THE BODY FARM by Patricia Cornwell


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 Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta (Cruel and Unusual, 1993, etc.) has given up smoking and strayed far enough from her high-pressure office to act as a consulting profiler for the FBI, but her nerves are just as frayed at Quantico, especially since her rebellious niece Lucy is a computer-whiz trainee for the Engineering Research Facility down the hall. Scarpetta's latest case is ugly even by her standards: the North Carolina sex murder of Emily Steiner, 11, whose forensics are so contradictory that Scarpetta wants to exhume her for a second autopsy. Before she can do so, North Carolina Bureau investigator Max Ferguson, returning home from Quantico, dies, apparently of autoerotic asphyxia, and his local contact winds up in the hospital with a heart attack. Scarpetta scurries to work out how and why Temple Gault, an apparent serial killer who's the leading suspect in Emily's murder, might have killed Ferguson--and what to make of her gruesome discovery in Ferguson's freezer. No sooner has she finished the grisly re-examination of Emily, than word comes from Quantico that Lucy's sneaked into an unauthorized area after hours and is getting washed out of the program. Scarpetta's two nightmares come together with a crash--a car crash that sends Lucy to the hospital and Scarpetta out to the field to run forensics on her own automobile. As always, tension is ratcheted up, rather unconvincingly, by plots whose interconnection is never quite clear and by the constant friction between Scarpetta and her niece; her sister; her FBI lover, Benton Wesley; her boorish buddy, Capt. Pete Marino; and Emily's mother, with whom Marino is having an affair. But beneath the welter of quarrels and coincidences is as insidious a study of evil as Cornwell has turned in. (Literary Guild main selection)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-684-19597-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1994


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