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Book Talk: Patricia Cornwell, ‘Livid’

“After three days in the Atlantic Ocean during a heat wave, April Tupelo wasn’t recognizable to her family.” April’s corpse winds up on the autopsy table of Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta, the protagonist of Patricia Cornwell’s 26th novel in the Scarpetta series. Naturally, Kay becomes a key witness for the prosecution in “Livid” (2022, 351 pages in hardback format).


Ms. Cornwell is one of my favorite authors, her first big success (“Postmortem”) having been published in 1990. That novel won the Edgar Award as the year’s best mystery novel, and it also won the Creasy, Anthony, and Macavity awards, as well as the French Pix du Roman d’Aventure prize. The 25 Scarpetta books preceding “Livid” have sold 100 million copies in 36 languages, and they’ve been best-sellers in about 120 countries.


So, it’s unexpected, to say the least, when attorney Bose Flagler rips her testimony on the witness stand into very small pieces. And he does it by “testifying,” a judicial no-no in court procedure. Yet Judge Annie Chilton, Kay’s friend and one-time roommate, allows the lawyer to break the rules. And all that Kay is trying to do is correct the errors made by her predecessor, Dr. Bailey Carter, who suffered from Rapid-Onset Dementia. It was Carter’s previous testimony that landed Gilbert Hooke, April’s boyfriend, in jail.

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