Predator by Patricia Cornwall
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Berkley (September 26, 2006)
This crime novel is from a series that features Kay Scarpetta, and it is filled with oddball characters who are macabre, at best, and I am not even talking about the bad guys. The story is focussed on a Harvard program that is studying the mind of serial killers, and as the reader we soon find ourselves inside the mind of at least two villains. Throw in a radio shrink, tree blight, spiders, Christmas in July, and sadomasochist torture and you have covered maybe 10% of the book.
This book was written before CSI and such shows dominated the airwaves so a look inside crime scene investigations, autopsies and forensic labs is not a cliche here, and Cornwell is good at delivering details for the crime buff who might be interested. But the sexual and psychological warfare among the characters is as jumbled for the good guys as it is twisted fro the bad ones, and nobody tells the truth much, or trusts anyone. The plot switches faster than the speed of light and the excesses of the plot detract from the book.
While Cornwall’s characters as always are interesting they are mostly hard to like, and you can feel certain they would never like or trust you if you had a chance to meet them. Dr. Kay Scarpetta is reserved, insecure, and suspicious of everyone she has ever known. Troubled lesbian niece Lucy has a secret in this book. Pete Marino, the macho biker security chief of the National Forensic Academy, has become a charicature of masogyny and narcissism, and the radio shrink is so shallow no one would ever call her for advice. As a psychologist reading this book I found the psychologists described unartfully. While I cannot give away the ending of the book, it involves a psychological twist that is almost believable, but could have been boltered with some consultation from a psychologist.
The book gets 3 stars, mostly for the forensic details and the villains. The earlier books in the series are better, but this is still a good read and worth your time. Give yourself a glimse inside the mind of the twisted.