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HORNET'S NEST by Patricia Cornwell

HORNET'S NEST

By Patricia Cornwell

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 1997
ISBN: 0-399-14228-2
Publisher: Putnam

 Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the most famous medical examiner in fiction (see Cause of Death, p. 715, etc.), will have to fend for herself this time, as her creator leaves her behind for a big- city cop novel set in Charlotte, North Carolina. Not that Cornwell's heroines aren't just as tough (and don't need to be) as Scarpetta. Police chief Judy Hammer's force would die for her almost to a man; even her ineffectual husband dreams of being ravished by her in full cop regalia. Deputy Chief Virginia West, Hammer's head of investigations, is married only to her job and has no energy for diplomacy when Hammer assigns her to ride with Andy Brazil, the hard-charging Charlotte Observer reporter who's earned top marks at the volunteer police academy in order to snare the police beat at his paper and make his stories more authentic. And what a story Brazil's on the trail of: the Black Widow, a killer who preys on visiting businessmen, ambushing them in their rented cars, shooting them, and spraypainting their genitals orange (you won't believe why). As if the Black Widow weren't menace enough, Brazil also has to contend with slimy TV reporter Brent Webb and with vengeful redneck Bubba Rickman, who, beaten up by Brazil while riding with West, is convinced that ``it was his calling . . . to smite them in the name of America.'' The action boils furiously, but the hostility--between cops and crooks, cops and the press, cops and cops--is so unrelenting that eventually Cornwell's cast, divided into superhuman workaholics and lesser mortals driven by envy and lust, starts to get monotonous: You may hardly notice when Bubba and the Black Widow get their oh-so-just deserts. Cornwell brings an edgy authority, a gimlet eye for her city, and a taste for nonstop conflict to the police novel, but not the commanding focus of Wambaugh or Daley--or her own earlier forensic procedurals. (First printing of 750,000; $500,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild main selection; Mystery Guild main selection)