Flesh and Blood

Flesh and Blood

Amy Tishler, Reporter

On Saturday Nov. 15, at 7 pm New York Times bestselling author Patricia Cornwell spoke about and signed her latest novel, Flesh and Blood, at the Ethical Society.  The event was sponsored by Left Bank Books, Maryville Talks Books, St. Louis Public Radio, and hectv.org.

The slender, 58-year-old author with cropped blond hair appeared onstage wearing jeans, high tops and a long military-style black coat.  She warmed up the audience by telling two stories that made everyone laugh, displaying a sense of humor that is not present in her writing.

Cornwell talked briefly about Flesh and Blood, the 22nd book in a series that centers around medical examiner Kay Scarpetta.  Then she opened the floor to questions.  What became apparent from the Q & A is that Cornwell’s fans appreciate how meticulously her books are researched. As part of her research for her books, Cornwell completed The Medicolegal Death Investigation Course at St. Louis University.  She told the audience to be proud that St. Louis is the “mecca” for lay people who want training in forensics.

For Flesh and Blood, Cornwell spent weeks at a gun ranch in Texas to learn about firearms and ballistics.  She also went scuba diving to construct her action-packed conclusion, which takes place at the same wreckage sight off the Florida Keys as Cornwell’s own dive.  She did this in spite of the fact that she hates scuba diving in order to make her book more realistic.

“Whenever Scarpetta does something, she does tend to drag me along for the ride,” Cornwell said, referring to her main character as though she is a real person.

Cornwell explained that Flesh and Blood is different from the other books in the Scarpetta series because the killer is a long distance shooter.  Scarpetta usually investigates murders where the killer has a lot of personal contact with the victim, such as strangulations and stabbings, and therefore leaves more trace evidence at the crime scene.

“[Scarpetta’s] still not speaking to me,” Cornwell said, “because she gets very angry when I do these things to her.”

In Flesh and Blood, it is Scarpetta’s birthday, and instead of relaxing, she is chasing a serial shooter who only leaves a fleck of copper behind as evidence.  On top of it all, the evidence implicates her genius niece, Lucy.  There isn’t much background on the characters, but it is easy enough to jump in even if you have not read the previous books.  It is definitely worth a read for anyone who enjoys a good forensic mystery.

If you enjoy Cornwell’s books, then keep your eyes out for the television pilot that she is creating for CBS.  It is called Angie Steel and it is about a MIT graduate/police investigator whose brother is a serial killer.