epidemic, she begins to realize that she’s dealing with a sophisticated and devious mind.

Her investigation leads her to the government’s biological defense facility in Utah and to Atlanta’s Center for Disease Control–and eventually to quarantine, when it’s discovered that Scarpetta has been exposed to this often fatal virus. Along the way, she’s forced to deal with the unscrupulous ambitions of a slick FBI agent, Lucy’s problems, and her own turbulent feelings for Agent Wesley Benton.

Taut with unrelieved tension and continual surprises, Unnatural Exposure is the case of Kay Scarpetta’s life–and a triumph for Patricia Cornwell.

I’m just not sure what to think about this series.  I like forensics angle, and the mystery, but these later books are just so bogged down in the sturm und drang of Kay’s life. Oh, the malaise! Kay Scarpetta has the angst of your average 15 year old girl, and it’s starting to get in the way. The story here is interesting and does make you wonder about what would have to happen if a disease such as smallpox were to be used as a weapon, and the final confrontation was good, but I found the "who" in the "whodunnit" rather unsatisfying. Part of what makes a mystery satisfying is the discovery of whether or not you are right in your suspicions, but in this book there really was no way to figure it out ahead of time. Yet, I keep reading them.

Page count: 384 | Word count: 86,791

2008: I’m Watching You (Mary Burton)
2007: The Ritual Bath (Faye Kellerman)
2006: You Belong To Me (Mary Higgins Clark)

Used in these Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge 2009; Read Your Own Books Challenge;

2008: #101 – Deja Dead (Kathy Reichs)

dead Book #101 was Déjà Dead, the first Temperance Brennan book by Kathy Reichs.  The back of the book reads:

It’s June in Montreal, and Dr. Temperance Brennan, who has left a shaky marriage back home in North Carolina to take on the challenging assignment of Director of Forensic Anthropology for the province of Quebec, looks forward to a relaxing weekend in beautiful Quebec City. First, though, she must stop at a newly uncovered burial site in the heart of the city. The remains are probably old and only of archeological interest, but Tempe must make sure they’re not a case for the police.
One look at the decomposed and decapitated corpse, stored neatly in plastic bags, tells her she’ll spend the weekend in the crime lab. Something about the crime scene is familiar to Tempe: the stashing of the body parts; the meticulous dismemberment. As a pattern continues to emerge, Tempe calls upon all her forensic skills, including bone, tooth/dental, and bitemark analysis and x-ray microflourescence to convince the police that the cases are related and to try to stop the killer before he strikes again.

I’m a fan of the tv show Bones, and have had this series recommended to me numerous times, so I was looking forward to this book!  I already knew that the tv show was only loosely based on the books, so I wasn’t surprised when I found out the book Tempe was older than the tv one, and that there is no Booth.  Still, my knowledge of the show created a sort of disconnect for me, and I found myself reading this as though the book Tempe was an older version of the tv Tempe.

All of that aside, I did enjoy this, though I didn’t fall in love with it.  It took me a while to warm up to Tempe, though I enjoyed the emotion she showed that the tv Tempe is often missing.  There’s a lot of detail in this book so it’s not for the squeamish, but the plot is solid and keeps you guessing right up to the very end.  It’s definitely a series I will read more of.

Page count: 532 | Word count: 133,741

2007: Night Pleasures (Sherrilyn Kenyon)
2006: Vital Signs (Robin Cook)

2008: #100 – The Dirty Secrets Club (Meg Gardiner)

It’s only fitting that I mark book #100 of the year with a new look on the blog!

dirtysecrets Book #100 was The Dirty Secrets Club, the first book in Meg Gardiner’s Jo Beckett series.  The back of the book reads:

An ongoing string of high-profile and very public murder-suicides has San Francisco even more rattled than a string of recent earthquakes: A flamboyant fashion designer burns to death, clutching the body of his murdered lover. A superstar 49er jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge. And most shocking of all, a U.S. attorney launches her BMW off a highway overpass, killing herself and three others.

Enter forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett, hired by the SFPD to cut open not the victim’s body but the victim’s life. Jo’s job is to complete the psychological autopsy, shedding light on the circumstances of any equivocal death. Soon she makes a shocking discovery: All the suicides belonged to something called the Dirty Secrets Club, a group of A-listers with nothing but money and plenty to hide. As the deaths continue, Jo delves into the disturbing motives behind this shadowy group—until she receives a letter containing a dark secret Jo thought she’d left deep in her past, and ending with the most chilling words of all: “Welcome to the Dirty Secrets Club.”

Where has Meg Gardiner been hiding?  This was fabulous!  It’s been a while since I’ve been so taken with a new (or new to me) suspense writer.  The action in this book starts almost immediately with a crazy dare and the death of a U.S. Attorney.  Jo Beckett is a really interesting character with a profession that I haven’t seen explored before (if it actually even exists!) — forensic psychology.  Instead of determining how someone died, it’s Jo’s job to determine the why, not only to help with the official police investigation, but also to provide closure to the family of the victims.  There are tons of twists in this story as it unfolds, along with a solid cast of characters.  Each one is their own person, from Jo’s quirky next-door neighbor to the spunky detective she’s working with to the paramedic with a tie to Jo’s tragic past.  And what is this club really about?  Sex?  Money?  Revenge? The relief of unburdening oneself? This will most definitely not be the last Meg Gardiner book I read.

Page count: 416 | Approximate word count: 124,800

2007: Fantasy Lover (Sherrilyn Kenyon)
2006: Final Target (Iris Johansen)

2007: #29 – From Potter's Field (Patricia Cornwell)

Book #29 was From Potter’s Field, the 6th book in Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series. The back of the book reads:

An unidentified nude female sits propped against a fountain in Central Park. There are no signs of struggle. When Dr. Kay Scarpetta and her colleagues Benton Wesley and Pete Marino arrive on the scene, they instantly recognize the signature of serial killer Temple Brooks Gault. Scarpetta, on assignment with the FBI, visits the New York City morgue on Christmas morning, where she must use her forensic expertise to give a name to the nameless–a difficult task. But as she sorts through conflicting forensic clues, Gault claims his next victim. He has infiltrated the FBI’s top secret artificial-intelligence system developed by Scarpetta’s niece, and sends taunting messages as his butchery continues, moving terrifyingly closer to Scarpetta herself.

I started this series near the end and then went back to the beginning. I think that if I had started at the beginning I would have given it up by now. This series is merely “meh” for me. The storylines are entertaining enough, but it seems like the last few books have just been major downers. Everyone is so unhappy all the time. Every single one of them! I’m not sure I can take all the melancholy.

Page count: 352 | Word count: 94,719 | Filed in:

2006: #107 – Chase (Dean Koontz); #108 – The Body Farm (Patricia Cornwell)

chase.gifBook #107 was Chase, by Dean Koontz. The back of the book reads:

Benjamin Chase, Vietnam War hero, finds himself the target of a sociopathic killer when he interrupts a murder in progress.

I listened to this in the car and while raking leaves, and was surprised at how short it was. I’ve previously mentioned my love/hate relationship with Koontz, and I think I can place this one on the “like” side of the equation. I wasn’t expecting the story to resolve so quickly — I expected Chase to play with the killer a while after he found him. Overall, a mildly entertaining read (listen?).

body.gifBook #108 was The Body Farm, the 5th book in Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series. The back of the book reads:

When an eleven-year-old girl is found murdered, Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, gets another chance at stopping one of the most heartless and horrifying serial killers of her career: the demented Temple Gault.

Frankly, this one was very blah for me. The book was not so much about the case as it was about the relationships between Kay and Marino, Marino and Benton Wesley, Kay and Wesley, and Kay and Lucy. Oh, and Kay and her sister. Blah. Too much angst for a crime novel. And I figured out who the bad guy was waaaaaaaaaay early.

Book count: 108

Pages in book: 368
Page count: 44,802
Words in book: 92,855
Word count: 13,155,022

1,000,000 words surpassed — 2/2/06
2,000,000 words surpassed — 2/14/06
10,000 pages surpassed — 3/10/06
3,000,000 words surpassed — 3/16/06
4,000,000 words surpassed — 4/3/06
5,000,000 words surpassed — 5/30/06
50 books surpassed — 6/12/06
20,000 pages surpassed — 6/29/06
6,000,000 words surpassed — 6/29/06
7,000,000 words surpassed — 7/21/06
8,000,000 words surpassed — 8/18/06
30,000 pages surpassed — 9/3/06
9,000,000 words surpassed — 9/6/06
10,000,000 words surpassed — 9/27/06

11,000,000 words surpassed — 10/9/06
40,000 pages surpassed — 11/3/06
12,000,000 words surpassed — 11/4/06
100 books surpassed — 11/17/06
13,000,000 words surpassed — 12/5/06

2006: #74 – Outlander (Diana Gabaldon); #75 – Cruel and Unusual (Patricia Cornwell)

outlander.gifBook #74 was Outlander, the first book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The back of the book reads:

Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another…

In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach–an “outlander”–in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire’s destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life …and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

I can’t say enough about this book. I was in love with it by the time I’d read 100 pages. In fact, it’s an 800+ page book and I read it in about 4 days. And I’ve *already* reread parts. I think I’ve read the final chapter 4 times now. I’m not sure what makes it affect me so. It’s very passionate, and the suspense in parts is so much that I think I stopped breathing. I mean, you’re pretty sure that certain people aren’t going to die, but you’re not *quite* sure. And at one point there’s a decision that has to be made, and there’s no foreshadowing of what that decision might be. Sometimes you can tell by the number of pages left in the book, but this could have gone either way. I almost stopped reading because I didn’t want her to make the choice I didn’t want!

Anyway, I am hooked. I went out on Monday and bought the next 4 books in the series, and I can’t tell you the last time I paid full price for paperbacks. I started the second book last night, and already my mind is racing!

Book count: 74
Pages in book: 896
Page count: 30,601
Words in book: 294,555

Word count: 8,978,914

cruel.gifBook #75 was Cruel & Unusual, book #4 in Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series. The back of the book reads:

“Killing me won’t kill the beast” are the last words of rapist-murderer Ronnie Joe Waddell, written four days before his execution. But they can’t explain how Dr. Kay Scarpetta finds Waddell’s fingerprints on another crime scene — after she’d performed his autopsy. If this is some sort of game, Scarpetta seems to be the target. And if the next victim is someone she knows, the punishment will be cruel and unusual…

Not a bad installment. I don’t enjoy these early ones as much as the later ones. The wrap-ups often seem clunky and convenient. Lucy’s character in this one is somewhat harsh, but there’s shadows of what’s to come with her.

Book count: 75
Pages in book: 416
Page count: 31,017
Words in book: 100,467

Word count: 9,079,381

1,000,000 words surpassed — 2/2/06
2,000,000 words surpassed — 2/14/06
10,000 pages surpassed — 3/10/06
3,000,000 words surpassed — 3/16/06
4,000,000 words surpassed — 4/3/06
5,000,000 words surpassed — 5/30/06
50 books surpassed – 6/12/06
20,000 pages surpassed — 6/29/06
6,000,000 words surpassed — 6/29/06
7,000,000 words surpassed — 7/21/06
8,000,000 words surpassed — 8/18/06
30,000 pages surpassed — 9/3/06
9,000,000 words surpassed — 9/6/06

2006: #49 – All That Remains (Patricia Cornwell)

remains.gifBook #49 was All That Remains, the 3rd book in Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series. The back of the book reads:

A serial killer is loose in Richmond, specializing in attractive young couples whose bodies are invariably found in the woods months later — minus their shoes andsocks. Chief Medical Officer Dr Kay Scarpetta finds herself tracking a killer whoscrupulously eliminates every clue, rendering all her forensic skills useless. This time it’s her courage and intuition on the line in a race against time.

It’s interesting to read these early books in the series after reading a lot of the later ones. Fills in the blanks on some of the back story. Overall, this one was pretty good, though there was some stuff jumped over in the end, like Cornwell didn’t want to go over a certain number of pages, so she just refers to it instead of actually writing about it.

Book count: 49
Pages in book: 416
Page count: 19,283
Words in book: 107,070

Word count: 5,592,898

1,000,000 words surpassed — 2/2/06
2,000,000 words surpassed — 2/14/06
10,000 pages surpassed — 3/10/06
3,000,000 words surpassed — 3/16/06
4,000,000 words surpassed — 4/3/06

5,000,000 words surpassed — 5/30/06

2006: #8 – The Surgeon (Tess Gerritsen)


Title: The Surgeon
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Series: Rizzoli & Isles #01
Pages:  368

In her most masterful novel of medical suspense, New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen creates a villain of unforgettable evil–and the one woman who can catch him before he kills again.

He slips into their homes at night and walks silently into bedrooms where women lie sleeping, unaware of the horrors they soon will endure. The precision of the killer’s methods suggests he is a deranged man of medicine, propelling the Boston newspapers and the frightened public to name him “The Surgeon.”

The cops’ only clue rests with another surgeon, the victim of a nearly identical crime. Two years ago, Dr. Catherine Cordell fought back and killed her attacker before he could complete his assault. Now she hides her fears of intimacy behind a cool and elegant exterior and a well-earned reputation as a top trauma surgeon.

Cordell’s careful facade is about to crack as this new killer recreates, with chilling accuracy, the details of Cordell’s own ordeal. With every new murder he seems to be taunting her, cutting ever closer, from her hospital to her home. Her only comfort comes from Thomas Moore, the detective assigned to the case. But even Moore cannot protect Cordell from a brilliant hunter who somehow understands–and savors–the secret fears of every woman he kills.

Filled with the authentic detail that is the trademark of this doctor turned author . . . and peopled with rich and complex characters–from the ER to the squad room to the city morgue–here is a thriller of unprecedented depth and suspense. Exposing the shocking link between those who kill and cure, punish and protect, The Surgeon is Tess Gerritsen’s most exciting accomplishment yet.

My thoughts:

Book #8 was The Surgeon, the first book in Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series.

I felt pretty “ho-hum” about this book. It was alright, but not so great that I’ll seek out more books by Tess Gerritsen. On to bigger and better things!

Book count: 8
Pages in book: 368
Page count: 3,738
Words in book: 95,628

Word count:814,980

2006: #4 – Postmortem (Patricia Cornwell)


Title: Postmortem
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Series: Kay Scarpetta #01
Pages:  342

Under cover of night in Richmond, Virginia, a human monster strikes, leaving a gruesome trail of stranglings that has paralyzed the city. Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta suspects the worst: a deliberate campaign by a brilliant serial killer whose signature offers precious few clues. With an unerring eye, she calls on the latest advances in forensic research to unmask the madman. But this investigation will test Kay like no other, because it’s being sabotaged from within and someone wants her dead.

My thoughts:

Book #4 was Postmortem, the first book in Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series.

After reading a bunch of her later books, I finally read this first one. And felt like I had read it before. The entire thing felt familiar, but I’m sure I haven’t read it. And I felt like there was back story I was missing, like maybe this wasn’t the first book, after all. But, overall, another good one from Cornwell. I can’t argue with a decent whodunit cop story complete with autopsies, right?

Book count: 4
Pages in book: 342
Page count: 1,496
Words in book: 94,453

Word count:435,448

2005: #73 – Cause of Death (Patricia Cornwell)


Title: Cause of Death
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Series: Kay Scarpetta #07
Pages:  356

Patricia Cornwell submerges Dr. Kay Scarpetta in a labyrinthine case that wraps a web of danger around those closest to her and threatens to wreak fear and death far beyond the confines of Virginia. New Year’s Eve and the final murder scene of Virginia’s bloodiest year since the Civil War takes Scarpetta thirty feet below the Elizabeth River’s icy surface. A scuba diver, Ted Eddings, is dead, an investigative reporter who was a favorite at the Medical Examiner’s Office. Was Eddings probing the frigid depths of the Inactive Ship Yard for a story, or simply diving for sunken trinkets? And why did Scarpetta receive a phone call from someone reporting the death before the police were notified? With the advent of a second murder – this one hitting even closer to home – the case envelops Scarpetta, her niece Lucy, and police captain Pete Marino in a world where both cutting-edge technology and old-fashioned detective work are critical offensive weapons. Together they follow the trail of death to a well of violence as dark and forbidding as the water that swirled over Ted Eddings.

My thoughts:

Book #73 was Cause of Death, the 7th book in Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series.

I grabbed this book as a back-up when we went north for Thanksgiving, thinking it was the first in the series. Oops, I didn’t realize I had 6 others on the shelf behind it! Not that it really matters, since I’ve read the later books. This was a pretty good one, though the plot meandered around a bit. There were loose ends that were never really tied up.

Book count: 73
Pages in book: 356
Page count: 26,459

15,000 page goal reached 6/14/05!
50 book goal reached 7/19/05!

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