I was first introduced to Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels when I was 16 and working a cleaning job while doing my A levels. One of my colleagues lent me the first few books and ten years later I’m still an avid fan.
I give Chaos a 3* rating. This is because although it’s slightly better than the last few in the series it’s still not what it used to be.
The story opens with Scarpetta on her way to meet Benton for dinner. It’s red hot weather and she’s walking against her better judgement. While walking she’s thinking about her upcoming presentation/talk which she’ll be doing jointly with her old friend General Briggs. What is also occupying her mind is the imminent arrival of her sister Dorothy. We know from past novels in the series that Dorothy and Kay do not see eye to eye and there is rivallry and bad blood between them so it’s obvious that Kay is going to feel out of sorts about her coming to visit.
An angry phone call with Marino reveals that there’s been a report of Kay attacking (both verbally and physically) her chief of staff Bryce. From that we find out she’s recently been harassed and stalked by someone calling themselves Tail end Charlie. There’s a lot of things going on and in places it does live up to its name and come across as slightly Chaotic but be reassured that it DOES get there.
Like the past 3 or so books the villain in the story is Lucy’s ex girlfriend Carrie Grethen. This to be honest was one of my bug bears. I feel a little like recently it’s become the Carrie Grethen show instead of the Kay Scarpetta show. I feel that the Carrie Grethen storyline could have been killed by now and we could move back to Kay, Marino, Benton and Lucy solving crimes.
I also don’t like the new found secretiveness between the characters. This new attitude that everyone is acting behind Kay’s back. That Benton, Marino and Lucy know things which they don’t confide in her. Then when she confronts them they become silent or change the subject. What I loved about the early Scarpetta novels was her independence, her fierceness, her detective skills and her ability to collaborate with everyone. I don’t like this weak, paranoid and ‘everyone’s out to get me’ attitude she has now. Although, I admit this wasn’t as bad as it was previously.
That said the book was an easy read, it gave closure (without saying too much) and it has spikes of action. Although unfortunately all that happens in the last 10% of the novel.
I’ll definitely read the next book or books in the series and remain a die hard fan but I’d like to see some of Scarpetta’s old personality revived and some none Carrie Grethen related crimes being committed and solved like the good old days.
I’d also like to congratulate Ms Cornwell on her ability to move with the times. She writes about the Internet, drones, social media, new rules and regulations, terrorism even new politics and it’s a far cry from the days of Marino smoking and tucking into pizza in the autopsy room!