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2.9 out of 5 stars46
2.9 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 2 March 1999
I must admit that when I picked up 'Southern Cross' I was prepared to be disappointed, after all its predecessor ('Hornet's Nest') was not a patch on Patricia Cornwell's previous novels. Unfortunately I was right to be disappointed, however I did not expect that this novel would be quite as *much* of a disappointment as it proved to be. From a writer who has enthralled and engrossed millions with her tightly plotted and fast-paced 'Kay Scarpetta' novels, there is really no excuse for this kind of meandering, contrived and downright annoying story-telling. The plot (yes, believe it or not there *is* a plot buried in there somewhere) constantly blunders off into meaningless asides which have little or no bearing on the actual story. The, frankly incredible, romantic split between the two main characters of the prequel is nothing more than a thinly disguised opportunity for a series of romantic misunderstandings which fail to inspire any sense of sympathy for the beleaguered lovers. The comedic aspects of the book frequently fall into the literary equivalent of slapstick and the obviously contrived use of one characters inability to use the English language falls far short of being funny and instead becomes annoying as you are forced to reread whole chunks of dialogue in order to figure out what in blue blazes the character was trying to say. I could go on to lambast the tortured ending of the novel which relies on several unlikely coincidences to reach its climax, but I won't I'm too tired. From a novelist of the calibre that Patricia Cornwell has show herself in the past to be, this is one which should be given a decent burial and quietly forgotten.
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I read the 3 Andy Brazil books against advice from more than one person. I wanted to see for myself if they really were that bad. I liked the Scarpetta books (although I thought that the endings of some of those books were too rushed, too contrived). The Andy Brazil books are nothing like those! Hornet's Nest is probably the best of the three, although the characters are shallow and unconvincing and the plot is weak and implausible. There is some humour and some sexual tension which is frustrating for lack of relief. 5/10. Southern Cross degenerates from this. Ms Cornwell seems to be having fun at our expense, but the result isn't really funny or vaguely satisfying. 3/10. Isle of Dogs, well, how much lower can you go? What were you thinking, Ms Cornwell? Or what drugs were you on? This book was ridiculous! I persisted to the end of these books because I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. Not sure why I bothered. Even if one reads these as tongue-in-cheek romps through the workings of a Police Dept, the final book is hugely disappointing. 1/10. Scarpetta fans who pay full price for these books will feel angry and very much cheated. Luckily I bought mine 2nd hand. Readers whose first taste of Cornwell is one of these books will never buy another. Whatever you do, don't pay full price for these books!
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on 5 September 2001
I guess most people who will read this book will read it because of the name of Patricia Cornwell. This was the first Patricia Cornwell book I read (I really should have read Hornet's Nest first). Now i have read some other books by her I have found that Hornets nest and Southern Cross are different to her previous novels. They cannot really be compared since one is more a medical view whereas this based on the police side on the crimes. I prefer this police view of crime, solving them with good old police methods rather than forensic evidence
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on 7 March 2000
This is my second Patricia Cornwell, and I was so disappointed. I love this genre, and found her character of Kay Scarpetta very human and moving, and her plot and writing very good. But this...oh my, what can I say. The characters are one-dimensional, the plots farcical, the attempts at humour pathetic. It's hard to imagine this is the same author. The basic storyline, that of the teenage gangs, could have made for a good plot, but for me, the humour just didn't work, and put me off. I struggled through to the end, but only because I hate abandoning a book I've started.
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VINE VOICEon 26 May 2010
This book is a sequel to Hornet's Nest and it would be best to read them in order of publication. But if you don't want read both, Southern Cross makes sense on its own and would be the one to go for. Hornet's nest is good, but Southern Cross is better. It features the same three main characters, Chief Hammer, Deputy Chief Virginia West and Andy Brazil, now a fully qualified police officer.

The plot involves a planned mass shooting by a character named Smoke, and the efforts of the police to prevent it. The scene is now Richmond, Virginia, and the `low life' elements of that city are well represented, including Smoke and his gang, the Pikes. Smoke has recruited Weed into his gang, though Weed - who has both artistic and musical tendencies - is reluctant.

Another important character is Bubba, who is into all things DIY which, unfortunately, includes firearms. Smoke happens to discover this when he overhears a conversation at a garage and later steals the entire collection.

Although Patricia Cornwell is famous for her handle on forensic pathology - sometimes in extreme detail - there is almost none of that in Hornets nest and Southern Cross. The interest lies in the interaction of the characters. These books are still well plotted, it is just that their plots do not depend on forensics.

But what is most interesting about Southern Cross is the humour. Reading the Scarpetta books you would not suspect that the author had a sense of humour, but here it is deployed to such effect you have to wonder why she hasn't given us more of it. (The only caveat here might be attributing human thoughts to animals, which comes across as somewhat whimsical.)

One good example of many is Chapter Five, where Bubba, having a problem with his vehicle, takes it to Muskrat's garage to have it repaired. Muskrat has the measure of Bubba and doesn't try to conceal it. He knows that Bubba, as usual, has made matters worse by trying to effect a repair himself. The characters of the two men come out very well in this chapter, and though there is a lot detail concerning vehicles and vehicle repair, it works well. It might have come across as research but in fact it places you at the scene. And the humour runs all the way through.

Cornwell's handling of detail is worth looking at. Another example occurs when Bubba, having had his guns stolen, goes to a store to buy another. Bubba loves guns, just as he loves the tools he uses for his forays into DIY. The scene is beautifully written too and without the detail his love of guns wouldn't come across.

It is also worth mentioning Lelia Howell, a well-intentioned but tiring individual with an unusual take on the English language. Dealing with her in real life would be a trial, but reading about her is amusing.
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on 13 April 2000
I've read all of Patricia Cornwell's previous books and found her Kay Scarpetta stories excellent and enjoyed Hornet's Nest , but this is just a completely different kettle of fish!
The characters seemed to have nothing behind them when I feel so much more could have been mad of some (Weed for example) At times the story just seemed to be going nowhere...
I really hope that this was just a one off and that her next is up to its usual standard!
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on 28 February 2000
Was this really written by Patricia Cornwell? It reads as if it were written by a committee - none of whom can write. Don't even think of buying it.
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on 27 December 2001
I'm rarely moved to write my views, particularly negative ones, but here goes!
I agree with the review headed "Incoherent and Shallow" I'm afraid. I've read all PC's books + enjoyed them greatly. However, this smacked of an author who's writing is more the result of contractual expectation (one-a-year please!) than a true application of talent.
PC can be excused for trying out a new style, or environment, but not at the expense of her loyal following. This came across as the type of rejected first attempt you would expect to deservedly see in a publisher's 'NO' section. Absolute rubbish. Her publisher should be ashamed of themselves for trading on a good author's reputation!
The plot was loose, jumpy, confusing, implausible and downright silly. The Chief of Police overhearing a CB conversation, later linked to a killing. The cigarette factory character and his problems. An uneducated, 14yr old latchkey kid causing mayhem with Police computers before throwing the town's upper crust into turmoil by daubing (if beautifully) a cemetary statue to look like his deceased brother. And the old, crippled tramp? He just finished me off when he climbed this huge wall to get into cemetary when incumbered by severe physical impediments. Hilarious! Unfortunately, PC clearly didn't mean it to be.
Had this been the first of her books that I had read I would probably forget all about her, moving on to somebody else very quickly.
The one plus point is that it's given me the push to finish my own half-written novel. It WILL be better than this one. It couldn't fail.
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on 13 December 2001
Ouch. As a longtime Cornwell fan I struggled with Southern Cross but this was just awful. It appeared like a bad first draft. The characters are cardboard, the dialogue is deeper on the Jerry Springer Show and the plot just silly. the net result is you just don't care after a while and it was a real stuggle to finish the book - one I wish I'd lost. It included gems such as a character being outlined as an non-drinking fitness fanatic in one scene, then having beers with their chat six pages later. Doesn't Patricia cornwell have a sub-editor, or at least read her stuff back to herself before publication? Apparently not...
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