Patricia Cornwell turns from forensics to police procedures in her latest novel, Hornet's Nest. This book is less a thriller than a character study of the main characters: Judy Hammer, chief of police in Charlotte, North Carolina; Hammer's deputy, Virginia West; and Andy Brazil, a young reporter assigned to ride with the police as they go about their jobs.
The decision to abandon her forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta (Body of Evidence; Cause of Death; etc.) leaves Cornwell lacking more than a fail-safe series heroine. The only credible element in this novel is the urban New South setting. The story-about two women top cops and a young male newspaper reporter in Charlotte, N.C.-is routine fare at best. The three characters-42-year-old Deputy Chief Virginia West; her boss, unhappily married Chief Judy Hammer; and handsome wunderkind journalist and volunteer cop, Andy Brazil-are preternaturally competent automatons, obsessive and utterly devoid of self-awareness. A sequence of serial killings of out-of-towners, men who are pulled from their rental cars, sexually mutilated, marked with orange spray paint and shot, creates tension in Charlotte. While Hammer struggles with city politics and a depressed, obese husband, West contends with Brazil (a "handsome and fierce" 22-year-old with "total photographic recall"), who is on assignment to write about police activity, having impressed his editor by turning in "a hundred of hours' overtime five months in a row." Rather than reveal her characters through their words and actions, Cornwell forces them on us predigested ("West believed women were great"; "Brazil did not believe prostitution was right."). In that same descriptive mode, she takes them on roller coaster rides of extravagant emotion-rage, grief, resolve, despair-and offers set pieces in place of plot: mid-book, more than 150 pages pass without mention of the murders. We are made privy to the fantasies of West's cat, but not to the motivations behind the killings. There is nothing to believe in on these pages beyond Charlotte itself. 750,000 first printing; $500,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections.
The Hornets nest
Interesting characters, but really poorly written. That being said, it's an engaging, fast summer read.
this was way to long for the shallow story I received. I found that I did not care about any of the characters! Character building is one of the most important parts of reading for me.
the "bad guy" didn't show himself for most of the book. We did not have any insight on who he was and why he killed!
Don't waste your time.
Excellent read. So different from Cornwell's Scarpetta mysteries that it's scary, as scary as the evil deeds on ever complex levels reporter Andy, police Commander West and Chief Hammer encounter. Bravo! Compelling, deeply etched characters who never let their flaws and private tragedies deter them from confronting the meanness and murderous evil doers that have unexpectedly thrown them together in Charlotte, SC. I couldn't put it down. Right up there with the best of John Connolly, J.L Burke, Michael Connelly and PATRICIA CORNWELL... Keep 'em coming. Please!
J.S., Park City, UT