Post-Mortem is not for those that lose sleep over crime shows and horror movies. However, if you revel in forensic investigation and murder mysteries, Patricia Cornwell’s riveting novel is perfect. The story, told from the viewpoint of a middle-aged female medical examiner, Kay Scarpetta, is the first in a long Scarpetta series. Kay, a hardworking examiner in a field dominated by men, works hard to investigate the related stranglings of four women in Richmond, Virginia. In the meantime, she is convinced that someone is out to set her up and ruin her career. Balancing these tasks with watching over her niece, Lucy, whose ditzy mother elopes without a word, and dating the Commonwealth’s prominent attorney, who may not be as clean-cut as he appears in the newspapers, Kay’s sanity is tested and her patience strained.
With a believable cast of assorted characters, Cornwell writes a page-turner that will have you checking your closet before going to bed. Though slightly slow in the middle, Post-Mortem contains a fictional story with a side of reality that every woman fears. The honesty with which Cornwell writes is more frightening than the mystery of the story itself. By bringing your worst fears to the surface, she creates a daunting atmosphere you can’t escape. The final chapter had my heart pounding and my mind reeling.
This Scarpetta novel was written in 1990, when DNA testing and forensic investigation were not at the level they were today. Though the system is more complicated, the story is even more interesting and based more on gut feeling than evidence. Cornwell’s novel is and will continue to be relevant due to the badass female lead, the wide target audience, and the fascinating insight into the world of forensic science.