Review: Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell

Filed in Patricia Cornwell , Review , The Quirky Lover Posted on September 1, 2011 @ 11:00 am 3 comments

Format Read: Hardcover I bought
Number of Pages: 496
Release Date: November 30, 2010
Publisher: Penguin Group
Formats Available: Hardcover, Paperback, audiobook, ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads, Author’s website

Book Blurb:

From the world’s #1 bestselling crime writer comes the extraordinary new Kay Scarpetta novel. 

Port Mortuary, the title of Patricia Cornwell’s 18th Scarpetta novel, is literally a port for the dead. In this fast-paced story, a treacherous path from Scarpetta’s past merges with the high tech highway she now finds herself on. We travel back to the beginning of her professional career, when she enlisted in the Air Force to pay off her medical school debt and found herself ensnared in a gruesome case of what seemed to be vicious, racially motivated hate crimes against two Americans in South Africa. Now, more than twenty years and many career successes later, her secret military ties have drawn her to Dover Air Force Base, where she has been immersed in a training fellowship to master the art of CT-assisted virtual autopsy–a procedure the White House has mandated that she introduce in the private sector.

As the chief of the new Cambridge Forensic Center in Massachusetts, a joint venture of the state and federal governments and MIT, Scarpetta is confronted with a case that could shut down her new facility and ruin her personally and professionally. A young man drops dead, apparently from a cardiac arrhythmia, eerily close to Scarpetta’s new Cambridge home. But when his body is examined the next morning, there are stunning indications that he may have been alive when he was zipped inside a pouch and locked insider the Center’s cooler. Various 3-D radiology scans reveal more shocking details about internal injuries unlike any Scarpetta has ever seen. These suggest the possibility of a conspiracy to cause mass casualties. She realizes that she is fighting a cunning and cruel enemy that is invisible as she races against time to discover who and why before more people die.
In Port Mortuary, Patricia Cornwell brings Scarpetta together with Marino, Benton, and Lucy in an intimate way that is reminiscent of the early novels, and we welcome a voice we haven’t heard in years. The point of view is Scarpetta’s, and this is her story.

My Thoughts:

I have read (and own) all of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series. I picked Port Mortuary up for myself last year, shortly after its release but hadn’t had the opportunity until now to actually read it. Normally, these books are comfort books for me; characters that I’m familiar with and hold a certain amount of expectations from me. But, not so with Port Mortuary. Something seemed off and I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

It wasn’t until I had read the blurb on Goodreads (as you can see above), that I realized what the difference was: it was written in the first person; Scarpetta’s POV. This did not go well, I believe. Poor Scarpetta seemed to be the brunt of every issue going on. No one wanted to give her full disclosure, no one told her the truth, which translated to pure frustration on her part and, in turn, that of the reader’s. Only seeing what Scarpetta could see was difficult to say the least. On the plus side, it reinforced Scarpetta’s emotions, giving a more realistic view of what she was going through. (I can always find an upsided….almost).

The characters for me became less familiar in this story though because of Scarpetta’s reactions. It felt like everyone she used to trust was now suspect to her. Benton and Lucy, two people that I had once really enjoyed as parts of the stories, felt like strangers to me. I had hoped for great things from Lucy, with her mad skills in computers, etc. And it did aid in the telling of this particular story, with the conspiracy theories and mirco-flying robots. Unfortunately, besides this help, Lucy has become a dismal, one-dimensional character for me.

The story took some interesting turns and I felt the need to see it through to the end, but overall, I felt dismal as I was reading it. I have to admit that I may have completely lost my love for Kay Scarpetta, despite my constant desire to reach in and give her a hug throughout the story, as it seemed everyone was out to get her. I’m not convinced that I will give future books a chance, but there was a time that I couldn’t put Cornwell’s books down. Is this enough to hold my interest from now on? Only time will tell, but I don’t think I want to see inside this woman’s head again.

I give Port Mortuary 3 Bookies for my waning love of the series.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

About Jackie

Jackie is a quirky mom, living in Ontario, Canada. She's a bookkeeper by day and a book lover by night. She also blogs at The Novel Nation and writes occasionally for Heroes and Heartbreakers.

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Join the Discussion
  • Dottie (Tink's Place) September 1, 2011 at 11:37 am

    I'm a huge Scarpetta fan, and while I found this one confusing, and somewhat falling out of love with the characters and their quirks, it won't deter me from the next book. It was an experiment that didn't go so well, but not a turn off for me.

    Thanks for sharing an honest review!

    Dottie 🙂

  • Estella September 1, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    I don't think first person POV could deter me from a Scarpetta book.

    Thanks for the review.

  • LSUReader September 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    I agree when you say, "Lucy has become a dismal, one-dimensional character…" For me, that happened earlier and with other characters in the Scarpetta series, also.

    I really used to love these novels. I gave up a couple of books ago. The odd handling of Benton's disappearance, the absolute trashing of Marino, and the transformation of both Scarpetta and Lucy into little more than brainy robots killed my interest. If I no longer care about characters in a series, well I don't care about the books.

    Thanks for the review.

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