Hmm … well … Cornwell and Scarpetta are such a curate’s egg for me. The books are readable and so far I’ve always finished them but, for me, they could be much better. My biggest problem is that Scarpetta doesn’t grow; she’s stuck in her ways and terrified of change … as such she gets damned boring! Lucy’s new boss Teun McGovern says this of her in this book, “You’re awfully straight and narrow, aren’t you, Kay?” and so she is. Cornwell makes her say in response to this that this isn’t how she sees herself … no surprises there then! Later, Lucy is teaching Scarpetta to fly a chopper and she has to learn to go with the wind, the air, rather than try to correct them and she says to herself, – this was hard for me. I liked to make things better. – Yes, very true, she does and thereby stem so many of her difficulties. I really wish she could grow.

One thing in this book really got through. I lived ponies and horses all my childhood until my late twenties. At one point Scarpetta goes to see a farrier and there begins my problem with Cornwell’s research! Scarpetta tells us – farrier which was a modern name for an old-world blacksmith – No! you silly woman. Farrier is the name of a horse-doctor who, as part of his work, shoes horses. A farrier combines some blacksmith’s skills (fabricating, adapting, and adjusting metal shoes) with some veterinarian’s skills (knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the lower limb) to care for horses’ feet. The word farrier comes from the Middle French ferrier meaning blacksmith and from the Latin word ferrum for iron. It has been in use in Europe for centuries. A blacksmith is one who works metal, makes gates, hinges, metal tyres for wheels and rings for barrels, cannon, jewellery, belt-buckles; and sometimes she or he is a farrier as well – but not that often. Things get worse!

She goes on to say – he snatched a curved knife out of a pocket in his apron and began trimming the frog until the marbled white hoof showed underneath. – Yelp! Yikes! He’s killing the horse! The frog is an important part of the horse’s circulatory system — it pumps blood up the horse’s leg each time the frog makes contact with the ground. The blood flows down the horse’s leg into the digital cushion, a fibrous part of the inner hoof located just above the frog which contains a network of blood vessels. The horse’s weight then compresses the frog on the ground, squeezing the blood out of the digital cushion, and pushing it back up the horse’s legs. If the farrier cut the frog to the bone a) the horse would leap away from him in extreme pain and b) if he was able to cut to the bone the horse would likely bleed out and die. Do your damned research woman!

She finishes this ghastly fiasco with the words – Marino clung to the wall as he walked behind a horse that was at least fourteen hands high. – Well … gosh … that’s effing enormous! A hand = four inches therefore 14 hands = 56 inches, that’s four foot six inches in old money! Children and small people (like me) ride ponies (not horses – a horse is 15 hand and over!) and as she describes Marino’s height he’d easily be able to tuck this one under his armpit!

All this is not helping me get a good feel in reading the book. I keep getting annoyed. Her writing in this one isn’t as good as some of the others, presumably she gets ups and downs like most people (except Scarpetta!). As Cornwell says – and most writers know – there’s a lot of herself in Scarpetta. It’s worth reading for the main tragedy which will make more sense of the later books (I hope). I’m also not convinced about this apparently indestructible baddy … I’ve a feeling that may become dull and lead me to skip those bits.

The real tragedy of the story comes about 2/3rd through and as usual Cornwell gives you hints of this well before. It’s quite well done but not up to her usual standard. I’m not saying what it is at it’d be a real spoiler. It does give me some problems with later books though as I’m trying to work out how it was done and how it was possible … and why. I’m not sure Cornwell ever gives us all this, at least as yet. Am going to read Scarpetta and The Scarpetta Factor to see if she does.

As you can see, despite her occasional real idiocy and the fact that she seems unable to allow, or enable, Scarpetta to grow up, I still read her *smile*. Perhaps my annoyance with her is that she’s good but could be so much better. Sigh! Maybe she will …