Book Review

All That Remains

All That Remains

  • Author: Patricia Cornwell
  • Genre: Mystery/Thriller
  • Publication Date: June 11, 1992
  • Publisher: Time Warner Paperbacks
  • Series: Kay Scarpetta #3

CONTENT WARNING: death, murder, racism, mention of death of an animal, suicide attempt, blood

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A killer is stalking young lovers, taking their lives…and leaving just a tantalizing clue…

When the bodies of young courting couples start turning up in remote woodland areas, Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s task as Chief Medical Examiner is made more difficult by the effects of the elements. Eight times she must report that the cause of death is undetermined.

But when the latest girl who goes missing turns out to be the daughter of one of the most powerful women in America, Kay finds herself prey to political pressure and press harassment.

As she starts to investigate, she finds that vital evidence is being withheld from her — or even faked. And all the time a cunning, sadistic killer is still at large …

Now that I’ve read two books in this series, I find myself unable to stop reading them. I requested this and book 4 at the same time, knowing that I was going to want to dive headlong into the gruesome and terrifying world of Dr. Kay Scarpetta, especially to ease the immense book hangover I had after finishing House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas. I was initially worried that I’d be less likely to get into this book after HOSAB, but have no fear, I was sucked in immediately and flew through this book.

Kay is back, doing her thing. Except that she’s working a series of cases with extremely limited evidence. While evidence of *something* appears quickly after disappearances, the actual bodies aren’t discovered for months. And the evidence is seriously degraded by exposure to the elements after such a long time. 

When one of the latest victims turns out to be the daughter of the new Drug Czar, Kay finds herself receiving immense pressure from all sides. But the further she gets into this case, the more she realizes that important information is being withheld from her.

“What I suspected she did not know, I thought, unpleasantly, was that despite my repeated requests, I was not given copies of the confidential sections of the police reports, scene photographs, or inventories of evidence. I attributed the lack of cooperation to what had become a multi-jurisdictional investigation.”

Now it’s time for her to do some heavy digging, to find out anything she can from the evidence she has. Drawing on her extensive experience, she just has to find a teeny tiny bit of evidence that has been overlooked. Since Scarpetta has the ability to stay detached, clinical, and methodical, she’s confident that she’ll be able to find something.

“Criminals who escape apprehension are not perfect but lucky. They make mistakes. All of them do. The problem is recognizing the errors, realizing their significance, and determining what was intentional and what was not.”

We discover that Kay has been attending therapy with a psychiatrist. Since her life is especially open to public scrutiny, she goes to extensive efforts to protect her privacy in this area. I loved the fact that the shame and stigma associated with mental health and treatment is addressed in this book, which was published in the early 90s, before this type of stigma was a thing that was readily discussed.

“‘Unfortunately, many people are terrified by the prospect of others knowing. You would be surprised at the number of people who have been in this office and left by way of the back door.’”

The relationship between Kay and Marino continues to develop further in this book. While Marino is an abrasive sort of old-school cop, I found myself liking him more and more in this book. He has shown a lot of growth throughout the series so far, accepting Kay’s knowledge and skills, as she starts to warm to him as well. Rather than just seeing his negative traits, she starts to actually care for him as a person, and they are heading in the direction of a great friendship, as well as an effective partnership. 

I have to mention the way that this book is written. It’s all in Kay’s POV, leading to the brisk style of writing that I’d absolutely expect from her. The book is fairly fast-paced, with twists and turns popping up regularly. It wound up being a fast read, partially because of the writing style and partially because of the fact that I couldn’t stop reading and had to find out who was behind these crimes. Cornwell has become one of my favorite writers in this genre rather quickly, and I can already tell that I’m going to fly through this series.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 8

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