‘Postmortem’ is the first of Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta novels. I first read this book soon after it was written in 1990 and I’d forgotten how good it is. Alas, some younger people may find this book difficult to deal with as the technology is so dated that some people may not even understand what Cornwell is talking about. Dial up modems, no mobile phones, computer paper with holes in the side, archaic ideas about computer security and DNA analysis in its infancy. And lots and lots of smoking.
Dr Kay Scarpetta is chief medical examiner for the state of Virginia and has just been called to the scene of a gruesome strangling. The third by a serial killer who is obviously escalating. There is very little evidence at any of the murder scenes.
Scarpetta spends much of her time fending off the incredibly aggressive reporter Abby Turnbull. But when Abby suffers her own personal tragedy, she and Kay start to work together.
Finally following the smallest of clues and using a lot of guesswork, Scarpetta and her team manage to reel in the killer.
It was the interactions between Scarpetta and the other characters that I loved most in this book. Wingo is her misfit, oversensitive, possibly gay morgue assistant. Lucy is Kay’s nerdy and antisocial 10 year old niece, already bright enough to solve Kay’s computer problems. Peter Marino is the overweight, smelly and misogynistic cop with whom Kay has to work. Benton Wesley is the super smooth FBI agent who profiles killers. Even the previous (now deceased) chief medical examiner, Cagney, is a presence in the story.
Not only must Kay work with a difficult group of people, she also needs to fight off extreme political pressure while trying to solve the crime.
From memory, all the stories in the early part of this series are excellent and the character interactions get better and better. The bratty Lucy starts to grow up and I guess technology moves on. I can hardly wait to read the next book in the series – ‘Body of Evidence’.
Book Published 1990