Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell
3 out of 5 stars
Patricia Cornwell’s ‘Book of the Dead’ has an interesting premise and plenty of intrigue but for me, the execution let it down.
You probably know that Patricia Cornwell is one of the biggest names in crime fiction. She is well-known for gory storylines that are full of lots of detail and ‘Book of the Dead’ is no exception. As someone with forensic science training, I really enjoyed the forensic details in this book, particularly her description of a luminol replacement. I was also fine with the descriptions of the gruesome serial murders, but if the idea of victims having their eyes gouged out or pieces of flesh removed isn’t your cup of tea then definitely do not read this book.
The storyline for ‘Book of the Dead’ was interesting and Cornwell kept me guessing to the end of the book. In fact, if anything, I wish she’d provided a few more hints about the murderer’s identity because, while it made perfect sense once it was revealed, I don’t think it was that easy to guess given the information conveyed by the protagonists’ investigations. In addition, Cornwell also wove some interesting sub-plots into her story that will no doubt excite long-time fans of her work. She also finished the story in a pleasing manner, nicely tying off the loose ends of the main plot while leaving some aspects of the protagonists’ personal stories unexplored so that readers will be keen to read the next book in order to find out what happened to them. For instance, Marino has a pretty hard time throughout the book and as of the last page, we do not know whether he’s even alive.
Given this, you’re probably wondering why I only gave the book three stars. The reason for this was simply that I found it hard to really enjoy the book, despite the good aspects of the story, because of the prose itself. This is the first Cornwell book I have read and I didn’t like her style of writing. I found it to be too staccato and fragmented for my taste. I like to be immersed in the books I read such that I’m barely aware the words are there but when reading ‘Book of the Dead’, I frequently found myself being pulled out of the story’s world because of a jarring phrase or a sentence that I had to re-read in order to properly understand it.
I would note though, that she did a good job of making the characters enticing without relying on the reader knowing their full histories.
For Cornwell’s fans, this book was probably a joy to read but if you’re new to Cornwell and prefer flowing prose, I’d recommend trying a different crime author – Kathy Reichs springs to mind.