4 stars out of 5
I looked forward to reading this, the 22nd book in the series featuring Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a crack medical examiner. The previous book, Dust, was Cornwell's best in a while - I'd grown weary of a whiny Scarpetta whose mostly unfounded paranoia seemed to grow worse by each successive book. Turning on my Kindle Fire and loading up this one brought expectations of a return to the Scarpetta of old.
I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed; yes, Scarpetta continues to think the world revolves around her (pouting when she discovers her husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley, and her technologically gifted niece, Lucy, shared information they didn't immediately pass on to her, for instance). But for the most part, that's kept to a minimum as they try to identify and catch a serial sniper who may, in fact, be targeting one or all of them as well.
The game begins on Scarpetta's birthday as she and her husband are preparing to head to Miami for a week's vacation. As they fire up the grill to make dinner, though, she notices seven pennies lined up on a wall at the edge of their yard - all polished to a fare-thee-well and all dated 1981. As she muses about what that might mean, she gets a call from longtime cohort and detective Pete Marino telling her she's needed at the scene of a nearby homicide. It's the work of a very skilled sniper, who appears to have left not a shred of evidence behind except a few copper bits. Almost before the crawly things begin to invade this body, another one bites the dust. Clearly, someone is on a spree with no end in his or her sights (pun intended).
There's plenty of technical "stuff" here, particularly on the topic of ballistics (almost too much, in fact). But as the investigations continue, what little evidence turns up begins to turn the spotlight on Scarpetta, her husband and niece. Are one or all next on the killer's list? Or is there an even more sinister, more personal connection? And will Scarpetta and Wesley ever go on that long-awaited vacation?
Most of these questions are answered, but be forewarned that there's a cliff-hanger ending - an apparent attempt to generate a ready audience for what will be the 23rd book (and a tactic I dislike intensely, for the record - hence the 4 stars instead of 5). As a Cornwell fan, I plan to read it anyway - but knowing that I must read it to get to the ending of this one doesn't sit very well with me.
Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell (William Morrow, November 2014); 389 pp.