Leaving behind her private forensic pathology practice in Charleston, South Carolina, Kay Scarpetta accepts an assignment in New York City, where the NYPD has asked her to examine an injured man on Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric prison ward. The handcuffed and chained patient, Oscar Bane, has specifically asked for her, and when she literally has her gloved hands on him, he begins to talk—and the story he has to tell turns out to be one of the most bizarre she has ever heard.
The injuries, he says, were sustained in the course of a murder . . . that he did not commit. Is Bane a criminally insane stalker who has fixed on Scarpetta? Or is his paranoid tale true, and it is he who is being spied on, followed and stalked by the actual killer? The one thing Scarpetta knows for certain is that a woman has been tortured and murdered—and more violent deaths will follow. Gradually, an inexplicable and horrifying truth emerges: Whoever is committing the crimes knows where his prey is at all times. Is it a person, a government? And what is the connection between the victims?
In the days that follow, Scarpetta; her forensic psychologist husband, Benton Wesley; and her niece, Lucy, who has recently formed her own forensic computer investigation firm in New York, will undertake a harrowing chase through cyberspace and the all-too-real streets of the city—an odyssey that will take them at once to places they never knew, and much, much too close to home.
Throughout, Cornwell delivers shocking twists and turns, and the kind of cutting-edge technology that only she can provide. Once again, she proves her exceptional ability to entertain and enthrall.
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I ended up reading this almost by accident and against my better judgement after the really poor experience with the last few books in the series. I don’t know why I downloaded it but it somehow ended up being the last book on my Kindle and it was easier to give it a go than start the process of looking for new books.
I was very surprised to find myself enjoying it! It’s a great return to the characters that I enjoyed in earlier books. Benton is still disappointing but Lucy is more engaging. There are a number of interesting characters specific to the story as well as a reintroduction of Jaime Berger from an earlier book. The tension of the relationship between Marino and Kay is handled really well and I hope it can be resolved completely in later books.
The actual story is also very good and quite compelling to read. The handling of Oscar’s story in particular was very good. Pacing is excellent once you get past the initial Oscar/Kay meeting and the unfortunately standard angst between Benton and Kay in the first quarter of the book. Once past this I found the story pretty gripping and flew through the second half in particular.
This book has finally restored my faith in the series and with another eight left I think I’ll give the next one a go as well – ever the optimist!
The Liveship trilogy continues the dramatic tale of piracy, serpents, love and magic. The Vestrit family’s liveship, Vivacia, has been taken by the pirate king, Kennit. Held captive on board, Wintrow Vestrit finds himself competing with Kennit for Vivacia’s love as the ship slowly acquires her own bloodlust. Leagues away, Althea Vestrit has found a new home aboard the liveship Ophelia, but she lives only to reclaim the Vivacia and with her friend, Brashen, she plans a dangerous rescue. Meanwhile in Bingtown, the fading fortunes of the Vestrit family lead Malta deeper into the magical secrets of the Rain Wild Traders. And just outside Bingtown, Amber dreams of relaunching Paragon, the mad liveship …
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Second of three books in the series and while definitely setting the scene for what should be an outstanding finale it’s a fantastic book in its own right.
Following in the same style as the first book this story is very much about the characters. There is further development of the main characters but increased development of characters only introduced in the first book. Kennit, Malta and Reyn all take a more central role but the star of the story is Paragon – The Mad Ship.
Much of Paragon’s story is detailed while much more is insinuated. Intertwined with his story is that of the serpents and the Rain Wilds. Just enough detail is given to confirm details hinted at already while leaving you wondering about the rest. An expert tease!
A fabulously detailed combination of stories that creates immense anticipation for the final chapter and conclusion of everyone’s story.
At the end of September Donegal was moved to Level 3 of the government’s “Plan for Living With Covid19“. From a cycling point of view this means I can no longer leave the county. In order to keep going with the Audax Ireland RRTY Challenge I needed a Donegal option as the Dark Hedges 200 is Co. Derry and Antrim. Taking a provisional route from a couple of years ago and some modifications I came up with a good route staying within the county boundary.
I sent the route to Audax Ireland for consideration and within a couple of days it was reviewed, accepted and published on their website. I was surprised how easy it was and I was a little bit caught out as I hadn’t put much of a route description in but getting an edit was as simple as sending a second email with my description.
Actually riding the route was the next challenge! I had ridden the majority of it before but not as one complete route and the section from Ardara to Doochary was completely unknown to me.
I had booked a couple of days off work and had planned to complete the route on one of these. Looking at the weather forecast the previous week, I’d settled on Tuesday. This worked well as it gave me Wednesday as a rest day before going back to work as well as what was predicted to be the best weather day.
Monday evening it looked like the wind was changing direction and staying strong for longer than initially expected. Getting up on Tuesday morning it had worsened further swinging around to become a N/NE breeze and up to about 24km/hr through the middle of the day. This would of course coincide with the time I’d be cycling straight into it from Donegal Town to Letterkenny!
My plan was to get up at 6:30am and get away from the house by 7:30am. I spent ages faffing about, trying to decide whether or not to go or delay until Wednesday. It was 8am before I convinced myself to go and if I’d had even the slightest encouragement from Catriona I’d have stayed put.
It was a real novelty doing an Audax without having to drive to the start. The official starting location is Ballybofey but you can start a Permanent at any point along the route. As it passes the end of our road (clever route design!) I was on the official spin within 5min of leaving the house.
My first 10km is the last 10km of the route and pre-lockdown would have been my warmup for going to a Club spin. Heading into Ballybofey I met the start of the early school/work rush hour build up and thankfully I was soon out of town and off the main road heading up the first climb of the day to the Derg Line via Meenglass. I was nicely warmed up and felt pretty good, keeping my power and heart rate low and cadence high. The road wound up the hill with high hedges forming tunnels at times and with the leaves turning there were loads of photo opportunities but I had to enjoy looking only as I didn’t want to stop on the climb.
The Derg Line meets the main road again just before Barnes Gap. This is a lot more enjoyable as it’s mostly a fast drop through the actual Gap with a good hard shoulder. The only negative was the windmill construction work part way down and the resulting muddy hard shoulder that left me spattered literally from head to toe and regretting not using mudguards.
About 7km later the route leaves the main road again and heads for Laghey via back roads and eventually on to Ballintra. I rode this a couple of weeks ago as part of a Club spin so it was very familiar as well as enjoyable with a slight tailwind to make things easier. Ballintra is also the first control point. It wasn’t easy taking a selfie in this small village without getting funny looks from the few residents out and about at that time of the day.
The route bends back towards Donegal Town avoiding the main road by using some of the back roads that wind around Rossnowlagh and Murvagh, both locations of beautiful beaches but both unfortunately out of sight. It eventually spits back out on the main road back at Laghey but only for a couple of KM before heading into Donegal Town centre and back out the Killybegs Road.
Dunleavys Spar on the outside of town gave me the perfect opportunity for a sandwich, tea, water top up and a toilet break at 65km. As the showers were drying up and the sun showing its face I was also finally able to remove my Sportful water resistant gillet and enjoy the weather.
The improving weather nicely coincided with some of the more scenic sections. Heading out the main road towards Mountcharles the route takes a left down to the coast and follows a beautiful coast road around the bay. Views were fantastic across to Co. Sligo and Mayo as well as further along Donegal Bay. After a few KM the route turned more Northerly and the climbing work began.
At this stage I was climbing for most of the next 12km until reaching the top of the ridge between Frosses and Glenties. This was a bit of a test of my climbing legs and fitness but so far, so good and I was feeling happy about the day so far. I was also starting to head more into the breeze but it was still light and I was sheltered to a large extent by the very ridge I was climbing. Over the other side I was descending towards Glenties and the breeze helped cool me off after the long climb.
The road drops down to the main road between Glenties and Ardara but the route I designed turns off before the last 5km and uses small back roads to approach the outskirts of Ardara. This was my only route miscalculation but it was a bad one. I’ve never ridden these roads and relied on RideWithGPS to plot the route. Unfortunately this took me along a farm lane that was basically rock and mud with large potholes and no tarmac at all. I was extremely worried about damaging my wheels or falling off but also didn’t want to get off and try to walk for fear of soaking my feet or twisting my ankle. I didn’t want to go back and didn’t know where to detour so ended up going on, very slowly and very carefully. Eventually the lane spat me out on some poor but infinitely better tarmac and I was soon back on the road and approaching Ardara. This miscalculation has now been removed and rectified for the next time.
I didn’t enter Ardara proper as I once again used side roads to bypass the town and bring me out on the Narin/Portnoo road. I’ve also decided that this was a bad idea as the next shop isn’t until Letterkenny, almost 70km away. The new route would leave Ardara as an approximate halfway point and a good option for a hot meal or a cup of coffee/tea at the very least, especially important for the colder months.
Leaving Ardara I was now heading straight into the breeze. The sun was still out so I was feeling OK and still confident. This is a lovely scenic area with lots of views but I kept pushing on for the second control. This is at the Dolmen Centre, a community centre named after the Kilclooney Dolmen located a short walk away. As you cycle this area there is a real neolithic feel as there is an amazing amount of large exposed rocks filling the landscape. This whole area must have been deposited with rocks as the ice retreated during the Ice Age. Many of the gardens have embraced the rocks and integrated them into their gardens and landscaping.
The Dolmen Centre was the mid way point for me and I used the picnic bench outside as an opportunity for a break and unfortunately just a cold lunch. I would have loved a cup of tea at this stage as the sun had now disappeared and the wind was getting stronger and colder. It was here that I met a very chatty local lady walking her very furry whippet dog. She had a problem with her electric bike the previous night, left it propped up outside the Church and couldn’t find it today. She seemed very laid back and relaxed that it was missing despite it being her only form of transport so I hope someone just made it safe for her and that she got it back.
Leaving the Dolmen Centre the road goes through a series of short, steep rolling hills and swings around to the NE. This is where the wind really made itself known. I always struggle with the third quarter of any Audax I’ve done. It seems to be a combination of energy levels both physical and mental. This was also a really hateful section of road. The terrain and the wind seemed to be conspiring against me, I was getting cold and tired and really questioning my decision to go out today. Somehow I dragged myself round the coast to Lettermacaward, across the really impressive Gweebarra Bridge and into Doochary. This section is beautifully scenic but my heart really wasn’t in it and I just focused on keeping the pedals turning on a bike that now seemed to weigh three times what it did earlier.
I stopped again shortly after leaving Doochary. It was simply where I could get pulled in, an unremarkable little stone bridge over a noisy stream, sheltered by some trees and out of the wind. I had some more food and a few jelly babies to try and force some motivation and energy back into me. One of the toughest sections was ahead of me and I didn’t know if I had the strength and will to keep going. I felt as battered and bedraggled as my poor bike!
The next 15km was the hardest cycling I’ve ever done. It’s through the increasingly mountainous and very steady climb to the top of Glenveagh where the Bridal Path meets the main road. Mountainous in Donegal means open and exposed, this is rural Donegal turned up to the max. There is nothing out here except sheep, blanket bog and wind. Unfortunately the wind was now very blustery and cold and straight into my face with no shelter to give respite. For what seemed like hours I ground my way very slowly up this road, head down and struggling to keep my speed above 10km/hr. I lost track of the times I talked myself out of stopping and if I hadn’t been out of network I honestly think I would have pulled the pin and called Catriona to come pick me up.
Eventually I reached the top of the climb and faced a long steep descent into Churchill and control 3. I was really looking forward to a break and a chance to recover on the descent but it wasn’t what I expected. I now had the wind buffeting me from the side and I had to concentrate really hard to stop being blown into the side of the road as I passed gaps in the hills where the wind whipped through, seemingly determined to get me yet. Finally reaching the shores of Lough Gartan I was relieved to get shelter from the trees and hedgerows and take a break at the beautiful Glendowan Church on the edge of the lake.
Leaving Glendowan it is straight into a really steep hill that annoyingly turns into a T Junction about 3/4 of the way up. Once over this though I was dropping back down again and through the village of Churchill and heading for Letterkenny. Despite being a rural area this is quite a wide road with a good surface and one I know fairly well. The familiar landmarks of townlands and junctions lifted my spirits and I started thinking about another, final foodstop.
Passing the turn off at Newmills I ignored the irritated beeping of my Garmin and diverted off my course to the service station just under 1km up the road. I desperately needed something warm to eat and drink. Unfortunately the deli was now closed but they had a very welcome tea machine and I couldn’t resist the glazed donuts and a much needed chocolate bar. I sat outside, people watching, enjoying my tea and sugar and finished the last of my sandwiches. The sun was totally gone by now and the temperature dropping so I layered back up with some of the clothing I’d removed what seemed like a week ago in Donegal Town before heading back to the planned route and feeling more optimistic about completion.
This final 40km wasn’t easy but I was very happy that I’d decided to ride it for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I was familiar with the terrain and the junctions and could have ridden it without my Garmin. I knew where I had to conserve energy on the longer climbs and where I could push on to maximise my momentum. I could almost physically feel the miles clicking off and home getting nearer. The sugar infusion combined with an improved mental attitude put energy back into legs that seemed to have given up not that long ago.
In typical Irish tradition the wind that now should have been an assisting tailwind had dropped off as I came back down to lower levels and while it was still there it wasn’t the helping push I’d hoped for. Almost before I knew it though I was over the last hill into Raphoe and dropping down the fast descent into town. I think I may even have been smiling again!
A quick stop in Raphoe to take the control photo, text Catriona to say I’d be home in less than an hour and I was away again, sugar levels topped up with a handful of jelly babies and with a reserve in my back pocket.
This last section isn’t easy. There are a number of rolling, steep climbs and one quite long climb from Ballindrait but I could smell home. These are roads I know well and I had renewed energy now that I knew it was almost finished. As I came over the top of the hill between Ballindrait and Castlefinn the sun was setting in the distance, just below the cloud level and I had a stunning view out over the Finn Valley and towards home.
20 minutes later I was rolling up the drive to the house. I was absolutely exhausted. This was one of the toughest cycles I’d ever done, physically and mentally and it almost broke me. Importantly though it didn’t!
At 207km and almost 2,500m of climbing it’s also one of the most challenging I’ve done. As Donegal has now been moved to Level 4 restrictions until November 10th it looks like I’ll need it for at least one more month to keep RRTY going. Let’s hope the wind is more favourable next time.
A regular blog read for me is Today’s Perfect Moment written by Anthony, a teacher of English as a Second Language based in Canada. It’s all about finding the positives in life and especially in the small things that happen every day.
His tagline is:
Using a little bit of perfection found by sifting through the day to brighten my mood and hopefully yours.
At work today I had a customer I know from before I worked in retail. She arranged the mortgage for our current house approximately 16 years ago. I’ve met her a couple of times over the years but today was the first time I’ve spent a while talking to her and definitely the first time selling her something. We talked quite a bit about her house, her job and of course her sofa and dining chairs. She asked me about work and working in my current job. I told her I really enjoy it and she very nicely told me that it suits me and that I’m very good at it. I’m still learning to be able to accept compliments but it was really nice as I could tell she meant it. I thanked her of course and I hope she understood how good it made me feel, definitely a perfect moment and especially nice as I’m now off on leave for 4 days!
A few weeks ago I started the Audax Ireland RRTY challenge once again. About a week or so later Donegal was put into Level 3 Covid restrictions for 3 weeks minimum. Part of the restrictions means we can’t leave the county except for essential travel. I have a couple of days booked off for next week and had planned to complete my October ride on one of those days which, unfortunately, is still within the Level 3 time period.
In 2017 when I was really getting interested in Audax I was playing around with a 200km route for a Permanent. I didn’t get it finalised or published but it gave me a good starting point for a route that would stay within the county boundary and would allow me to keep going with RRTY.
I’ve created a new route and I’ve ridden most of it already but there is a section from Newmills, around Letterkenny to Manorcunningham and then to Raphoe that I hadn’t been on before. Wednesday last week I decided to ride this section for my mid week spin.
To get there I went via Stranorlar and Drumkeen before turning off on to the long climb to Coravaddy that is part of the back road to Letterkenny. I’ve ridden this road before but not in this direction which gave me a new perspective on it, making it feel like a new road.
The completely new section from Newmills was a breath of fresh air. Despite being on minor rural roads the surface was pretty good with a lot of it having been recently replaced. After Manorcunningham I was relying completely on my GPS track but only had a couple of minor miscalculations. On the approach to Raphoe there is a really good climb which is rated as Cat 4 according to Strava. This is an enjoyable and challenging climb and could be interesting at this stage of a 200km!
After Raphoe I was back on familiar territory but once again I hadn’t ridden these roads in this direction. They’re a cracker this way and I’m looking forward to doing them again.
Overall there was a lot of climbing on this route but I really enjoyed the climbs. The highlight though was riding roads I’ve never been on before. Having been riding for over 6 years now it’s a real novelty to find new roads and be able to get to them from my front door.
Assaulted by the bitter cold of a Montreal winter, the American-born Dr. Temperance Breman, Forensic Anthropologist for the Province of Quebec, digs for a corpse where Sister Elisabeth Nicolet, dead over a century and now a candidate for sainthood, should lie in her grave. A strange, small coffin, buried in the recesses of a decaying church, holds the first clue to the cloistered nun’s fate. The puzzle surrounding Sister Elisabeth’s life and death provides a welcome contrast to discoveries at a burning chalet, where scorched and twisted bodies await Tempe’s professional expertise. Who were these people? What brought them to this gruesome fate? Homicide Detective Andrew Ryan, with whom Tempe has a combustive history, joins her in the arson investigation. From the fire scene they are drawn into the worlds of an enigmatic and controversial professor, a mysterious commune, and a primate colony on a Carolina island.
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Good but not great. It’s a decent story but the first third reminded me far too much of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta. I’m not sure which character came first but I was frustrated that the two were beginning to morph and Tempe was becoming a bitter and depressive character like Kay.
Once she returns to South Carolina the story takes a bit of a shift and definitely for the better. The tone of the story lifts and while still dark it becomes more of a crime investigation thriller which I enjoy a lot more. I find the detailed forensics descriptions very technical, difficult to follow and a bit dull.
There are three storylines working alongside each other. While they are connected I find the connections a bit contrived and it’s stretching coincidence to the maximum to make them believable.
I do think I will read more of this series as it has potential. Hopefully it gets better and doesn’t degrade further. I wasted a lot of time reading Kay Scarpetta and don’t intend to do the same again!