Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell

‘Cruel and Unusual’ is Patricia Cornwell’s 4th Kay Scarpetta novel. Somewhere between the previous novel and this one, the love of Kay’s life Mark has died, Kay has moved house, and Kay’s niece Lucy has done a lot of growing up (she is now 17 years old).

As Chief Medical Examiner for Virginia, Kay has to carry out autopsies on those who die in the electric chair. So, the story begins with Kay autopsying Ronnie Joe Waddell. He was responsible for a horrific crime many years ago.

But shortly after this, a teenage boy is murdered. His body is similarly mutilated and staged to Waddell’s victim. And then the body of a woman is found and Waddell’s fingerprints are impossibly detected at the scene.

Was it really Waddell who was executed? Due to some administrative problems, nobody can be certain.

As for Kay’s administrative problems, there seem to be some very concerning developments with Kay’s staff. And the problems are reflecting badly on Kay and causing major problems with her political superiors. Then to top things off, Kay discovers a serious computer breach at her office.

Lucy is now a stunning super fit young lady (though not much better at dealing with people) and also a computer genius. While Lucy investigates the computer problems, Kay along with Detective Pete Marino and Special Agent Benton Wesley try to sort out what has really happened to Waddell and how the other victim have died.


This was an intricately plotted mystery. Mostly it was very exciting but it seemed to lose it’s pace and wander a bit in places.

This story built a lot on the characters that we will continue to see in future novels.

I can’t  wait to continue the story with – ‘The Body Farm’.


Book Published 1993


See a full list of books by Patricia Cornwell


Filed under Book Reviews, Cornwell, Patricia, Crime, Detective, Forensic, Series Fiction

2 Responses to Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell

  1. Pingback: Patricia Cornwell Profile and Books | Written Gems

  2. Pingback: All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell | Written Gems

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