Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fourth Post in Praise of Women Crime Writers

Patricia Cornwell, creator of the Kay Scarpetta mysteries used to live in Richmond, Virginia. The first novel in the series, Postmortem, is based on a notorious real-life serial killer case that had Richmond connections. (The Killer was Known as the Southside Strangler) In both the book and real life, the killer was a strangler. In real life, he was a "secreter" and it was DNA that did him in.  (It was the first time the Commonwealth of Virginia successfully used DNA in a legal case to prove the identity of an assailant.) There were some interesting things about the real-life case. The killer was a black man who crossed racial lines with his victims, which is unusual.  One of the victims was a young Asian-American girl, another was a 35-year-old white woman named Debbie Davis.
I knew Debbie Davis. She worked at Richmond Style Weekly with me in the late 80s. She was the only child of parents who had been older when she was born and her death just about killed them too. Remember Fred Goldman's emotionally blasted response to his son's death? Multiply that by ten.

Cornwell took a lot of heat for using the murders as part of her plot and the truth is, she changed a lot of things, including Richmond's geography. It was a good introduction to the series and to the character and for the next several novels, Kay Scarpetta ruled.
But Cornwell fell in love with one of her minor characters, Kay's gorgeous and insanely smart lesbian niece and the more she was featured, the less interesting the books became. Then there was Kay's sometime love interest, who had one false death and then a real one. By then, I didn't care. I loved Kay Scarpetta s a character, and with the forensic detail (which predated CSI by a decade) but I fell out of love with the books.
I never fell out of love with medical thrillers and medical mysteries though.  I love CJ Lyons' Angels of Mercy books with their cast of smart women who work at Angels of Mercy hospital. She now has several franchise characters going, including an Erin Brockovich series. Tess Gerritsen (who earned her MD), is in a class by herself. Loved her Bone Garden and Harvest as well,  but love her Rizzoli & Isles books even more.
Leah Ruth Robinson, a former real-life medical technician, is the author of several books featuring Dr. Evelyn Sutcliffe, who practices at one of New York's biggest hospitals. Look for First Cut, Unnatural Causes, and Blood Run. (Robinson has one of the lowest writer profiles I've ever seen. Her wedding announcement is on line but not a decent author page.)
Suzanne Proulx's novel Bad Blood was writen while she worked in a hospital as a paralegal.Her heroine, Victoria Lucci, is a hospital risk assessment manager.  There are several books in the series.
Kathy Reichs' novels aren't strictly medical thrillers but they're a lot of fun. (I've never seen the television show Bones that's based on her series about Dr. Temperance Brennan, but I've devoured most of the books in the series.





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