Across the Page: Suggestions to get you through the holidays

This month’s Across the Page features three books to get you through the holidays: Patricia Cornwell‘s latest crime thriller, Port Mortuary; Lucy Jane Bledsoe‘s adventure story, The Big Bang Symphony; and Dear John, I Love Jane, a collection of essays edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre.

Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell (Putnam)

Patricia Cornwell once again stretches her forensic science and storytelling skills in Port Mortuary, the 18th edition to her bestselling Kay Scarpetta series, and a gripping and terrifying novel.

The first edition to be narrated from Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s first person point of view since The Last Precinct, which was published more than a decade ago, Port Mortuary provides an intimate look inside a brilliant and expansive mind.

The story opens with Scarpetta studying Computer Tomography-Assisted Virtual Autopsy procedures at the Dover Air Force Base’s mortuary, but spends most of its time back in Massachusetts, where Scarpetta struggles with her new role as chief of the Cambridge Forensic Center (CFC).

When the body of a young man comes to the center after dropping dead from cardiac arrhythmia, Scarpetta slowly detects signs that the man may have been alive when he was placed in the body bag and in the CFC’s cooler. Scarpetta is appropriately haunted and confused by the horrific reality of this possible mistake.

She also understands that the situation threatens her professional reputation. Scarpetta’s lesbian niece, Lucy, has her own theories for what happened and suggests a possible conspiracy. "My niece and her phobias," Scarpetta thinks, "Her obsession with explosives. Her acute distrust of government."

But when Scarpetta is able to utilize the 3-D autopsy tricks she learned at the Dover Air Force Base, she soon sees there is far more to the mystery of the man in the body bag than she initially realized.

Cornwell is a master at suspense and Port Mortuary is a worthy addition to this celebrated series. It will keep you up at night.

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