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Publisher's Summary

In this fast-paced story, a treacherous path from Kay Scarpetta's past merges with the high-tech highway she now finds herself on. We travel back to the beginning of her professional career, when she enlisted in the Air Force to pay off her medical school debt and found herself ensnared in a gruesome case of what seemed to be vicious, racially motivated hate crimes against two Americans in South Africa.

Now, more than 20 years and many career successes later, her secret military ties have drawn her to Dover Air Force Base, where she has been immersed in a training fellowship to master the art of CT-assisted virtual autopsy - a procedure the White House has mandated that she introduce in the private sector.

As the chief of the new Cambridge Forensic Center in Massachusetts, a joint venture of the state and federal governments and MIT, Scarpetta is confronted with a case that could shut down her new facility and ruin her personally and professionally. A young man drops dead, apparently from a cardiac arrhythmia, eerily close to Scarpetta's new Cambridge home. But when his body is examined the next morning, there are stunning indications that he may have been alive when he was zipped inside a pouch and locked insider the Center's cooler. Various 3-D radiology scans reveal more shocking details about internal injuries unlike any Scarpetta has ever seen. These suggest the possibility of a conspiracy to cause mass casualties. She realizes that she is fighting a cunning and cruel enemy that is invisible as she races against time to discover who and why before more people die.

In Port Mortuary, Patricia Cornwell brings Scarpetta together with Marino, Benton, and Lucy in an intimate way that is reminiscent of the early novels, and we welcome a voice we haven't heard in years. The point of view is Scarpetta's - this is her story.

Flesh and bone: investigate more of Kay Scarpetta's forensic cases.
©2010 Patricia Cornwell (P)2010 Penguin

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Irritating and negative

The narrator dictates the mood and pulse of this book. What could have been a caring, thought-provoking Kay Scarpetta, turned into a negative, psychological twist that was irritating to listen to and not the intent of the author. Kay may be going through a life changing experience but not necessarily in the negative interpretation that the narrator displayed. I will think twice before listening to this narrator again.

  • Overall

What happened?

This was a major disappointment. The last few Scarpetta books have been less than stellar and I hoped that this one would be better. This one was worse! I really loved the earlier books. I know some are saying that the narrarter was part of the problem but she had nothing to work with in the book.

  • Overall

Boring !

I generally like the Scarpetta novels but this one is a real snooze. The first half drove me crazy. The reader is monotone and makes Kay Scarpetta seem dull and mean. The second part picked up as the reader seemed more animated.
This is my first review and my first big mistake in choosing a book.

  • Overall
  • Marjorie
  • Montrose, NY, United States
  • 01-18-11

Whine, whine, whine

I used to love this series but I think this is the last one I'll read. What an ego Kay Scarpetta has developed. No matter what happens she's sure its about her in some way. And all she does is whine throughout the book. If I were Benton I'd go back into the witness protection program just to get away from Kay.

  • Overall
  • Susan
  • Atlanta, GA, United States
  • 01-17-11

Big disappointment, yet again.

This is it. I am now officially giving up on Patricia Cornwell. Although the case at the center of this novel might have been reasonably interesting, most of the book was taken up with Scarpetta's angst, anger and self doubt bordering on paranoid fantasies. It was a profoundly irritating and repetitive read. Basically, this is a criminal case worthy of perhaps a short story or possibly a novella. Cornwell pads it with a lot of needless organizational and personal diversions. Don't bother, folks. This is not classic Cornwell, it's more of her recent drivel.

  • Overall
  • Colleen
  • Duluth, MN, United States
  • 01-15-11

Tedious and Self-indulgent

I have enjoyed past Scarpetta novels. However, I feel that while clinical accuracy gives the character credibility, extreme amounts of detailed clinical information that neither aids in character development nor moves the story forward is merely tedious and suggests that the author's desire to demonstrate their own knowledge in the specified clinical area greatly exceeds their desire to write a good novel. That unfortunately was the case with Port Mortuary.

At the same time, the best thing that can be said about the main character is that she has become quite self-indulgent, spending a great deal of the (too long) time dwelling in the past, while distrusting those closest to her, even though they are the people she has repeatedly chosen to surround herself with and the people she has helped them to become.

  • Overall
  • MONROE, NC, United States
  • 01-14-11

where is the old Scarpetta?

I don't like the Scarpetta we've seen of late...the past few books have been such a disappointment. I loved this series but won't read it anymore. This was the last straw...not sure how it's a best seller, it's awful. The narrator is awful too. Not sure if it's the writing or the way it's read but it's just very very hard to MAKE yourself finish this book. I am so sad too because I have always looked forward to the new book in this series coming out, but can't waste anymore money on it. It's not good anymore.

  • Overall
  • Jenny
  • Orlando, FL, United States
  • 01-11-11


So disappointed...Kay Scarpetta is depressing and the entire book lacked enthusiasm. There is no depth to any of the main characters. What happened to the Patricia Cornwell we all knew and loved?

  • Overall
  • Dave
  • Burlington, ON, Canada
  • 12-28-10

A disappointment all the way around

As a professional driver, I use audio books for my entertainment, as commercial radio (and even satellite radio now) just bore me. I've now tried three different times to "get into" this book, and just can't do it.

I'm sure there's a reason why Kate Burton has taken over reading the series. I'm sure that Kate Burton is a good performer, but her reading here is too monotonous, with little to any change in tone and inflection to differentiate characters (it actually gets to the point where you can't tell who's supposed to be speaking). Uninspired is the best I can say about this performance.

Kay Scarpetta's character has gone to a dark place (fine) but the book gets tediously over-melodramatic and musical track added to the reading is annoying at best.

If you *have* to get this book because it's a new Scarpetta, wait for your local library to get an audio version and borrow it. This is this *first* time I've been disappointed with a purchase from Audible (and I've been a customer for a number of years now).

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Poconos
  • pocono pines, pa United States
  • 12-21-10

Does not deserve One star!

I heard an interview of the author on Imus In The Morning and thought I'd listen to the book. I should have read the reviews first! This has to be one of THE MOST BORING books I have ever tried to listen to. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen but it never did....not even at the end which was finally, painfully reached. Most of the time I couldn't figure out what the heck was going on. There is no way I will go back and listen to earlier works by this author after listening to this complete TRAIN WRECK (as some other reviewer called it)!