PATRICIA CORNWELL – Cruel and Unusual. Dr. Kay Scarpetta #4. Scribner’s, hardcover, 1993. Avon, paperback, 1994.

   On the night Ronnie Joe Waddell is executed for Homicide, a murder similar to the one he was convicted of is committed. Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta performed the autopsies on both. A few days later, a long-time correspondent of Waddell’s is found dead, an apparent suicide, and although Waddell had been on Death Row for ten years, his fingerprints are found in her apartment. Then Kay’s computer files are broken into and one of her assistants is murdered. All three victims were shot with the same gun, but things get even more complicated when Kay finds herself under investigation for the murders.

   Though I don’t think I saw it all the way through. I vaguely recall a Fu Manchu movie in which Christopher Lee was executed in the opening. Only (WARNING!) he really wasn’t you see, (END OF WARNING!) and I thought that’s where this was heading.

   I was wrong.

   For most of the way, I found this pretty gripping, with credible characters and nice pace. Unfortunately, Cornwell set herself a tough problem here, and her solution just wasn’t quite up to it … for me, anyway. Still, there are some nice moments before she runs off into Oliver Stone Territory.

— Reprinted from A Shropshire Sleuth #66, July 1994.