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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Post-Mortem

Post-Mortem by Patricia Daniels Cornwell introduces Dr Kay Scarpetta. She’s already in the middle of a case featuring a Mr Nobody, who has strangled four female victims, and we see her tangling with Pete Marino, a male colleague not politically correct about women in the workplace. She and Marino slowly form an unholy bond, she the female interloper and he the outside former NYC cop new to the Richmond force. That is their commonality. Office intrigue abounds in this city police force as a major leak is trying t be found and plugged as all indications point to Kay’s computer. During the night she and Marino cruise the four crime scenes they somehow link in a weird way. The explorations of ‘What ifs’ abound and make us consider our own ‘What ifs’ of our own lives. The ‘What ifs’ concern death, horrible strangulations, whereas ours are simple, complex, or tragic choices we have made in life.
On a personal level, Kay, a single woman is tending to her ten-year-old niece, Lucy. Kay’s divorce sister is not a good mother and Kay’s mom is sad that the pure blood name stops with her daughters. Kay’s niece is left with a very warm and loving housekeeper while Kay works. Lucy is a handful. Kay is also sort of involved with a co-worker, Bill Boltz. In short everything is chaotic and Kay has to figure out how to get it all organized and straight again.
Suddenly, phone calls, cars driving by her house, computer hacking and evidence SNAFUs plague Kay as these cases seem to come closer to home and workplace. The ‘What ifs’ have come home to roost.  The difficulties women faced in the 1990’s, when this book was published are still with today. It’s a good topic to begin a series of mysteries.
The fifth victim is the ace news reporter Abby Turnbull’s little sister. Abby has been a thorn in Kay’s side. Abby’s confused, Kay is confused and Abby tellingly says, “I don’t know who’s us or them anymore.” It’s apt that the first Kay Scarpetta mystery is all about the female victims: the dead women, the ME, Dorothy, Lucy, and Abby, the news reporter. The male characters play their roles, too. This book is more than just a suspenseful mystery it is also a social commentary about women in our society.
It always comes down to politics and that is the case here, too. Kay spends some time with an old friend and mentor, Dr Spiro Fortosis at UVA. The politics of course is Kay is a woman in a man’s world.  
“I knew what the answer was, and I voiced it out loud. ‘I can’t help but think I'm an easy mark because I’m a woman.’
‘You’re a woman in a man’s world,’ Fortosis replied. “You’ll always be considered an easy mark until the ole boys discover you have teeth. And you do have teeth.’ He smiled. “Make sure they know it.’” Page 221
It all about the voice.

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