Patricia Cornwell novel: At Risk by Patricia Cornwell

After reading one too many of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta crime novels, I convinced myself that the author had grown tired of her stock characters and would need to strike out in a new direction sometime soon or lose much of her audience. At Risk, which features another brilliant investigator steeped in high-tech forensic techniques, appears to be an effort to do just that. It’s not notably successful.

Like so many writers of genre fiction, Cornwell has the bad habit of endowing her leading characters with Hollywood looks, uber-genius intelligence, and superhuman physical abilities. Win Garano — a man, in a change of pace for Cornwell — is the hero of At Risk, but he is, sadly, another one of those impossibly gifted people (both  “good” and “evil”) who abound in Cornwell’s fiction. His figurative sparring partner, District Attorney Monique Lamont, is equally exaggerated., with looks that could, apparently, stop a train in its tracks. This is tiresome, to say the least.

At Risk by Patricia Cornwell ★★☆☆☆

However, Cornwell has mastered the art of writing high-tension fiction, and this story moves along at a rapid pace virtually from page one until about two-thirds of the way toward the end, when, out of desperation, she resorts to the age-old device of reporting a crucial telephone conversation without revealing who’s on the other end of the line. Not to put too fine an edge on things, this is what is known in the trade as a cheap trick.

Check out one of Patricia Cornwell’s early Kay Scarpetta novels. Don’t waste your time on this one.

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