This morning, Hartford Books Examiner reviews new titles from two of crime fiction’s leading ladies: Patricia Cornwell’s “Depraved Heart” and Tess Gerritsen’s “Playing with Fire”—both out tomorrow (10/27).
“Depraved Heart” (William Morrow) is Cornwell’s twenty-third book to feature medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta, and picks up just two short months after “Flesh and Blood” (2014) left off. As the story opens, readers find Scarpetta—still recovering from being shot underwater with a spear gun—interrupted at a crime scene by the arrival of a video link that appears to have come from her tech savvy niece Lucy’s In Case of Emergency (ICE) cell phone number. The video, which dates back nearly twenty years to Lucy’s time at Quantico, appears to have been filmed surreptitiously by Lucy’s psychopathic ex-lover, long thought to have perished in a downed helicopter but who has since resurfaced with a vengeance. Despite evidence of her existence, authorities officially maintain that she is dead.
Given the video’s implications, Scarpetta and investigator Pete Marino opt to leave their crime scene—an apparent accidental death that will prove to be anything but—and check in on Lucy. Upon arrival, they discover that the FBI has raided Lucy’s estate and appears hell bent on amassing criminal charges against her that would result in imprisonment. With those she holds most dear at risk, Scarpetta must endeavor to understand a depravity unlike any she’s ever known. But who can she trust? And what exactly is the end game?
Cornwell is always top-notch when it comes to forensic science, and “Depraved Heart” is a not-so-subtle reminder that Scarpetta predated the CSI generation—and that she’s no less relevant now. Here, Cornwell explores a subject that is equal parts fascinating and frightening: data fiction. The entirety of the narrative unravels in a twenty-four hour time period, and while there are moments of action that propel the story it’s the psychological intimacy that serves as the true driving force. While casual readers may find this a bit tedious, loyalists will rejoice at the opportunity to get into the head and heart of Cornwell’s most beloved character.
Meanwhile, Tess Gerritsen—best known for her popular series featuring Rizzoli and Isles (the inspiration for TNT’s drama of the same name)—offers up a stand-alone novel with “Playing with Fire” (Ballantine Books). Violinist Julia Ansdell purchases an old, handwritten composition when visiting Rome (the Incendio waltz) and sets out to learn the piece upon her return to Boston. But each time she plays the melody, her three-year old daughter Lily has violent and inexplicable outbursts. Given that these episodes have gone unwitnessed by others—and the fact that mental illness runs in her genes—Julia vows to discover the music’s origins before she loses her family and/or her freedom.
Julia returns to Italy, where a deadly game of cat-and-mouse ensues as she seeks help in discovering knowledge of Incendio’s enigmatic composer: Lorenzo Todesco. Gerritsen’s narrative alternates between present and past, illuminating secrets that date back to Venice during World War II but continue to influence contemporary life. These dueling storylines are rendered seamlessly, and ultimately tied together in a surprising-yet-satisfying manner. Despite variations of time and place, there is an overarching theme: that true love can transcend death and devastation.
Gerritsen, who played piano and violin as a child (and who composed Incendio, which was recorded by Yi-Jia Susanne Hou and will be available for purchase on iTunes), skillfully brings music to life on the page. But it’s her empathic depiction of Italy’s Jewish population during the occupation, and of the non-Jews who selflessly came to their aid, that sings. Like the most haunting, heart-achingly beautiful song, “Playing with Fire” is immediately resonant and entirely unforgettable.
Review copies of Patricia Cornwell’s ‘Depraved Heart’ and Tess Gerritsen’s ‘Playing with Fire’ were provided by the publishers.