Once I finally polished off Napoleon, I permitted myself to dive into the treasure trove of lovely brand new books that Santa brought. This little gem was right at the top of my “wanna” list. At this point, while she may be picking up some new readers, Cornwell is largely banking on her substantial fan base. Once more I found myself reflecting on what makes her novels so successful.
Because as she pointed out during an interview awhile back, this is completely unrealistic. Sure, she has carefully followed the procedures and science that govern what a forensic coroner does on the job; yet if she were entirely realistic, it would make for dull reading. A forensic coroner does not visit crime scenes, chase bad guys, partner with cops. She is no more likely than anyone else to be stalked, harassed, or threatened, nor would her family members be. (Although if it helps us here, we can accept that all of these things could happen to just about anybody.) Surely, she would not repeatedly engage in shoot-outs, pack a firearm, or be kidnapped repeatedly.
So what is it that keeps the reader coming back?
For me, it’s all about character development. Not only Kay, but also Marino, Lucy, and to a lesser degree Benton (whom she fleshes out a bit more here) seem almost as real to me as seldom-seen relatives about whom I hear stories second or third-hand. And the fact is, by the time we find ourselves reading #22 in a series, we have bought the premise, and she would have to mess it up pretty badly to shake us loose. Needless to say, that did not happen here!
In turns I read for hours on end, ignoring my family (and my blog); then I would realize how much of the book I had read, and I would parcel it out to myself in chunks to make it last longer. Finally I just had to know how it ended.
We start with six shiny pennies on the stone wall that surrounds Kay and Benton’s Boston home. They are about to leave for a vacation, but of course that won’t happen now. Because there’s something about those pennies. For one thing, though all are dated 1981–the year Lucy was born, and this hooked me even more, since my eldest son was also born that year–they have all been polished in a tumbler of some sort. They’re all lined up exactly evenly on the fence. And wouldn’t you know it, a serial killer appears to be loose, and he is using an unusual sort of copper bullets to do his dirty work.
I won’t ruin the rest for you.
Should you pay full jacket price for this book? I guess that depends on how much money you have, and whether you have read the rest in the series. I can tell you that popular series like this one often create a year-long back-up in the Seattle Library system.
If you haven’t read anything else by Cornwell, then go to the library or used bookstore, if this sounds like something you would like, and start with #1. That’s a cheap, easy way to get your feet wet.
But if you have read the other 21 with the same avid ferocity I have, you should probably just get a copy now. If the nearly thirty bucks it will run you is too rich for your budget right now, wait a bit; the hard cover price will drop dramatically when it goes to paperback, and we know it will.
Great escapist fun!