Book Review of Two Completely Different Types of Crime Fiction

  • Eleven on Top – Janet Evanovich
  • Scarpetta – Patricia Cornwell

Both these books are installments in highly popular crime series books, and I have been following both these series from the very first novel. However, those are the only similarities between these two authors and their books.

Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books are relentlessly funny, where she puts her heroine in a series of ridiculous, over-the-top situations to get laughs out of her readers. Her heroine Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter who has just about completed her school education, and is definitely not one of the brighter bulbs in crime fiction.

Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series on the other hand is relentlessly dark and serious. The heroine is Dr. Kay Scarpetta who is a Medical Examiner with a string of degrees under her name. She is committed and devoted to her work, although it takes a heavy emotional toll on her and the people who surround her. These books are also heavy on the blood and gore and might not always appeal to the reader who likes the crime-fiction to be not so detailed.

So, you get it…two very different books with very different styles of writing. One thing in common, I love both the heroines, and although both the book series are running out of steam, I still pretty much turn to them when I want me some chills n spills.

And without much ado, I go into reviewing them both.

Eleven on top

Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter has been having a tough time of it lately. And she has decided to hang up her boots and try out alternate professions – these are as diverse as working in a button factory, dry cleaners, and a fast food joint; and all leading to hilarious results. In the meantime, there is a mysterious stalker who is threatening her. There is also the usual romantic dilemma where Steph is torn between the two men in her life – Joe Morelli, her boyfriend, and Ranger, a sexy bounty hunter who works with her.

My thoughts on the book

Enjoyable, and easy to read. The plot is however extremely light-weight, almost a series of jokes and one-liners strung together to make a book. Also, the story is extremely predictable. However, still enjoyable and provides a couple of laughs.

Another thing I really appreciate with the series is how easy it is for the reader to understand where the book stands in a series. I just need to read the title to know that this is the eleventh book in the series. So reader-friendly, not all series books have this information so clearly spelt out.


Dr. Kay Scarpetta has been called on to attend Oscar Bane who has voluntarily committed himself to Bellevue (a mental hospital); he is suspected of brutally murdering his girlfriend. He refuses to speak to anyone except the high-profile Scarpetta with whom he seems to obsessed with. Meanwhile, someone masquerading as Scarpetta is lurking in cyberspace and supplying an online gossip site with dirty secrets about her. For help on the murder case, Scarpetta turns to her computer whiz niece Lucy, her husband Benton, and former colleague Marino.

My review

The book starts out with the gore. Here is the opening sentence of the book:

Brain tissue clung like wet, gray lint to the sleeves of Dr.Kay Scarpetta’s surgical gown, and the front of it was splashed with blood.

Ouch! I almost gagged while reading that. Thankfully, things get a little better from there. However, by no means does the book ever rise beyond the gory details into the thrilling arena. There is so much personal information, and intense over-analysis of everyone’s motives that the plot is totally pushed into the sidelines.

Here is an example of over-analysis:

When Marino forced himself on her, he wasn’t showing contempt or hate or trying to humiliate. Marino was taking what he wanted when she wouldn’t give it, because it was the only way he could kill an unrequited love he could no longer survive. His betrayal of her was actually one of the most honest things he’d ever done.

The above sentence is actually mouthed by Benton when he talks about a situation where Marino attempts to rape Kay who is his (Benton’s) wife!! Can you ever imagine any man talking like this? However intellectual they may be???

I was also able to guess the killer within the first few opening chapters itself, and so the rest of the book failed to really build any sort of suspense at all. I did hope that Cornwell would at least come up with an imaginative reason for the murders, but nope! all she does is bring out the tired old serial killer motif. I am beyond tired of serial killers. They just provide an excuse for lazy plotting. I mean even serial killers need some backstory, some reason, as to why they became killers in the first place. It is stupid, and lazy to say some one is a killer because he/she is a psychopath.

There are also disturbing sequences where puppies are killed, and an elderly widow is murdered. All in all, not very pleasant reading, although I must say it ends on a much lighter note than the previous book in this series Book of the Dead, which was a downright depressing read.

I find that Kay Scarpetta novels have now descended into a level that they are palatable only for hard-core Kay Scarpetta fans (and I must say I am one of them). The first few books in the series starting from Postmortem right up to Black Notice were truly high-class and one of the best in the genre.

Unfortunately, that is no longer quite the case.

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  • Hmm, thanks for this review. I’ve read the first 12 or so Stephanie Plum books and enjoy them, but I’ve never read the Kay Scarpetta books. I might skip those based on your review. Thanks!

    • @Swapna: Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog. Actually, it’s the later books in the series that are bad.

      The first few right up to “From Potter’s Field” are excellent crime thrillers, with strong female protagonsits. I highly recommend the first few books in the series.

  • PS. Bit shocked about Marino’s attempt to rape Scarpetta …. one of the reasons why I stopped reading the books was that I thought the characters that I had grown to love had started changing. This proves it … sadface.

  • Oh, I agree about the numbering on the Evanovich books. I’ve never read them but just the niceness of the title wrt series order is making me want to pick them up. As you can guess It’s one of of my pet peeves …

    And Scarpetta is married to Benton??? I always had a soft spot for Marino for some reason but I stopped reading the series after From Potter’s Field (I think, it’s been a long time). It was good to play catch up with the characters 🙂

    • Yes, I too always liked Marino, and found Benton to be very insipid.

      However, in the last few novels, Marino’s role has declined quite significantly; and what little role he has is rather pathetic. But things look up a bit for him in this book though.

      I think you are wise to stop with Potter’s Field. I somehow seem unable to stop even though I have long stopped enjoying this series.

  • Mae

    I’ve never read Evanovich but she’s so popular. I’m sure she’s a terrific writer but I think the garish and very similar looking covers is driving me away. What do you think of Katherine Heigl being cast into the role of Steph Plum? I’ve heard many protestations.

    I used to read Cornwell’s book when I was in high school … when I was around 13-14 I think!! That’s quite horrendous now that I think about it. I did enjoy them, even at the age, but I’ve moved on from these sort of crime fiction now (or perhaps I’m subconsciously scarred by them).

    • @Mae: Really, I didn’t know that. I know Hiegl only from Gray’s Anatomy, but I suppose she might be fine in the role. It’s not a very difficult role to play, and Evanovich has made her very generic in terms of physicality, so I guess any decent comedic actress should be able to manage it. I suspect the casting of the two men will be key. They need to be able to spice things quite a bit (something llike Twilight where the men get all the attention) 😀

      I also heard that Angelina Jolie will be playing the role of Kay Scarpetta. And I somehow can’t get my mind around that. On first thought, she somehow seems more suited to play the niece Lucy….but I suppose she can bring the required amount of intensity to the role. I would have much preferred Jodie Foster or even Meryl Streep in the role.

  • Janet evanovich sounds like something totally up my alley..thanx for the reco.

  • Aha…loved reading this combined review 😀 And tell me about over-analysis!

    I’ve never read Janet Evanovich. I probably should!

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