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I don't remember which book it was, but the first time I tried to read Patricia Cornwell I gave up after about four pages. It was way too graphic, as medical examiner Kay Scarpetta performed a grisly autopsy while speculating on the bizarre manner in which the person was killed. Well, either I was feeling exceptionally squeamish that day or my tolerance level has increased because eventually I became a fan, especially enjoying the audio versions of her series while battling my daily commute.

Today, first-time readers may have a similar reaction to TRACE. Not because it starts out too graphically, but because it doesn't seem to start out at all. There are trace elements of a story in several different locations: Miami, Richmond and Aspen. The familiar players are all present and they are all "in a mood" including Kay's lover, F.B.I. agent Benton Wesley, who returned from the dead in BLOW FLY. Again there is an evil presence lurking in the background, manipulating them all. Yet one will have to be persistent and committed to wade through a number of repetitious descriptions and psychological meanderings before getting to the core of the story.

Five years after being fired from her job as Chief Medical Examiner of Richmond, Virginia, Kay Scarpetta is called back to assist her successor with the baffling death of a fourteen-year-old girl. Time did not stand still when she left Richmond, and her disappointment with the current state of her former department is almost overwhelming. But, true to her calling, Kay resolutely puts aside her feelings and focuses on the case at hand. With the help of the ever-grumpy Marino and what's left of her dedicated forensic team, she slowly begins to pull together the scattered pieces of this very disturbing puzzle.

Patricia Cornwell is one of today's best writers, having written 12 award-winning Kay Scarpetta novels as well as three books in a new series and several stand-alones. And, although fans seldom appreciate it, writers often succumb to their creative nature to veer away from the familiar. J.A. Jance comes to mind with her two successful series, and, of course, Robert B. Parker and James Patterson have recently diversified as well. So, while TRACE may be a disappointment to longtime fans, we must be gracious enough to give our favorites a chance to experiment with their talent.

by Patricia Cornwell

  • Publication Date: June 28, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0425204200
  • ISBN-13: 9780425204207