Review of Patricia Cornwell’s Latest Novel – Depraved Heart


The focus of my blog is to review book series and not individual novels, but writers are going to continue writing novels within a series even after I have done my review, so I plan on reviewing the individual novels as they come into circulation.   Patricia Cornwell has just recently added book #23, Depraved Heart, to the Kay Scarpetta series.

“Tell me about data fiction.”

“It’s what can happen if we’re reliant on technology that we become completely dependent on things we can’t see.  Therefore we can no longer judge for ourselves what’s true, what’s false, what’s accurate, what isn’t. In other words if reality is defined by software that does all the work for us then what if this software lies. What if everything we believe isn’t true but is a façade, mirage? What if we go to war, pull the plug, make life-and-death decisions based on data fiction?-Depraved Heart

Data fiction is a term created by Patricia Cornwell and is the theme of the latest Kay Scarpetta novel, Depraved Heart.  Cornwell uses the concept of ‘data fiction’ to create a psychological thriller that turns the world upside-down for our beloved gang of four; Kay, Lucy, Benton, and Marino.  At the heart of all of this is bad gal, Carrie Grethen, which many Scarpetta fans will recognize from previous novels especially the last novel, Flesh and Blood.  In fact, Depraved Heart is a continuation of Flesh and Blood and I would highly recommend reading it before Depraved Heart.

Cornwell’s depiction of ‘data fiction’ is not new to the thriller genre as many cyber-thrillers have also delve into this topic.  Fabrication and manipulation of information that is electronically generated is a real world problem.  It is true that we have become dependent as well as complacent about the information that we receive, and the potential for abuse is very real.  There have been numerous times where emails or videos have been taken out of context to skew reality, such as the incident of ‘Climategate’ and the firing of USDA official Shirley Sherrod. I applaud Patricia Cornwell for bringing forward the issue of ‘data fiction’ to the public’s attention through her fictional work.

Cornwell has received lukewarm reviews for the last few books in the series but I would say that Depraved Heart is a substantial improvement.  Cornwell has improved on a number of complaints that I have had with the series, such as Scarpetta’s constant nitpicking on Marino’s slovenly habits and Lucy’s invulnerabilities.  Marino puts his life on the line in Depraved Heart and proves that he once again he is the kick-ass cop that he once was earlier in the series.  I also appreciate that Cornwell has made Lucy more vulnerable and not quite the superhero for which she is normally portrayed.  The only real complaint that I have was that the ending came on rather suddenly and there are a lot of loose ends which I am sure will be dealt with in the next Scarpetta novel.

For fans of the series, this will be an enjoyable read.  If this is the first time you have read a Kay Scarpetta novel, you really need to read Flesh and Blood first and I also suggest reading The Body Farm and From Potter’s Field to get the full background on Carrie Grethen.

To learn more about the series check out Patricia Cornwell’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta series.


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