Fiction: “Unnatural Exposure” by Patricia Cornwell

Unnatural Exposure by Patricia CornwellAfter I finished The Runaway Jury with great speed, I found myself still stuck in Jury Duty with nothing (appropriate) to read. (At the time, I was/am reading two historical romance novels, and since I had lambasted on Twitter a woman in the jury pool who brought Fifty Shades of Gray to Jury, I wasn’t about to be caught dead reading After the Abduction in public.) Since the other John Grishams all dealt with the lawyers and not the jurors, and also, I was in a pissed-off mood about having to deal with the whole damn thing, plus I was selected for TWO MORE JURIES which meant that I was going to be in an enclosed space with people I didn’t know or particularly like …

Hey, it’s not flying cross-country, but it felt like it. To the next Patricia Cornwell!

So I dug in with glee, knowing I would at least find something else to bitch about as the week wore on. What was Kay Scarpetta going to be all judgy about this time? She already knocked Zima in her previous book; maybe this time she’d take on candy corn?

Here’s what shocked me: the further I read, the less dogears I made. To the point where, I actually found myself … not enjoying it, exactly, but at least not completely hating it?


The novel starts with Kay Scarpetta in Ireland, researching an old serial killer and also teaching at Ireland College (SHUT UP I’M NOT LOOKING IT UP). She gets called back to Richmond when a body eerily similar to the serial killer is found. And all I can think is, “Of course — the serial killer had fixated on Kay. Again. What else is new?” But when she examines the body, she realizes that this is a copycat of the serial killer. For no apparent reason except to be a copycat. Ooookay… ?

As she examines the body, she finds some rashes that appear to be chicken pox. But as she does more analysis, she discovers that it could be smallpox, or worse, a mutated form of smallpox. The investigation continues, with the end result of the virus spreading, potentially causing a pandemic (which I like to think of as an epidemic, but with panic) (never mind, I just looked it up) and of course, Kay exposed herself to the virus, so she has to go live in a quarantine chamber which I imagine to look a lot like Dr. No’s underground lab-slash-living quarters, complete with nursemaids that drug your coffee so you can sleep.

While all of this epidemiology is going on, Kay is working through some ~issues with Benton Wesley. (A of all – I totally spelled ‘epidemiology’ correctly on the first try; I rock! B of all – I really need to watch that episode of Community right now. C of all – if Sydney the Laptop decides to play some ABBA, I’m going to be back in approximately 22 minutes.), See, in the last book, Wesley has divorced his wife and he and Kay are pursuing a relationship, but Kay is extremely set in her ways and unsure how to proceed with her new relationship with Wesley. To wit:

When Wesley moved a piece of furniture or even returned dishes and silverware to the wrong cabinets and drawers, I felt a secret anger that surprised and dismayed me. [44]

So while Kay is all worried that she might be coming down with monkeypox — and I’m not being a bitch there, apparently there is a contagious virus called monkeypox — she’s dealing with the fact that she could be accepting of Wesley’s comfort because he lurves her, but instead, she’s going it alone, because that’s where she feels most comfortable.

I do have to point out that yes, in the end, the disease was All About Kay (TM), and if you don’t expect that going in, you’re more naive than I was back when I thought that I’d be able to get out of jury duty right away.

Grade for Unnatural Exposure: 1.5 stars


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