BOOK REVIEW: The Body Farm – by Patricia Cornwell

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Title: The Body Farm
(Kay Scarpetta Series #5)
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller
First published: 1994
Finished reading: November 29th 2014
Pages: 400
Rating 3

“Sometimes I saw his eyes in my sleep, saw them bright like blue glass staring through a barely opened door leading into a strange, dark room filled with a putrid smell.”

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I didn’t read the previous four books of this series, but I can say now it is not really necessary because you can understand the general story without them. I could have read the first book, Postmortem, first, but since I only own it in Spanish I decided to skip straight to The Body Farm instead. It’s not the first time I read something of Patricia Cornwell and the second time was not much better than my first experience. I did like this novel better than her non fiction work Portrait Of A Killer, but I found The Body Farm rather predictable and I couldn’t really connect to the characters. It’s an ok read and similar to all those CSI series out there, but it lacked the dept, character development and plot twists I would need for it to stand out from the rest. Still, I guess this series would work perfectly for an afternoon or night of easy reading…

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This time forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta is send to a small town in North Carolina as her help is needed in a case were an eleven-year-old girl is brutally murdered. The FBI suspect a serial killer named Temple Gault is on the loose and might have killed the little Emily. It is up to Kay and the other agents to find out who really did this to her. She is soon forced to use all the forensic investigation tecniques out there, and she asks for the help of a research facility known as The Body Farm to investigate a dubious mark on the body…

Scarpetta’s niece Lucy, FBI intern, is in trouble as she is accused of entering a highly secured area and possibly stealing data of a confidencial new computer database named CAIN. Scarpetta suspects something is wrong and soon has to protect her niece as well as finidng out who killed poor little Emily. And one of the detectives Marino is getting really involved with the victim’s mother and asking for trouble… Will everything work out in the end?

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The Body Farm was an easy read for sure, but like I said before, it lacked the ingredients to become a really good crime novel. I just wish I couldn’t have guessed ‘whodunit’ before I was halfway down the book, and some of the other ‘twists’ and characters were pretty predictable as well. It is still good enough to entertain you for an afternoon or night, as long as you don’t expect a literary masterpiece. That said, I probably won’t read the first book for a looooong time…

17 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: The Body Farm – by Patricia Cornwell

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  6. I think, for it’s time, the Scarpetta series was new and unique, as of course CSI hadn’t been on TV then, and as far as I’m aware having a pathologist as lead character was a new idea. I used to read her books religiously, but in recent years they’ve really deteriorated – it’s as though she’s just going through the motions…And Lucy, the maverick genius niece, really gets on my nerves. I also read her non-fiction work Jack The Ripper: Case Closed, and while she persuaded me Sickert may have written some of the letters, it was pushing it too far to call him The Ripper. I reviewed a new book, Naming Jack The Ripper (https://crimeworm.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/naming-jack-the-ripper-russell-edwards/) which used cutting edge forensic techniques on a shawl allegedly found at the Catherine Eddowes murder scene. Of course, plenty have arguments against the conclusions, but I can’t see how they could have got these results any other way…but it suits many to keep the mystery alive!

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    • I guess that’s true; it was still a new idea back in 1994 when she published it. I love crime/CSI novels and TV, but I just didn’t think this one was up to the level of more recent novels… I’ve heard a lot of people saying the more recent books are not as good as the earlier ones by the way; maybe because she is starting to care more about money than quality, who knows?
      Her non fiction work was a disappointment for me; I love historical novels and reading about true crime, but the case she presented in Portrait Of A Killer would never have made it to court. She has some interesting points, but to say that Sickert was really the killer… A bit far-fetched. From what I can read of your review, Edwards has a much better case when it comes to actually naming The Ripper!

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      • The detractors are muttering about “chain of custody” etc but that doesn’t detract from the fact Eddowes’ blood matches a family member by mitochondrial DNA, and a semen stain matches the mitochondrial DNA of a family member of the main suspect, as named by Scotland Yard! I know mitochondrial DNA isn’t as conclusive as the other kind (1 in 10,000, as opposed to 1 in 3 billion) but it’s still really compelling evidence – for both samples to match makes it even more so! I really enjoyed the book, and the scientific parts were written so a layman can understand, as Edwards’ admits his scientific knowledge was also limited before he began his quest.

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      • It definitely sounds like better proof than Cornwell presented in her book, and an interesting read! I will have to check it out at some point for sure.

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  7. So agreed. This was the first and last Cornwell novel I ever tried; it never formed a good enough impression for me to ever consider picking up back one of her books. Especially after I mostly stopped reading thrillers.

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    • Yeah, there are so many great books and series out there, that I don’t think I will read more of the Kay Scarpetta series any time soon… I like reading thrillers and crime novels, but this series definitely didn’t convince me.

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    • You would say the first book Postmortem is worth reading? I own a copy in Spanish, but I’m not sure if it would be a waste of time… And as far as the Ripper book goes; it’s better to stay far away from that one. 😉

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    • It sure isn’t a series I will be reading more of any time soon… Maybe the first book since I already own it, but that’s about it. There are too many great books out there to waste time on those that are not that good. 😉

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