Southern Cross: Complete & Unabridged
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In their first appearance (Hornet's Nest, 1997), Chief Judy Hammer, Deputy Virginia West, and reporter-turned-rookie-cop Andy Brazil battled a serial killer in Charlotte, North Carolina. Now, in Patricia Cornwell's Southern Cross, the trio are dispatched to Richmond, Virginia--via an NIJ (National Institute of Justice) grant--to quell the growing gang problem and modernize the beleaguered Richmond PD. They bring with them a sophisticated computer program for tracking criminal activity and a tried-and-true methodology for reforming Richmond's men and women in blue. Unfortunately, Hammer, Brazil, and West could not have been prepared for the resentment they would confront... or the bizarre cast of characters they would find upon their arrival: Lelia Ehrhart--wealthy (and nosey) chair of the Blue Ribbon Crime Commission--whose heavy European accent renders her English dangerously hilarious; Butner "Bubba" Flunk IV--tobacco industry worker, gun collector, and UFO aficionado; Smoke--the sociopathic leader of the Pikes gang; and Weed Gardener--14-year-old painter turned master graffiti artist.
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 the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
It's fortunate that Cornwell has a new Kay Scarpetta thriller (Black Notice) coming out in July, because this second novel featuring southern police chief Judy Hammer is as disappointing as last year's Hornet's Nest. The problem is elementary. Cornwell, who writes the Scarpetta novels in a first-person voice that blazes with passion and authenticity, lacks control over the third-person narration here. The tone is all over the place, veering from faux-Wambaugh low-jinks to hard-edged suspense, and the plotting is, too. Hammer and her team of deputy chief Virginia West and greenhorn cop Andy Brazil have moved via a federal grant to Richmond, Va., in order to set straight that city's policing. If only they could bring order to the narrative, which twists into an unwieldy welter of subplots. Early on, for instance, Hammer and West misconstrue as malevolent an overheard phone conversation between a local redneck, Butner (Bubba) Fluck IV, and a coon-hunting pal. From there Cornwell spins seriocomic descriptions of Bubba at work, Bubba on a hunting trip, Bubba arguing with a black cop. Among these events and those of other subplots (stymied love between West and Brazil; sabotage of the cops' Web site; the jailing of a police dispatcher; etc.) runs a more dominant plotline?the only one in the novel that exerts dramatic force?about a talented boy artist strong-armed into a gang by a sociopathic teen. There's a lot of broad, often slapstick, social commentary (mostly about class warfare) larded into all the goings-on. If Cornwell's intention is to reproduce with a snicker the chaos of a big southern city, she has succeeded all too well. 1 million first printing; Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections; foreign rights sold in France, Germany, the U.K., Italy and Norway. (Jan. 11). FYI: In May, Putnam will publish Cornwell's first children's book, Life's Little Fable.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
In Hornet's Nest, Cornwell introduced a new set of characters. Fair enough, even if these characters included cats that talk, sort of. In Sourthern Cross, we now have not only a cat that carries on conversations with itself but some mangy mutt too.
I was never able to tell through the book if the characters, such as Bubba, were meant to be satirical or if Cornwell is really that cynical about men and Southerners. Alas, I think maybe Cornwell just doesn't like men period.
The book is poorly researched even while the plot is faintly interesting. A running theme throughout Cornwell's novels is a high degree of computer savvy by the protagonists. Unfortunately, Cornwell's research seems to only go as far as learning some of the buzzwords without understanding what they mean. Just as she has FBI super-geek Lucy solemnly pronouncing ridiculous statements about software, programming, etc., so too do we have characters in Southern Cross. A central theme is an utterly unbelievable virus mysteriously implanted into a Web page. Of course, the pets have to get into the act.
One of the central dilemnas towards the middle of the book is how a computer that had been turned off was now on when the good police chief arrives home. The pets make a big show of trying to tell their masters that they did not put the virus in the computer and did not turn the computer on. Worse, after we suffer the indignities of listening to the pets and their masters whine about how the computer got turned on, Cornwell just drops the whole line.Read more ›
I'll admit that I was a little put off by the book at first. The Scarpetta series has gotten rather dreary and boring as of late, so I found myself pleasantly surprised when I realized that the absurd, overdrawn characters and situations were actually her attempt at satire.
I've been surprised at the number of readers who have read the novel and concluded that Cornwell was slamming southerners, the tobacco industry, etc. I felt that she was merely using certain issues to show how political correctness has actually created more problems than it has solved, while more serious issues, such as crime, have gotten out of control.
Also, for the readers who attacked the novel for the atrocious grammar used by Lelia Ehrhart on pages 50-51, try rereading the first sentence on page 50.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
I had read the first book of this series, focusing on the Chief Judy Hammer and Andy Brazil, several years ago and I admit that, being accustomed to follow the adventures of Kay... Read morePublished on July 9 2014 by Anakina
This one misses the mark for me. Try another like the Body Farm to enjoy this talented writer. From Potter's Field was also a good read.Published on March 29 2004 by Patty Philbrook
Southern Cross is too ridiculous to be a detective novel, to violent to be a comic novel. This is my first venture into Cornwell. Read morePublished on April 15 2003
YUK. Will never read another by this author. Took it back to the store and was told alot of people did the same.Published on Jan. 6 2003
Unlike many other readers I LOVED this book.
What confuses me is why so many people couldn't figure out this book was meant to be funny. Read more
Despite all the negative reviews, I recommend this book. I felt for Weed and hated Smoke, as anybody who has ever been bullied hates bullies. Read morePublished on Sept. 3 2002 by Dennis E. Cochran
Set in Richmond Virginia, "Southern Cross" is Patricia Cornwell's sequel to "Hornet's Nest" and features the three main characters of that novel, Police Chief Judy Hammer, Deputy... Read morePublished on Aug. 30 2002 by binnsie
This book struck me as a failed attempt by Patricia Cornwell to publicly flex her literary muscles. Read more