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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
I think I did well, because since then I've definitely expanded my reading and now I possess the tools to appreciate it.
"Southern Cross" is certainly a good novel. More than the usual detective story it is a slice of life in the capital of Virginia, Richmond. At the same time, mixing humour and action, it presents a story that you do not expect. For most of the reading you have fun in getting to know the characters, but you don't know exactly where the story will take you.
At one point, things change and you are wrapped in a whirlwind of events.
By carefully reading this book you realize how much Cornwell is good at writing. Her characters are terribly real and you cannot help but love them or hate them.
The ending as always in her novels is pretty quick, but it aligns perfectly with the rhythm of the last part of the book.
Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, author of Red Desert - Point of No Return
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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
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
This book struck me as a failed attempt by Patricia Cornwell to publicly flex her literary muscles. Read more
This is my first (and last ) Patricia Cornwell read. A trio of policemen and women try to clean up a Southern town populated by psycopaths and rednecks. Read morePublished on June 11 2002 by Beverley Strong
The story about how a female Chief of Police in Richmond deals with a new crime epidemic was very gripping. The humor was well-timed and appropriate and the concept was timely. Read morePublished on June 10 2002 by Amazon Customer