Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell – A Book Review

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First, let me say something – you may ask, why do I continue to read this series after panning the last four or five books? The answer is as follows… Scarpetta and her crew are like those old friends that you have fallen out with, but still want to kind of keep in touch with. Maybe you’ll meet for lunch, etc. but you never expect to enjoy yourself.

Second, if you are reading this review and have never read a Scarpetta novel, stop and do not pass go. No, for real – go to your nearest bookstore/library, and get a copy of Postmortem, which is a fantastic novel. When you’re on book #21, come back and read my review for #22 (i.e. Flesh and Blood).

In Flesh and Blood we find Scarpetta surrounded by with people who don’t make her, or the reader, happy. Benton has metamorphosed into a completely flat, know-it-all character, who spends most of the novel on his Blackberry. Marino, has suddenly become Boston’s top investigator, regardless of the fact he doesn’t sound better at his job and I don’t remember his skills being highly prized in previous novels. He’s also coking some pretty insane anger issues that have him flying off the handle every other sentence, and make it hard to believe he is a star employee. (And can we talk about the fact that we all seem to have forgotten her almost assaulted Scarpetta several books ago?!) Lucy still behaves like a teenager despite the fact she must be in her 30’s by this point.

Whereas in the early books there were often stand alone plots, now every novel seems to hinge on the fact that the whole world is out to get Scarpetta and the ones she loves. What kills me is that there are aspects of the Scarpetta novels that most of us remember and love… however, they got lost beneath a convoluted plot, phoned-in ending, and the mess that the last 5-6 books have created.

Other thoughts that contain spoilers (to view, highlight the text below):
– At this point in the series I find it totally implausible that Scarpetta, Benton, Lucy and Marino are allowed to work together on cases. How does anything they do hold up in court with their history?!
– Bryce and most of the other employees at Scarpetta’s office for the most part are the WORST. Totally unprofessional, unlikeable – it’s hard to imagine why she would have ever hired them.
– Did anyone else find it weird how Scarpetta was totally ready to brand Lucy as a killer/sociopath, but has no ongoing issues with boundaries or letting her have access to her office/databases?
– Reading the reviews, it looks like I am not the only one that was not impressed by the way the book ends. Seriously? Cut to an epilogue? And what’s with the really cheap cliff-hanger? AND I SWEAR TO GOD, IF SHE TOUCHES A HAIR ON BENTON’S OR JANET’S HEADS…. 

Overall, a better effort, but by no means a home run. If you’re a die-hard Scarpetta fan you’ll probably end up reading it and be pleasantly surprised that it’s not as bad as the last few (though I’m not sure that says much). Here’s holding out for #23…

Available from your local library (this is one I’d rent, not buy if possible), or Amazon.com.

Madam President by Nicolle Wallace – A Book Review

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Think of this as Scandal, Madam Secretary, The West Wing, and State of Affairs all wrapped up into one book. Populated by a cast of strong female characters, Madam President follows Charlotte Kramer, the forty-fifth US President, as she faces a day of terrorist attacks on US soil. Told from the various perspectives of those on her team it explores the women’s professional and personal lives. Nicolle Wallace, the book’s author, is a DC scence-ster (former White House Communications Director and political analyst for CBS Evening News), which adds a certain air of realism to her writing that makes it feel very believable.

I know this sounds awful, but there is one part of the book I found a little bit implausible: an almost entirely female administration. President, VP, Secretary of Defense, Press Secretary… While I’m not complaining, it just seemed like a little much. (Also, sidebar – it was slightly unclear to me how someone could go from Chief of Staff to Secretary of Defense and still be under 40…) That said, Wallace does a nice job of keeping the book focused on the political/current event situations at hand and does not let Madam President descend into chick-lit territory.

Overall, an enjoyable read for those who miss The West Wing and like their entertainment with a touch of politics.

Available for pre-order from Amazon.com and on shelves April 28th, 2015.

p.s. Can we talk about how fab the cover is?
Disclaimer: I was provided with an ARC of this novel by the publisher for review.