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Unnatural Exposure by Patricia Cornwell

Unnatural Exposure (1997)

by Patricia Cornwell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Kay Scarpetta (8)

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English (37)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (45)
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Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta has been investigating a series of murders in which the victims' bodies have been decapitated and dismembered. But when the latest unidentified torso turns up, the M.O. now appears to be very different, and the consequences may be disastrous.

This is actually book 8 in a series, none of which I had previously read, but while it did leave me feeling like I'd come in in the middle of the story as far as developments in the main character's personal life go, Cornwell is diligent enough about bringing new readers up to speed that I had no trouble with it, even though I'm usually not a fan of coming into series in the middle.

I read this one only because it was given to me by a mystery-loving friend who thought it seemed like the sort of mystery story that science-nerd me would like, because there's a fair amount of medical science in it and the investigation takes a scientific approach. And while I'd hardly call it the most science-oriented book I've ever read -- hey, I read a lot of SF -- I did find some of the forensic details quite interesting.

Said friend also described Scarpetta as a "strong female character." That, unfortunately, is a phrase that now too often seems to either be used in a way that's so vague it means almost nothing, or else reserved only for female characters who are very limited and stereotyped varieties of "strong." But I'm pleased to report that the phrase fits Scarpetta in the good way: she's an intelligent, respected professional, but she also has flaws, and she feels very human, rather than being anybody's wish-fulfillment idea of a strong woman. I liked her.

As for the plot, it's nothing particularly groundbreaking, but I did find it engaging enough, and, pleasantly, it turned out to be exactly the kind of thing I was in the mood to read. I only have one real complaint about it, but unfortunately it's a significant complaint for this kind of story. The ending, I felt, was entirely too abrupt and not really very satisfying. Especially as, now that I think about it, it does leave a pretty serious dangling plot thread. So that was a little disappointing, but despite it, I've come out with a reasonably good impression of Cornwell, and wouldn't be adverse to picking up another of her novels sometime.

I will add that this particular work, having come out in 1999, now feels kind of dated. Not in a bad way that made it more difficult or uncomfortable to read. But I can't help finding it amusing that it includes careful explanations of what the internet is, or how it's possible to scan a photograph and e-mail it to someone. And the story also includes several gay and lesbian characters. They're treated by both the author and the main character with acceptance and sympathy, but reading this in 2019, it's hard not to find it weird how both author and character seem to feel the need to address the subject of their love lives with a sort of coy delicacy, and the way it's taken for granted that it could be disastrous for any of them if their employers found out does kind of bring home just how much some things have changed. On the other hand, the fact that the novel is set during a federal government shutdown thanks to congress not being able to pass a budget is a depressingly familiar detail.

Rating: I'm giving this one a 3.5/5, although I probably would have gone up to a slightly generous 4/5 if the ending had been stronger. ( )
  bragan | Sep 6, 2019 |
I read this one in one day, because once the first pox victim showed up, I realized I had read this one before.

The beginning of the book focuses on the hunt for a serial killer who dismembers his victims. This killer has been working both in Ireland and in the United States. Dr. Scarpetta has been looking at the evidence from both the countries. About half way through the book, a new victim shows up who has been dismembered, but not quite in the same way, and also with possible small pox lesions on her body. This leads to the question of a copycat killer, or has the original killer changed his m.o.?

I guess I am not quite clear on if the same person was doing all the killings, or if the small pox victims were killed by one person, and the original dismembered victims killed by another. By the end of the book, when the killer is caught, I understand the reasoning for the small pox killings. But why all the previous dismemberments? That wasn't super clear to me.

Even with some plot flaws, I enjoyed this book very much. Biomedical terrorism is a very scary subject, and it is easy to imagine it happening now. The pace of the book was brisk, and the story was compelling. This is one of the best Sarpetta books. ( )
  readingover50 | Jun 11, 2019 |
Read this book many years ago and I remember that I liked it. Minus is, that it is starting to get old (to me), Kay Scarpetta, Marino, her grief, Lucy. I decided that this would be the last one I read. I say gpoodbye to Scarpetta, she has brought me many hours of reading pleasure, but no more. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Dec 20, 2017 |
I have not yet read this book.
  LynneQuan | Sep 21, 2017 |
A Kay Scarpetta novel.
  LanternLibrary | Sep 1, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patricia Cornwellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brown, BlairNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Critt, C. J.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zeelenberg, AnnetteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues... Revelation 21:9
To Esther Newberg Vision, No Fear
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Night fell clean and cold in Dublin, and wind moaned beyond my room as if a million pipes played the air.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
A body is discovered in a Virginia landfill. The details--expert removal of head and limbs--mirror that of a case Dr. Kay Scarpetta has been investigating in Ireland. But for Scarpeita, the game has only just begun. The killer boldly contacts her via the Internet, signing off with the ominous screen name deadoc. As her investigation deepens, Scarpetta discovers that the victim in Virginia was exposed to a rare smallpox-like virus before she was killed, and that Scarpetta herself could be infected.

Now she knows she is up against a killer unlike any she has pursued before--a relentless psychopath with access to an incredibly sophisticated arsenal of deadly force. And with a very personal interest in seeing Kay Scarpetta suffer.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0425163407, Mass Market Paperback)

Virginia Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta has a bloody puzzle on her hands: five headless, limbless cadavers in Ireland, plus four similar victims in a landfill back home. Is a serial butcher loose in Virginia? That's what the panicked public thinks, thanks to a local TV reporter who got the leaked news from her boyfriend, Scarpetta's vile rival, Investigator Percy Ring. But the butchered bodies are so many red herrings intended to throw idiots like Ring off the track. Instead of a run-of-the-mill serial killer, we're dealing with a shadowy figure who has plans involving mutant smallpox, mass murder, and messing with Scarpetta's mind by e-mailing her gory photos of the murder scenes, along with cryptic AOL chat-room messages. The coolest innovation: Scarpetta's gorgeous genius niece, Lucy, equips her with a DataGlove and a VPL Eyephone, and she takes a creepy virtual tour of the e-mailed crime scene.

Unnatural Exposure boasts brisk storytelling, crackling dialogue, evocative prose about forensic-science sleuthing, and crisp character sketches, both of familiar characters like Scarpetta's gruff partner Pete Marino and bit players like the landfill employee falsely accused by Ring. Plus, let's face it: serial killers are old hat. Cornwell's most vivid villains are highly plausible backstabbing colleagues like Ring, who plots to destroy Lucy's FBI career by outing her as a lesbian. Some readers object to the rather abrupt ending, but, hey, it's less jarring than Hannibal's, and it's the logical culmination of Cornwell's philosophy about human nature. To illuminate the novel's finale, read Cornwell's remarks on paranoia in her Amazon.com interview. --Tim Appelo

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:50 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

While chief medical examiner Kay Scarpetta investigates the remains of a dismembered woman in a Virginia landfill, she receives an e-mail message from the killer inviting her to download photos of the victim. By the author of Hornet's Nest.

» see all 14 descriptions

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