Unnatural Exposure

Unnatural Exposure

Returning home from Ireland, where she had been called in to examine the remains of a murder victim whose body was marked by the signature of a cunning serial killer, medical examiner Kay Scarpetta is shocked when another body turns up, this time in a Virginia landfill. Lit Guild, Doubleday, & Mystery Guild Main.”


  • Hardcover: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; 1st edition (July 14, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399142851
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399142857
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (390 customer reviews)
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  1. This is a somewhat interesting, Dr. Kay Scarpetta mystery, replete with its usual attention to forensic detail, as well as a myriad of subplots. Though not her best novel, it still manages to entertain the reader.

    Once again, Dr. Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner, finds herself on the hunt for a serial killer, when the body of an elderly, dismembered woman is discovered in a Virginia landfill. Moreover, a mutated, high tech, variant small pox virus appears to be on the loose, and Dr. Scarpetta finds herself receiving taunting emails from the alleged killer, signing as “deadoc”. Couple all this with an overly ambitious and unscrupulous law enforcement agent named Percy Ring who arrests an obviously innocent man for the elderly woman’s death, and the reader has an intriguing mystery to unravel.

    Homicide Detective Pete Marino is pivotol to the success of this book. His relationship and repartee with Dr. Scarpetta contribute to many of the book’s highlights, and it is he who gives dimension to the book, as he is simply a wonderful, down to earth character. Dr. Scarpetta’s relationship with FBI Agent Wesley Benton is less memorable, as he is on the periphery of the story, for the most part, though in the end he provides closure for the torch Dr. Scarpetta was carrying for her ex-lover, Mark.

    The only real fly in the ointment, however, is the continued appearance of Dr. Scarpetta’s niece, Lucy, who is an obnoxious character. In the real world, Lucy would not be allowed to hold the position of responsibility that she does in the book, due to her compete immaturity. She is a loose cannon waitng to misfire at any moment. It flies in the face of her professionalism that Dr. Scarpetta seems unable to fathom this, but blood is thicker than water.Read more ›

  2. I’ve been a fan of Patricia’ Cornwell’s books for some time, and this one just not up to her usual level of quality.
    The book has a wonderfully interesting idea regarding the MO of the killer, but dissapointingly, this idea along with the character of the killer, is not really developed to the extent that you expect from earlier Cornwell novels.
    Most of the book revolves around sub-plots of the relationships between the many characters that have become part of Kay Scarpett’s life over the series of Novels. Unfortunately this comes at the expense of the story about the villain and the crimes.
    My preference is for the earlier, leaner, Kay Scarpetta books that concentrate on the murder mystery, the science of forensics, and the interplay between Marino and Kay.

  3. I have read all of Cornwall’s books and the last two Scarpetta novels have left me disappointed in the finish . When Scarpetta finally lets the reader in on who the germ warfare bad guy is, I had no idea to whom she was referring or when the character had been introduced. The conclusion was disappointing, confusing and gives the reader a sense that Cornwall lost interest in wrapping up the crime/book. From Potters Field ended with the same lackluster, rushed conclusion. In addition to being stilted, the finish seemed a bit preposterous — without giving the end away, the perpetrator of the crime does not fit the classic psychological profile of someone who would commit such a crime. On a positive note, Cornwall has already set up the plot for her next thriller with an additional crime (albeit one that sounds remarkably like the crime in the recently fabulous competitor’s book Deja Dead by Kathy Reich) that goes unsolved in Unnatural Exposure. All in all I give it a B — entertaining but not compelling.

  4. I listened to Cornwell’s earlier Cause of Death and Unnatural Exposure on tape and Unnatural Exposure is better. … Cornwell has created a first class nail biter that is flawed because of artificially created tensions, some poor characterizations and inconsistent philosophy.
    The mystery/thriller works pretty well on that level. The plot follows Cornwell’s heroine Kay Scarpetta initially through a serial killer’s dismemberings to a possibly contagious disease outbreak. There are twists and turns although the ultimate outcome is no great shock. Unnatural Exposure follows a standard path although most stories of this ilk have a premature solution that turns out to be false. I.e. the wrong person is arrested or found dead. In this one an innocent person is arrested but the reader knows it’s a false arrest from the word go. There is also someone found dead but it’s pretty obviously not the guilty party. Along the way we get graphic and gory forensic details of autopsies making the novel unsuitable for reading around mealtime.
    There are several problems with the novel aside from the mystery. Cornwell’s agenda gets in the way sometimes and she has fillers that detract from the story.
    Earlier in the story Scarpetta receives pictures via email that are described as gif files. All the pictures I receive are jpgs. Maybe this is an indication that the novel is becoming dated.
    I had a problem with some of the artificially created tensions. In particular, I found it offensive that airport security people would be portrayed as boobs for doing their jobs. Scarpetta shows up at the airport with body parts and hazardous materials and the security people and flight attendants are made to look like fools for questioning her the way they do.Read more ›

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