In Cruel and Unusual, Kay Scarpetta is called to investigate strange mutilations on the body of a thirteen-year-old boy in a coma, who has been kidnapped in front of a food store. On the same busy day, she must perform the autopsy on the body of Ronnie Waddell, a convicted murderer who has just been executed on the electric chair. Ten years before, Robyn Naismith, a famous anchorwoman, was found savagely assassinated, her body propped against her TV set. Waddell’s prints had been found at the scene. Marino and Kay soon notice that the two cases, apparently unrelated, bear strong similarities. Even more intriguingly, Ronnie Waddell’s fingerprint soon turns up near a third crime scene, an apparent suicide…

To Kay Scarpetta, things seem more and more bizarre, as one of her assistants, Susan Story, starts acting out of character during an autopsy. She also realizes that her files have been tampered with and asks for the help of her computer-wizard niece Lucy, who flies to Richmond to spend Christmas vacations with her.  Kay, who is still mourning the death of her lover Mark, will have a hard time confronting her now grown-up and sometimes blunt niece, and a even harder time with the unfolding of the investigation, as she herself becomes a suspect…

Cruel and Unusual is even better than the preceding volumes of the Kay Scarpetta series. The plot becomes more and more complex and convoluted, with many surprises and, this time, a loose element that makes the reader want to pick up the next volumes soon. With every book, Patricia Cornwell shows new aspects of this fascinating field that is forensic science, and the scene where Kay inspects a ten-year-old scene of crime is particularly striking…

Rating: 4/5