Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell
Welcome to the sixth stop on the Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell Blog Tour
To celebrate the publication of Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell on the 22nd of October 2015. I have an extract of the first few explosive pages to get you hooked!
I gave the vintage teddy bear to Lucy when she was ten and she named him Mister Pickle. He sits on the pillow of a bed made military tight with institutional linens tucked into hospital corners.
The chronically underwhelmed little bear stares blankly at me, his black thread mouth turned down into an inverted V, and I must have imagined he’d be happy, yes grateful if I rescued him. It’s an irrational thing to think when we’re talking about a stuffed animal, especially when the person having these thoughts is a lawyer, a scientist, a physician presumed to be coolly clinical and logical.
I feel a confusion of surprised emotions at the unexpected sight of Mister Pickle in the video that just landed on my phone. A fixed camera must have been pointed down at an angle, possibly from a pinhole in the ceiling. I can make out the smooth fabric bottoms of his paws, the soft swirls of his olive green mohair, the black pupils in his amber glass eyes, the yellow Steiff tag in his ear. I remember he was twelve inches tall and therefore an easy companion for a speeding comet like Lucy, my only niece, my de facto only child.
When I found the toy bear decades ago he was toppled over on a scarred wooden bookcase filled with musty-smelling obscure coffee table tomes on gardening and southern homes in a boutique-y area of Richmond, Virginia, called Carytown. He was dressed in a dingy knitted white smock, and I stripped him. I repaired several tears with sutures worthy of a plastic surgeon and placed him in a sink of tepid water, shampooing him with antibacterial color-safe soap, then drying him with a blow dryer set on cool. I decided he was male and looked better without smocks or other silly costumes, and I teased Lucy that she was the proud owner of a bare bear. She said that figured.
If you sit too still too long my Aunt Kay will rip your clothes off and hose you down and gut you with a knife. Then she’ll sew you up and leave you naked, she added gleefully.
Inappropriate. Awful. Not funny really. But after all Lucy was ten at the time, and her childish rapid-fire voice is suddenly in my head as I step away from decomposing blood that is brownish red with watery yellow edges on the white marble floor. The stench seems to darken and dirty the air, and flies are like a legion of tiny whiny demons sent by Beelzebub. Death is greedy and ugly. It assaults our senses. It sets off every alarm in our cells, threatening us with our very lives. Be careful. Stay away. Run for the hills. Your turn could be next.
We’re programmed to find dead bodies off-putting and repulsive, to avoid them literally like the plague. But embedded in this hardwired survival instinct is a rare exemption that is necessary to keep the tribe healthy and safe. A select few of us come into this world not bothered by gruesomeness. In fact we’re drawn to it fascinated, intrigued and it’s a good thing. Someone has to warn and protect those left behind. Someone has to take care of painful unpleasantness, to figure out the why, how and who and properly dispose of rotting remains before they further offend and spread infection.
I believe that such special caretakers are created unequally. For better or worse we’re not all the same. I’ve always known this. Give me a few strong Scotches and I’ll admit I’m really not quote normal and never have been. I’m not afraid of death. I rarely notice its artifacts beyond what they have to say to me. Odors, fluids, maggots, flies, vultures, rodents. They contribute to the truths I seek, and it’s important I recognize and respect the life that preceded the failed biology I examine and collect.
All this is to say that I’m unbothered by what most people find upsetting and disgusting. But not by anything that has to do with Lucy. I love her too much. I always have. Already I feel responsible and to blame, and maybe that’s the point as I recognize the plain vanilla dorm room in the recording that’s just ambushed me. I’m the master designer, the authority figure, the doting aunt who put her niece in that room. I put Mister Pickle there.
Kay Scarpetta’s most dangerous enemy is back and as she reaches out from the past it becomes clear she has a serious score to settle.
Need more? Of course you do! So pick up your copy of Depraved Heart today!