Review of “Chaos” by Patricia Cornwell

This is the 24th book in the crime fiction series featuring forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta, who now is the head of the Cambridge Forensic Center in Massachusetts.


As the story opens on a suffocatingly hot day in early September, Kay and Police Investigator Pete Marino are called to the scene after 23-year-old cyclist Elisa Vandersteel is found dead in John F. Kennedy Park. Marino got a call about the case allegedly from Interpol, although it’s glaringly and annoyingly obvious to everyone but Marino and even Kay for a while that it was a fake call.

Kay has gotten her share of prank calls lately as well. These threatening calls come from someone identifying himself as “Tailend Charlie.” The voice on the calls has been manufactured to sound like Kay’s deceased father, and the messages are delivered in Italian, always at 6:12, which is Kay’s date of birth. Moreover, they always last 22.4 seconds; 224 was the street address where Kay grew up.

Kay and Marino discuss the current death, the calls by Tailend Charlie, and the upcoming visit of Kay’s sister Dorothy in confusing and chaotic dialogue, although this is probably not the “chaos” to which the title refers. When Kay’s FBI husband Benton Wesley enters the picture, the dialogue does not become more comprehensible. Clarity is not the strong point of this book.

As Kay and Marino analyze the crime scene, they discover that Vandersteel was a victim of some sort of electrocution, in a way similar to other recent puzzling deaths. In spite of some badly done red herrings, Kay, Marino, and Benton – for inexplicable reasons – suspect involvement of the pathological Carrie Grethen, nemesis of Kay and her niece Lucy.

The story builds to a predictable climax, and ends with a surprising revelation that ensures the storyline will continue in future books.

Evaluation: The plot is a bit silly and the dialogue is hopelessly garbled. Except for the interesting forensic details, the book was a great disappointment to me.

Rating: 2.5/5

Published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2016


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3 Responses to Review of “Chaos” by Patricia Cornwell

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I used to love her books but then something happened and they’re not the same.

  2. Beth F says:

    Sob! I haven’t read this series in a while so I was looking forward to this.

  3. Eco Girl says:

    what a disappointment “Chaos” is… sorry my daughter spent her hard-earned money as my gift. It “CRAWLS and CRAWLS with senseless repetitive verbiage. Used to love her books, this and the last one I read went half unread and quickly to the dumpster

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