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Review: Port Mortuary – Patricia Cornwell

Review: Port Mortuary – Patricia CornwellAuthor: Patricia Cornwell
Title: Port Mortuary
Series: Kay Scarpetta #18
Publisher: Putnam
Pages: 496
Release Date: November 30, 2010
Genres: Mystery & Thriller
The new Kay Scarpetta novel from the world's #1 bestselling crime writer.

"When it comes to the forensic sciences, nobody can touch Cornwell."
-The New York Times Book Review Port Mortuary, the title of Patricia Cornwell's eighteenth Scarpetta novel, is literally a port for the dead. In this fast-paced story, a treacherous path from Scarpetta's past merges with the high- tech highway she now finds herself on. We travel back to the beginning of her professional career, when she accepted a scholarship from the Air Force to pay off her medical school debt. Now, more than twenty years and many career successes later, her secret military ties have drawn her to Dover Air Force Base, where she has been immersed in a training fellowship.

As the chief of the new Cambridge Forensic Center in Massachusetts, a joint venture of the state and federal governments, MIT and Harvard, Scarpetta is confronted with a case that could shut down her new facility and ruin her personally and professionally.
Format: Hardcover
Also by this author: Chaos, The Scarpetta Factor
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Welcome to Jen’s review of PORT MORTUARY by Patricia Cornwell!

Port Mortuary was another re-read. I first read it when it came out in 2010. My most recent reading of the book was a few months ago, but I never wrote my review.

Anyway, I kind of liked Port Mortuary, but not as much as earlier books in the Kay Scarpetta series. Unfortunately, my notes about this book were mostly negative. I’m still giving it three stars (a C) because I’m a fan of the series anyway. Also, there were some things in the book that I felt made up for the bad parts.

I’ll start by telling you what I did like.

My Likes

The premise is great. I was intrigued by the cases they investigated. A bleeding corpse, a missing dog that had been owned by a murder victim, a mother who wants to prove her son’s innocence, the disappearance of Kay’s second in command… all these things caught my attention.

At first, I was taken by surprise because the series changed from being written in third person to first person. I didn’t remember that some of the books had been written in first person. The previous book, The Scarpetta Factor, had been written in third person. So, that took me a little by surprise. I later appreciated this change, because I think I needed a break from being in Benton or Lucy’s mind. They wore on me in the previous book. It was a nice change to only have to deal with Kay’s internal drama.

Once Kay got the point where she could examine the bodies, the author included a lot of interesting forensics. I particularly enjoyed how Cornwell described the internal damage to the victim’s body. ┬áIt was easy for me to visualize. Overall, I felt like this book included more forensics than The Scarpetta Factor (book 17).

The author linked several cases together in a way that made sense.

My Dislikes

New elements were brought into the story that didn’t fit with the previous books in the series. For example, Kay suddenly has a military background that we never knew about. She is a colonel now and at Dover Air Force base. I don’t remember that being in any of the other books, and other reviewers seem to have the same complaint.

Along those same lines, some things that were in the previous book were dropped without resolving them. The Blackberry issue in The Scarpetta Factor disappears from the plot, and Kay somehow has an iPhone now. Also, there seemed to be holes between the books regarding their move to Boston and Benton’s return to the FBI.

The main thing I didn’t like about Port Mortuary was how slow it started. The beginning was pretty boring, especially the first few pages. It starts with Kay going through her toiletries and thinking about what to say on CNN. After that, it gets a little more interesting because Marino shows up and gets her. However, it drags for a long time. The first seven chapters are mostly dialogue. I learned things I needed to know, but it just moved very slowly.

Sometimes Kay got carried away with internal monologue and memories. She came across as pissy and whiny. The other characters were treating her badly, so I understand some of it, but I just wanted Kay to stand up for herself, deal with the issues, and quit complaining in her mind.

Once again, Benton had to rescue Kay. The final conflict only took a couple of paragraphs. It was quite a letdown.

My Overall Opinion (Quick Review)

I liked Port Mortuary better than The Scarpetta Factor, but not enough to jump to a four-star rating. The story had a good foundation and concept, but the execution was poor. The pace was too slow, the characters weren’t particularly likable, and the ending was flat. With that said, I would still read more books in the Kay Scarpetta series, if for no other reason but the interesting cases.


Sadly, no. Unless you are the type of person who has to read every book in a series, I say skip books 17 and 18.

I plan to re-read book 19 soon. I’m hoping it is better; I honestly can’t remember because it’s been so long since I first read it.



Jen Schaper
I am a mom of three kids, a wife, and a wannabe author. For Books That Hook, I review books, create features and discussions, design the website, and do all the administrative stuff.

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