Author Patricia Cornwell throws convention to the winds here, writing her 15th Scarpetta book in a present tense narrative that appears difficult to have been sustained. The reader loses that intimate connection with Scarpetta through her thoughts that was such a success in the earlier novels of the series, and with a more grim and distant Scarpetta, happiness continues to elude her still. What we've come to expect of this series with its characters has also been turned on its head as three of the main characters are treated as fodder, toyed with for shock value that is disappointing after the investment readers have made into such a long-running series.
There is also the sheer ridiculousness of the conversations in the book. Empty statements abound, characters rarely answer a question in context and are so often exploring tangents while in discourse with someone else that the reader is bewildered as to what it is they are actually discussing. It’s a little dabbling in the surreal here as the story bobs in and out of coherent thought with little hope of the reader keeping up with each new thread. Almost a hidden plot has the BOOK OF THE DEAD, which is far too crowded and close a book. It is hard to forget the early brilliance of this author, the undoubtable talent Cornwell possessed in balancing a modern woman's drama with the new ground of crime scene forensic examination. A terrible novel for the new reader, BOOK OF THE DEAD offers little in the way of backfill. As with any long running series, any information is always appreciated and to Cornwell's credit, she is masterful at imparting a lot with few words.
The micro-world of forensics here is not the problem; it’s the duck and weave game we play with the plot. Occasionally a direction is glimpsed, and then lost again. Flashes of Cornwell's earlier skill with manipulating a scene for emotional punch (all that persecuted, professional woman angst) will come through, and then is lost again to the vagueness in expression.