Judy Hammer has accepted the challenge of Richmond, Virginia's police department to try and reverse the escalating crime statistics in the city. She brings with her Deputy Chief Virginia West and Andy Brazil, now a full-time police officer.
Unlike Cornwell's usual fare, Southern Cross is driven almost exclusively by an interest in these strange personalities and their surreal hometown, rather than in fast-paced thrills. The novel becomes a satire on city politics, Southern culture, the ever-tense relationship between the police and the public, and the struggles of the average man and woman with computer technology. Cornwell does fall down in a few places. First, her description of the computer virus that somehow infects police department Web sites from Richmond to New York seems a bit far-fetched. Also, her narrative, divided among three major characters, loses its focus and sags at several points. In the end, though, Southern Cross is redeemed by Cornwell's inimitable renderings of police work and the quotidian life of Richmond's many odd denizens. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Starting with a character named Buttner (called Butt) Fluck, aka Bubba, a blue-blooded southern aristocrat with an Austrian accent who speaks English like Chico Marx, and a thoroughly dislikable bad guy who is a well dressed, well groomed white guy with suspicious eyes, who gets sexually aroused by robbing and later by killing people.
When one watches a farce on stage, on knows that all of the characters are going to interact with each other and there will be no outside characters. Southern Cross is just such a farce. The coincidences never stop.
I am more irritated than amused when she gets things wrong -- like referring to Oregon Hill as Oregon Hills -- but I figure she spends most of her days in NYC and has a second-hand relationship with Richmond.
But, so it goes. Richmond is a sour and dying little town, sadly, and this Ms. Cornwell also captures well. It's a shame. It was a great place to grow up in the fifties and sixties. It just isn't a great place to live anymore.
I think there are likely millions of people that could echo that statement about their own hometowns.
I read this because a friend -- now in San Francisco, and who would want to live there??? -- sent it to me. I have never been able to make it past the first two or three chapters in anything else by Ms. Cornwell that I've picked up. This held me from the start.
One of the things that I found most appealing is her efforts to sidestep -- or at least not succumb to -- stereotypes.
E.g., Bubba, the character that was most susceptible to the indignities of Political Correctness, was portrayed with a bit of sympathy and perhaps even fondness.
Plus, anything that has the Battle flag on the cover, I am honor-bound to love. You see, I'm a Bubba, myself.
What confuses me is why so many people couldn't figure out this book was meant to be funny. For the love of God, she writes about what a dog is thinking in this book. I don't understand why so many people thought this novel was meant to be read in the same tone of her Scarpetta novels. I did not buy this book expecting to read a Kay Scarpetta type novel . If Ms. Cornwell wanted to write a Scarpetta novel that is what she would have done. She would not have created a new set of characters.
Further, I find it necessary to state the somehow forgotten fact that Ms. Cornwell is a writer of stories. Just because she has created one character that so many people love does not mean she is doomed to spend the rest of her life writing about that one character, or even typecast to only be able to write serial killer driven novels. I was pleasantly surprised that she had this novel (and the series) in her. Not many writers can flawlessly write books that make you want to sleep with your night light on then turn and write a book that makes you laugh out loud.
I apologize if I seem to be bashing previous reviewers because I am not. I'm simply wearied by all of the current Cornwell bashing. It somehow seems to have become the vogue thing to insult Ms. Cornwell and everything she does. I, however, remain a fan of hers and plan to continue buying her books.
One of the charms of this book is the easy-to-read and fascinating historical backdrop of the city of Richmond and the state of Virginia. Going back to 1607 we hear about British explorers, local Indians, African slaves, Thomas Jefferson, tobacco and the American Civil War to name just a few.
However, this is a crime book and a sad tale of young no-hoper gang members, middle aged "simple" characters who enjoy nothing more than huntin', fishin' and guns, and middle class citizens of Richmond whose characters are all delightfully painted by Cornwell. Cleverly, the paths of all these characters including our 3 police officers, become crossed in the final few chapters as the story reaches its climax.
This book has a delightful comedy style in one way and yet contains its fair share of murder and violence. The plot is well thought out and presented and should provide plenty of entertainment to new and established Cornwell readers, although those expecting to find a Kay Scarpetta type thriller may well be disappointed.