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Kay Scarpetta #24
Patricia Cornwell

William Morrow
11/15/16/ ISBN 9780062436689
Suspense / Crime Scene Investigators /Detective

Reviewed by Elise Cooper


Chaos by Patricia Cornwell has a “chaotic” plot. This book fascinatingly shows how people are losing control. In some ways technology has made lives easier, while in other ways it has taken away one’s independence. Cornwell shows in this absorbing thriller how that can happen.

Cornwell commented, “The major theme in my most recent books is that we are living in the age of technology. My more current research is moving more and more towards the sorts of technology that the military is developing. A lot of what ends up in criminal investigations begins with the military. Much is first implemented in combat. A good example is when Scarpetta uses her CT scanner. It was modeled after the one at Dover Air Force Base. The military is also using a scanning x-ray electron microscope. It can possibly determine the projectile used to kill someone in combat and who was the one responsible for making it.”

Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the Cambridge Forensic Center’s Director, is receiving anonymous poems that are on the bizarre side from a cyber bully known as Tailend Charlie. In her professional life she must find out why two people died after being struck by lightning, including her good friend General John Briggs who has also been electrified. Scarpetta starts to suspect the involvement of Carrie Grethen, her nemesis. She determines that the deaths by “acts of nature” are actually related to this cyber bully, a cunning and technically savvy predator.

Will Carrie be the antagonist in future books? “I don’t know where Carrie will go and want to leave things open ended. She will be in the next book, which also has an international connection to Scotland Yard and Interpol. An old case has just re-surfaced.”

Dr. Kay enlists the help of her “work husband,” partner detective Pete Marino. They begin a perilous investigation of who is behind the cyber bullying and the murder of the two victims. Her niece Lucy does not play as prominent a role in this book as in others, but she is enlisted to try to find out how this criminal could have access to private information and the ability to use electricity for murder.

In this thriller Cornwell shows how Kay balances the demands of her work life with her personal life. Besides having to deal with a cyber bully she has to confront her feelings of sisterly rivalry with Dorothy. The backstory is told of their early life together and why at this time her sister decides to come for a visit.

Anyone who has a sister knows about rivalry. Cornwell wants readers to “think of Scarpetta as human with a family, scars, dysfunction, memories, and loses. Her only sibling, Dorothy, has always been in the shadow from day one of my books. She was going to be the homecoming queen in high school, while Scarpetta was the nerd in the science lab. In this book and going forward readers will spend some time with her. Her visit has a big connection to the plot.”

As with all her recent books, Chaos demonstrates how technology advances can be beneficial to criminals. Readers work the investigation with Scarpetta as they try to disentangle the puzzle and mystery of this gripping plot.


Reviewed 2016