Unnatural Exposure

Unnatural Exposure - Patricia Cornwell It's odd reading this in 2012, fourteen years after its publication; it must have seemed absolutely up to the minute in '98, with its online goings-on (on AOL!) and its virtual-reality recreation of the crime scene by Scarpetta's whiz-kid niece. And the supervirus/biological terror fears of our time (whether it be AIDS, which is specifically referenced, or bird flu, which is not) are skilfully exploited. But one is constantly just slightly jolted by the careful explanations of technological things that are every kid's playground this scant decade later; and also by the deep, deep sadness surrounding an HIV positive status, which is still treated in Cornwell's text as an automatic death sentence. And I winced at the assumption that the niece's lesbianism absolutely *had* to be kept quiet so as to preserve her FBI/military job; though maybe that wince still isn't entirely gone in the States.

Anyway, I won't spoil the ending. It's a classic old-sins-come-back-to-haunt-us one, and a not terribly obvious villain. Really I wasn't reading it for the solution of the mystery anyway; more for that strange sense of culture shock. Cornwell isn't in my top tier, mostly because her autopsy scenes are a bit too graphic for me (she no doubt appeals greatly to the CSI crowd), but this one didn't lose my attention for a minute. And that despite the fact that I am less than enthralled by a protagonist who can't seem to make up her mind amongst several highly presentable suitors.