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2.8 out of 5 stars
2.8 out of 5 stars
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on February 26, 2012
The reviews of Trace on, over three-hundred of them, are much poorer than the nine or so here. I thoroughly agree with the reviewers. Cornwell started downhill with Isle of Dogs, a terrible book. After that I only read Blowfly, to give her another chance. I thought Blowfly was nearly as bad. I bought Trace just on spec, expecting little...and got less. Everybody in the book is unreasonably angry, the sub-plots drag on, Benton risks his relation with Kay to work with a totally uninteresting woman (Lucy's ex-lover) and his efforts come to nothing. Marino magically gets the baddie in the end, though it's unclear how. And the baddie is a most unbelievable wacko. A lot of fuss is made over trace elements found at two crime scenes and no real resolution is ever given. A construction worker may or may not have been murdered...who knows and who cares. A most unlikeable Dr. Marcus is introduced, with a weird hang-up, and then dropped. When I finally finished the book, doggedly working through it in case it got better, my question was: Why did I bother? Terrible book.
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on January 8, 2009
Against advice from her niece Lucy, Kay Scarpetta answers a request to return to the Richmond medical examiner's office, the same office from which she was fired, to help with the sensitive case of a dead teen. When she and Pete Marino arrive, they find the new medical examiner to be a vituperative, uncooperative martinet and the office that Kay ran so efficiently in chaos. Two murders, oddly linked, demand their attention. In the meantime, Lucy, still unsettled despite her success with the Last Precinct investigative agency, is having personal problems (there's been an attack on her housemate), which strangely enough find her treading the same path as her aunt Kay. Traces of the smart, dynamic, yet vulnerable Scarpetta of the early novels are in evidence here, and Cornwell has better control of her plot and characters than in her last few efforts, faltering only occasionally when psychobabble weighs things down. The mystery is intriguing, there's plenty of forensic detail, and the ending, though perhaps too abrupt, opens the way for Scarpetta and her associates to proceed in any direction that calls to them.
If you like reading books by Patricia Cornwell, try also the following two books:
Blow Fly
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Trace is well named. It has a trace of the good characteristics of the early Scarpetta novels . . . and the trace is indeed hard to find underneath an unkempt undergrowth of character and plot developments left over from prior books and compounded here with new, needless alley ways about mentally bizarre characters. A medical examiner is definitely needed to uncover the trace of the qualities that once made this a compelling and enjoyable series.

A few years ago I decided I wouldn't read any more Scarpetta novels. They were just too angry, too gross and too ridiculous in their plots involving off-beat characters who want to "get" Scarpetta for various sick reasons. I often felt like I was reading about the frustration dreams of a paranoid person . . . and I didn't enjoy it.

Trace sounded less intense . . . so I gave it a try. The good news is that the story is more entertaining than the ones that drove me away. The bad news is that the aftertaste of those stories lingers on to mar the characters and plot line here.

Scarpetta, Benson, Lucy and Marino want to be with one another . . . but they are so devoted to keeping secrets from one another . . . that they spend the maximum time apart. It's a curious way to run a novel.

A partial reunion occurs when Scarpetta is asked to consult on a mysterious death of a 14-year-old girl and Marino returns with her to Richmond where she was embarrassed and harassed by a former governor five years earlier. The old ME shop has never been in worse shape, and you will find out why in greater detail than you really want to know.

Naturally, Scarpetta figures out the cause of death within minutes of beginning her examination. We spend time with the girl's killer throughout so we know what's really going on from near the beginning. The rest of the novel is a slow motion movement towards a conjunction of the characters and the plot until they finally collide to create a new equilibrium near the end. Chop out 200 pages of that "action," and you would probably have an average police procedural. As it is, you mainly get posturing, insults and annoying side plots that don't serve much purpose except to pad out the length of the book. The "action" is sustained by having the story be explained in as confusing a way as possible . . . in each case by the character who knows the least about what's really going on.

Scarpetta is the heroine . . . but you won't always find her to be delightful. She's too often like the smart kid in class who you always hoped would make an embarrassing mistake . . . but never did. That makes her so perfect that it's hard to identify with her. Even Superman has his social problems as Clark Kent to create sympathy for him. Twerps may try to tweak Scarpetta, but the contest is so one-sided in her favor in Trace that there's never any doubt about how it will turn out.

Lucy has become so much of a caricature of the "talented woman who's lost her way" that I found myself wishing she wasn't in the book. That's a shame because Lucy used to play a helpful role as a counterpoint to Scarpetta's perfection.

But if your favorite plot is that mentally ill people are running amok harming others in ways that you need a perfect medical examiner to stop, Patricia Cornwell is still your author. I would have graded this as a three star novel if the relevant universe were limited to other Scarpetta novels I have read. Hard core Scarpetta fans will probably find this book to be an improvement over its immediate predecessors.
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on October 18, 2004
I enjoyed this book so much more than BLOW FLY. Kay Scarpetta returns to Richmond after five years, and the pick-back-up idea is both refreshing and evidently invigorating to not only readers, but Scarpetta as well. She seems to have gotten a second (fifth? sixth?) wind and boy, does it show! The plot centers around the mysterious death of a fourteen-year-old and Scarpetta is there to help out Marcus--the completely inept replacement for her while she was gone. He's one of the best characters she's written, incorporating every evil, stupid, and loathsome boss that's ever existed. Can you relate? I know I can. There's even a character named Edgar Allan Pogue to round out the cast of this wonderful book. Do yourself a favor and buy it . . .now!
I would also recommend two very different books which I enjoyed. The first is THE PIANO TEACHER--a little racy and disturbing, and the second is THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD--also disturbing but VERY funny and well written. All are great.
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on March 26, 2015
Very disappointing. I had only read Cornwell's nonfiction book about her investigation into the Jack the Ripper case. That was necessarily disjointed with uncertain resolution, 100+ years after the fact. But this novel was filled with interesting ideas that went nowhere ( so Dr. Marcus has these doesn't lead to anything in the story).
All sorts of paths get left unresolved and I felt the novel as a whole had little tension. I couldn't believe when I saw that I was 3/4 of the way through the book. It seemed like it was just setting the scene.
According to other readers, her earlier work is much better. So go there!
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on December 16, 2004
I only gave this book two stars because I am very loyal to this author. Unfortunately, this book is horrible. Blowfly was REALLY bad. This one is also bad, not as much but... I read the other reviews and I believe the book was given okay reviews because the previous book was so awful that this one seems good compared to it! I am so sad that P. Cornwell is continuing to murder the characters that we love so much. I can't stand this anymore and I don't think I will be buying her other books.
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on December 3, 2007
I'm just wondering what really happened to Mr. Benton Wesley because in the story "Point of Origin" he was killed. Then in this story he's back again? What really happened to him and where he'd been all those years that he was beleived to be dead? Is there a another book by Cornwell that tells what really happened to the character of Benton Wesley? I hope somebody can answer me. I hope Ms. Cornwell can. c:

Nevertheless, i love the Scarpetta Series. I'm actually addicted to it. Cornwell is indeed a brilliant author!
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on October 15, 2004
My first Cornwall book definitely won't be my last. Great character, and great style. Kay Scarpetta finally returns to her old job in Richmond, five years later and this is the perfect set up for Cornwall's tale of intrigue. She's been summoned by Dr. Marcus to help him sift through a murder of a fourteen-year-old girl. The rest, well, you'll have to read the book!
Would also recommend something completely different but equally great: THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD by McCrae
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on July 26, 2005
Once again, after reading Blowfly...I had to force myself to read this incredibly boring book. I kept reading, looking for the "punch lines" or the meat of the book. unfortunately, with the ending of the book...there just wasn't one. You had to add your own theory between Scarpetta..Benton..Lucy..and Henri. Talk about no meat. Where was the story?? Why did Henri even go and stay with Benton? What was the sense if Benton and everyone involved knew she was lying? What the hell was Lucy hiding from Scarpetta after everything her and Lucy had been through in the past? I hate it when I read a book, and I am pissed off at the end that I wasted my time. Sorry Ms. Cornwell, but this is the last book that you will suck me into buying. I don't know if your editor is pushing you or not, but I would think that you are professional enough, and have pride in your own writing that this would not be the case.
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on November 9, 2005
I disliked the 3rd person telling of this story a great deal. Hard to read and boring. Jumps all over the place. Won't be buying Cornwell anymore. Janet Evanovich, here I come!
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