Kez
26 October 2014 @ 10:16
BOOK REVIEW

SCARPETTA by PATRICIA CORNWELL




Whilst I agree with most people that the Scarpetta series tailed off somewhere around Blow Fly, I’ve still found the books difficult to put down up to this point. This 16th novel, Scarpetta, however, is the first that I’ve actually really battled to get through (I generally read these books within about three days, but it took me well over a month to finish this).

As with Cornwell’s previous novels, there seems to be less attention on the actual ‘whodunit’, and more on actual character development. This works in its favour once you consider that Scarpetta is rather ridiculously centred on a “midget murderer”; except, that the developments have a short life-span, and are more obviously about Cornwell trying to make a statement about personal issues she feels passionate about than any significant long-term plot development.

A character from many novels before, Jaime Berger, returns, and is trying to come to grips with her sexuality. Marino is now dealing with his new abstinence from alcohol. Scarpetta is grappling with issues of personal privacy, after someone pretends to be her on the internet. Lucy and Benton, meanwhile, seem to serve no purpose whatsoever, and Cornwell struggles to know what to do with them.

The story might have been more effective at the time of publication, but my overall feeling was that Cornwell had really let herself down with this book. The murderer was predictable, the characters were weak and I’ve actually felt discouraged from reading further in the series.

RATING: 5/10

NOW READING: CYCLING TO XI'AN AND OTHER EXCURSIONS by MICHAEL BUCKLEY
 
 
 
Kez
18 October 2014 @ 18:35
I was feeling slightly better when I woke up on Thursday 4 September, but was still a long way off shaking my cold. Still, I gave myself a firm pat on the back for having not taken any sick leave, and I knew that because the training was so difficult to arrange, I would have no choice but to suck it up and get through it.

So I turned up in some comfy clothes, made myself a cup of lemon and ginger tea, and went to find the room where I would embark on two days of guidance on feature writing. It was my hope that I could slump in somewhere at the back, but I realised when I arrived that there was only one other person than me, with another "possibly on his way".

So while I, along with one of the men from the Russian team sat there waiting, we got an introduction from our tutor. His name was Pal, he worked in the Delhi office, and his team specialised in covering East and South East Asia.

"I've got loads of questions I'm looking forward to asking you about your experience in China, kezumi," he said.

I coughed and spluttered in response, and realised that, oh boy, it wasn't going to be so easy for me to hide over these next two days...

Anyway, this third person never came, so we made a start. And we began by looking over five different articles, all produced by people who work for the company, and were asked to assess them for style, structure and substance.

That was when I heard the door open, and followed Pal's and Michael's eyes. And I nearly died seeing S stood there in the doorway, asking if this was the right room for some training he needed to do.

"Oh, please say yes, oh, please say yes," I was thinking to myself... but of course, as sod's law would have it, he was directed to another room.

Still, this was enough to temporarily pull me out of my head-cold coma. "If he's training, then he'll be here for a while," I thought. "I'll get to speak to him, I'll get to know him, I'll get to sl-"

"kezumi, can I ask you another question about China?" Pal asked. And thus, my reverie was broken, and I was pulled back into the present, and into getting on with work.

Thursday was really rewarding, and despite feeling lousy, I learnt a lot about the different ways in which I can improve my writing.

And that was reassuring, as I've been looking for some constructive feedback since I arrived here. Francis has been great in showing me how to adapt my writing to a more in-house style, but other than that, has been very complimentary, and I've been looking for ways in which I can improve. I guess to try and form some understanding of whether there's some real logic behind someone calling me "a crap writer and editor"!!!

But if there's anything I'm struggling with, it's structuring long pieces, and this is more of an issue for analysis than anything I've really done before. So it looks like I'm really on the right track :-)

The difficulty with structure in these types of piece is because we keep on reading evolving stories, and at some point, have to slam the breaks on, and write up what conclusions we can draw from this. And in particular, I've had difficulty doing this, with the case of Hong Kong. There is so much new content coming out all the time, and it's easy to keep reading, to find new and better quotes, and to get completely and utterly side-tracked from the point you were originally intending to make.

So Pal gave me some guidance on this, and I spent the afternoon writing a piece on the difference between mainland China and Hong Kong media reaction. And the plan was, for Michael and I to finish our respective pieces the following day, and then all go down the pub!

I'll continue with Friday 5 September in a bit. But it's that time of the week again, and I'm going to watch Strictly Come Dancing now!!!