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  • Jul 24, 2014
  • Updated: 12:55pm

Book of the Dead

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 June, 2008, 12:00am

Book of the Dead

by Patricia Cornwell

Little Brown, HK$128

Patricia Cornwell is no stranger to controversy. Whether in her private life or her theories about Jack the Ripper, she ruffles feathers. In recent years, this has included those of even her most avid readers, many of whom have asked one central question: has Cornwell lost the plot? This is meant literally. The early adventures of Cornwell's forensic investigator, Dr Kay Scarpetta, were noose-tight thrillers that kept one gripped until the end. In recent years, according to the naysayers, the stories have become not only unconvincing, but subordinate to the personal trials of the main characters: Scarpetta's convoluted love life and career path; Marino's jealousy and substance abuse. In many ways, Book of the Dead represents an attempt to return to first principles. It certainly features one of Cornwell's most terrifying villains, a serial killer who tortures and mutilates before filling his victims' eye-sockets with sand. Hardcore fans should enjoy the cutting-edge science, a newly political sub-text and some fresh settings. Those tired of 21st-century Cornwell will groan again as her heroes 'relate' to each other at some length. Occasionally the melodrama hits heights that make Tosca seem like an episode of Friends, but at least this time readers will be scared all over again.

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