Book Review: Patricia Cornwell’s Red Mist

Posted March 1, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Patricia Cornwell’s Red Mist

Red Mist


Patricia Cornwell

forensic mystery that was published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on December 6th 2011 and has 512 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Cruel & Unusual, Port Mortuary, Bone Bed, Dust, Flesh and Blood, Depraved Heart, The Scarpetta Factor, Trace

Nineteenth in the Kay Scarpetta suspense series revolving around a forensic pathologist and her group of friends and co-workers.

My Take

It’s a fascinating uncovering of a nine-year-old murder and future terror with a very scary look inside the minds of killers. And their delight in destroying people before and after being arrested. Then there’s the frame-up of Kay as this story completes what began in Port Mortuary. The betrayals certainly seem neverending.

It’s interesting to read Kathleen Lawler’s pathetic meanderings and her excuses for both why she has done the things she’s done and how incredibly selfish she is in her justifications. Kay is a much bigger woman than I in her patience with Kathleen.

I must confess it took a good chunk of the book before I was hooked into it. Cornwell kept tossing in the teasers with twists that seemed to go nowhere. I also got rather tired of Lawler’s whining and then Kay had to do her portion of whining before we finally got into the meat of it. Don’t take me wrong, it was still an interesting story with all sorts of twists. If you’re a conspiracy theorist, you might want to avoid this. There are some scary possibilities with the botulism bacteria used. The personal ending was a bit odd as we’re sort of left wondering what will happen with Pete.

It was also somewhat irritating as Cornwell brought up the whole bit about rapists and burglars being able to sue their victims. It’s pretty sad when our legal system does more to protect the criminal than it does the victim. Marino drives me rather nuts with his truth avoidance. It’s kind of funny as Marino’s excuses for how he set up Kay’s arrival in Savannah turns out to be completely pointless.

Ooh, meow! And so true — Kay’s comment to Jaime — “I’m sure you didn’t ask her to hack into NYPD’s computer any more than you asked me to come to Savannah.”

The Story

It’s Kay’s white knight complex that makes her so easy to trick into traveling to Savannah, Georgia to visit with a lifelong felon, Kathleen Lawler, the counselor who molested her friend and co-worker, Jack Fielding.

Then it’s little jerks on the chain that yank Kay along a predetermined path laid out by Jaime. Twitches and jolts that would have been better replaced by the truth instead of this series of betrayals. If Jaime had spent as much time figuring out how to truthfully present her argument, several people would probably have lived. Instead, she needed to control and punish to gain a revenge that was only necessary in her own mind.

It does have several positive purposes in that it frees a woman falsely accused and uncovers a vicious plot even as it rights a wrong and preserves god only knows how many future innocents.

The Characters

Dr. Kay Scarpetta is a very strong woman, a doctor with a specialty in pathology and subspecialties in forensic pathology and 3-D imaging radiology, a law degree, and a reservist rank of colonel in the Air Force, who is very conflicted in this installment. Like all of us, she is haunted by aspects of her childhood, yet she has good, supportive friends. We meet her here when she is questioning everyone around her following a traumatic event in her recent past making her vulnerable to the maneuverings of others. Bryce is her chief of staff and handles a number of personal and professional duties for her. Lucy is her niece and independently wealthy due to her own efforts. She’s also a computer hacker with some wicked skills.

Benton is an FBI profiler, in fancy terms, a forensic psychologist, now married to Kay. Pete Marino is an investigator who has worked for Kay off and on since the beginning of the series. Always with conflict, switching between hating and loving her. He’s never quite sure of himself.

General John Briggs is the chief of the Armed Forces Medical Examiners and Kay’s friend. Jack Fielding was her number two until he finally succumbed to his personal demons. Admittedly, he had a lot of them, including the daughter he had with the woman who molested him as a child. Dawn Kincaid was a brilliant sociopath who relished the kill.

Tara Grimm is the warden where Lawler is held. Jaime Berger is/was head of the Sex Crimes Unit for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and used to be part of a couple with Kay’s niece Lucy. Dan Farbman is the deputy commissioner of public information in New York City and he sounds like the kind of politican who inspires the stereotypes. Lola Daggette is on death row for the deaths of a doctor, his wife, and five-year-old twins nine years earlier. Dr. Colin Dengate is the Savannah medical examiner and a friend of Kay’s. Mandy O’Toole works for Dengate. Investigator Sammy Chang is with the Savannah PD; he’s in charge of several murders that occur while Kay is in the city. Roberta Price is a pharmacist who supplies the prison with the ingredients for lethal injections besides the usual prescription filling you and I might need.

The Cover and Title

The is rather complex in its simplicity. An all white background with the author’s name in raised silver, a city skyline in red-on-red tones inside the Red while Mist is a mostly solid black with a touch of a white mist beginning to rise up from the bottom of the letters even as the “s” and the “t” slide inside a spray of red that has the feel of a fingerprint in the lower right corner.

The title is a nightmare remembrance for Kay, a memory of the Red Mist of blood that sprayed across her when she encountered Dawn in her garage in Port Mortuary.