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A disappointing follow-up to Hornet's Nest
on 5 March 1999
All the elements which made Hornet's Nest such an exciting alternative to the increasingly far-fetched Scarpetta series are sadly missing from this hasty followup. The plot twist which brings the protagonists to Richmond is so implausible as to make the reader suspect Cornwell simply needed a device to move the action to home territory and didn't much care what it was. The multi-layered tension which drew Brazil and West apart then together in 'HN' has been squandered into an offstage resolution and contrived interruption, and their new relationship lacks any sort of authenticity (even if you do accept that Brazil, described when we first meet him as "a scribe of life and all in it" has meekly settled for being a Website author for the Richmond P.D).
Whilst the supporting cast retain some of that realism, the major players, so vibrant and refreshing at first, have subsided into one-dimensional cliche. 'HN' came over as basically a chance for Cornwell to exercise a dulled imagination - the language bristled and burned with imagery and the dialogue sparkled. The second we learned that three women were in control of a major city's police department, we knew we were in a parallel universe. Throughout, with tight, economical language, Cornwell made that universe jump and dance and flash fire.
In comparison, 'SC', despite a few nice moments, is contrived, dull, and has none of the attractiveness of its predecessor. Cornwell showed with 'HN' that she -can- still come up with new ideas and colourful language, so perhaps she just needs a new editor. As it is, one gets the feeling her driving desire is to churn out indifferent work to a grateful -and paying - public. She can do better, and I wish that she would.