Archive for November, 2007

Book of the Dead

November 20, 2007

People keep secrets, but it’s the secret they keep from themselves that’s often the most damaging. Patricia Cornwell’s new novel is a sophisticated juggling act of emotional deflection and indirection, which provides a vibrating undercurrent to the plot. Readers who take this story at face value only will have missed the point: there’s a lot more going on than just Scarpetta and gang solving another series of murders. It’s no surprise that cancer is a metaphor of a sickness of the soul from which, to one degree or another, all the characters suffer. As one puts it, you ignore depth psychology to your peril. Despite the fact that “truth is relief,” few people have the courage to embrace it – especially when it’s about them. Cornwell is maturing as a writer, exploring beyond the overt activities of genre formulas to the unwieldy force of powerful emotions that can ambush. The pervasive sense of water seems clearly a symbol of submerged feelings, which, though unseen, can nevertheless direct behavior onto paths of harm and regret. The unregulated arena of the Internet serves a similar function, and readers who spot these metaphors early gain the added pleasure of watching how covert forces move the plot as surely as any character’s actions. For me, the best part was the way good people mirror bad, because it’s a reminder that, under certain conditions, anyone can harm another – even people who love each other. As a result, these characters remain alive for readers as people not props, keeping this impressive series going. I, for one, want to see what happens next.