Publisher: Time Warner Books
Predator is the 14th Kay Scarpetta novel, following the adventures of the team at the National Forensic Academy. In this book, Scarpetta has become the head of the National Forensic Academy in Hollywood, Florida, a private institution founded by her wealthy niece Lucy.
Dr. Kay Scarpetta, now freelancing with the National Forensic Academy in Florida, takes charge of a case that stretches from steamy Florida to snowbound Boston, one as unnerving as any she has ever faced. The teasing psychological clues lead Scarpetta and her team – Pete Marino, Benton Wesley, and Lucy Farinelli – to suspect that they are hunting someone with a cunning and malevolent mind whose secrets have kept them in the shadows, until now.
Benton Wesley is working on the project codenamed PREDATOR – an acronym for the Prefrontal Determinants of Aggressive-Type Overt Responsivity. This secret neuropsychological project is trying to determine if dangerous murderers have different brain patterns as compared to ordinary people. During a session, the subject, a convicted murderer, gives him clues about a murder he has committed that no one knows about.
While reading the initial narrative, I could almost heard a gravelly manly voice reading it out to me. The writing is staccato, with video-game like dialogue and narrative. The plot is complex – including psychiatrist studies, forensic evidence, science and investigative work spread across Florida and Boston. So far so good. But there were some aspects of this story just didn’t work for me.
One of the big things for me in any story is the set of characters that I spend my time with. In this story, I found all the characters annoying.
To start with, Scarpetta comes across as a rather ineffectual leader, letting investigator Marino and her assistant/intern Amos be rude to her, interrupt her and show public disrespect. I also didn’t get to see any cool “forensic action” that I expected from her.
Pete Marino is brash, obnoxious and boorish. His behaviour towards Scarpetta and other colleagues in this story is just juvenile.
None of the other characters have too many redeeming qualities either. Most of them seem like over-the-top caricatures.
Another issue I have is with the writing itself.
After the initial fun with the style, the present tense gets irritating and the writing soon goes south.
There is a lot of repetition in dialogue and narration that could have been avoided. Phrases, observations, remonstrances, curses and more are repeated more than once over the course of an exchange. Not fun to read.
Even plot developments that the reader is already aware are repeated. Feels like some of this writing was used to just fill in some requisite page count.
The plot itself was not too coherent, with too many bits and pieces sizzling around. I actually had to go back and reread a few pages every now and then (I read this book in 2 days) to get back on track – something that I never have to do, no matter how intricate the plot.
Patricia Cornwell is an award winning, best-selling author, very well known for her forensic thrillers. While I could have enjoyed the forensics part of it, I’ve come to the conclusion that this style of writing is just not for me. I won’t be going back for any more of her novels.