Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell

OK, this review includes a spoiler alert. If you plan on reading this book, although I can’t imagine why, don’t read this review.

Kay Scarpetta is on her way to the Georgia Women’s prison, somewhere between Savannah and the coast. There she meets the mother of the woman who tried to kill her in some previous novel. The mother had abused Kay’s assistant when he was a young boy. The offspring of that affair is the woman who tried to kill Kay. Confused enough? The novel doesn’t really try to untangle all those messy relationships. Reading it was like watching the second to last show of a TV miniseries without the benefit having seen any of the preceding shows.

The first part of the novel needed some serious editing. It slogs along, slowly, painfully. We live in Kay’s head and it’s not an interesting place to be. There are endless conversations that don’t advance the plot one bit nor do they reveal much about the character, except that Kay is full of herself.

The pace picks up in the last hundred and fifty pages. Finally, there’s some tension and you actually look forward to turning the page. The finale turns out the worst possible way to end a novel. The evil sister of the evil daughter did it. Huh? You read right, the killer never once appeared in the entire novel. She just popped into the plot in the last chapter. Anyone taking mystery writing 101 knows that that’s total cop out. It cheats the reader.

I think part of the problem is that once a writer becomes a superstar like Cornwell, the publishers don’t bother to properly edit their books anymore. Who’s going to tell Cornwell to change this or that, to cut the beginning, or come up with a decent ending? Some poor copy editor who’s paid by the word? That’s not going to happen. The result is something like Red Mist.

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