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This book reminded me of the TV show Body of Proof. The lady who chose this book does not have a typical selection. She has chosen everything from Twilight Sleep (Edith Wharton) to Twilight (Stephenie Meyer).

On a scale of 1 - 5

Sex: 1

Religion: 0

Gruesome: 1

Suspense: 1

Morality: 1

Sex - There is a reference to an attraction between Kay and a man she is seeing as an intense attraction. They started but stopped before anything significant happened.

Religion - No mention of it.

Gruesome - Female victims are bound and raped. Even though the idea of this is horrific, the presentation in the book was rather mild. As a Medical Examiner, Kay is very clinical when she is performing autopsies or performing evidence. It was nowhere near the caliber or gore or bloody details as Cutting for Stone. I think even Life of Pi was more gruesome.

Suspense - Aside from being a who-dunnit novel, it was not very suspenseful. There were only a few moments at the end, four and a half pages, in which I was not sure if Kay was dreaming or if it was real life so that lessened the suspense in a potentially nail-biting moment.

Morality - Government officials plant false evidence. Adults let their life interfere with quality time with a child.

I had never read Patricia Cornwell before and really enjoyed her writing style. It flowed easily and she had some really nice descriptions that made me want to just pause and savor them like the first bite of Pumpkin Pie in the fall. It was also fun because it was like going back in time to the early 1990's when computers were just arriving on the scene of workplaces and homes. They had floppy drives and were IBM compatible.

There were a couple of minor annoyances that were more inconvenient (because I had to back track and review) than they were detractors. Like when a man came to dinner at Kay's house a few pages after they had been in a meeting together. Obviously they couldn't divulge their relationship at work but not even the reader knew! I had to back track to see which guy he was. Perhaps the clues about the relationship were there but I just took them at face value as character descriptions.

Discussion Questions

When niece Lucy was upset after reading the newspaper article Aunt Kay observed, "She read it with an adult intellect yet to be weaned from a child's fearful imagination." (p. 33)

Question: Is this characteristic isolated to Lucy twenty years ago or is it a trend that continues today? Is it good or bad?

Question: Kay told her niece, "Nothing is going to happen to me, Lucy." (p. 33) Is it okay for an adult to reassure a child with those words? What then when something does happen? Is there a better way to say it?

Mr. Peterson said, "Some people feel things more deeply than others, and some people feel things the rest of us don't. This is what causes isolation, the sense of being apart, different..." (p. 51)

Question: Discuss the psychology of this statement. Do you agree or disagree? Is this a subset of bullying and move theater shooters?

Question: Who did you think was the leak? Who did you think was the hacker?

Question: Did you suspect any of the main characters? Who and why?

Question: Were you satisfied with Cornwell's choice of perpetrator?

Question: What were some theories you created?

Question: Kay lost faith in Marino after she called him with the 911 tip. Did you?

Question: Who did you think fired the shot in the bedroom and why?

Question: If this story were turned into a movie, who would you cast as:

  • Dr. Kay Scarpetta

  • Marino

  • Bill Boltz

  • Amburgey

  • Wingo

  • Rose the secretary

  • Margaret the Computer Analyst

  • Lucy (Kay's niece)

  • Bertha the housekeeper

  • Abby Turnbell (reporter)

Theme Ideas

Serve Greek Salad like Kay got at the deli at the beginning of Chapter 5 when she didn't have time to go out but needed to get away from Marino.

Serve Italian food. Kay cooks when she's upset. She has childhood memories of Spaghetti or Fettuccine or Frittata on Fridays.

Kay and Lucy made a homemade sausage pizza with Parmigiano Reggiano, green peppers, mushrooms and onions. (p. 109-110)

Our hostess wore a lab coat like a Medical Examiner would.