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What happens to someone who is unidentified in New York City when they need to be buried? Its called The Potters Field.
In this novel, you don’t realize straightaway what the reference to the book title is about, but it all becomes eerily clear as you read on.
The book really starts with the discovery of a naked woman's body in New York on Christmas Eve. Unidentified the woman looks destined to land up in The Potters Field. Although out of the jurisdiction of Dr. Kay Scarpetta, who is the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia based in Richmond – A flag comes up on the computer, bringing Dr. Scarpetta and the FBI into the fray. The name flagged as being the possible suspect – Temple Gault: A name that strikes fear in everyone - A murderer who is already well known to Dr. Scarpetta and the FBI but has so far eluded capture.
It becomes apparent that Gault is, as another character in the book alludes – bringing presents in the form of his victims and crimes to Scarpetta, much like a cat brings the mouse it has killed into the house as a present for its owner. Gault’s actions become increasingly more daring, making Scarpetta’s usually balanced world increasingly scary and difficult to handle.
This allows Cornwall to bring in a wide range of emotions to the main characters in the book. Not just Scarpetta, but the family and friends around her as the madness increases. Sadness, helplessness, rage, fear and terror all show in Scarpetta as she tries to unravel the mystery of Gault and his killings. All adding extra depth of character and giving far more dimension to the story than you might otherwise get in a crime thriller novel.
You also get given some of the physiological evaluations to help explain circumstances, as well as some of the more graphic medical procedure in Autopsy, but most is not so graphic that it becomes gratuitous, it just helps set the scene for the reader, which is exactly as it should be. You feel the horror of what has happened, without it going overboard in its attempt to convey it. You also know Patricia Cornwall has spent a lot of time researching these aspects of her books, making it as real for you as a reader as is possible.
Gault begins to step up the pressure and it begins to take its toil on the main characters, not least Scarpetta . Scarpetta begins to ask some questions of her own, and they begin to give us some fascinating answers, and you can’t wait to see where those answers will begin to lead you.
With most of the Scarpetta novels I would highly recommend that you start at the beginning of the sequence of books and work through them to get a full feel for the characters. However, in The Potters Field I think that Patricia Cornwall has managed to make the characters much easier to understand; even if this is the first of her novels you pick up to read. Making it an excellent choice for old and new fans alike!
Highly recommended for any fan of Crime Thriller Fiction.