A female pathologist, dressed in white overalls and rubber boots and carrying a heavy bag, raises the tape and enters the crime scene. Who is she? Well, she is one of a species of investigators that has become enormously popular in recent years. Writer Patricia Cornwell has depicted her in a highly successful series, calling her Dr Kay Scarpetta. With training in forensic pathology herself, and a string of awards for her books, Miss Cornwell's achievements have elevated her to the top of the queue of authors waiting to be read by this reviewer.
I found much to admire, in this my first Patricia Cornwell book. Plotting and planning have been meticulously done. A disappointing ending - so often the ruination of a good crime novel - has been avoided. The narration is in clean, plain sentences. Cornwell has her forensic pathologist character, Dr Kay Scarpetta, lead the investigation into a series of killings, and her knowledge of the forensic pathology involved is highly impressive.
Reducing my admiration, however, are several deficiencies. I happen to like crime investigation novels that mix some charm, warmth, caprice or eccentricity into the investigative proceedings. Cornwell keeps all these additives locked away in her cupboard. Dr Kay Scarpetta's life is a distinctly feminist, answering machine, laboratory gowned and masked one, at least in this book. Am I looking in the wrong place if I expect wit, warmth, vibrant male-female interaction or spruce dialogue as I follow a forensic pathologist investigating serial killings? As if she were aware of the need for these "cozy" qualities, Patricia Cornwell introduced a niece for Dr Kay Scarpetta in her first book which I am now reading, allowing something like maternalism to soften the otherwise strong feminist atmosphere that pervades "All That Remains".