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December 2000


Wilson Wesley and Cornwell — guilty of writing great mystery novels

Valerie Wilson Wesley to read in Munich
The number of English-speaking authors appearing on Munich’s literary scene is steadily increasing. On December 4, the recently opened mystery and thriller bookstore Glatteis (reported on in the October issue of MF) is cosponsoring, along with the Amerika Haus and Diogenes Verlag, a reading by mystery writer Valerie Wilson Wesley. Former executive editor at Essence magazine, Wesley published her first “Tamara Hayle Mystery” in June of 1994. The popular series presently consists of six novels featuring the wise-cracking, street-smart private investigator Tamara Hayle. Wesley’s narrative is a combination of old 1950s Dragnet-style description and black-speak: “Truth be told, I was a bit in awe of the sister and flattered that she had thrown her ‘delicate matter,’ whatever it was, in my direction.” It is this down-to-earth voice that endears Wesley’s protagonist to readers. Critics have said that the non-stereotypical character, a black single mother working as a private investigator, has not only filled a gap in mystery-novel genre, but is so original and quirky that she is destined to become a cult figure. That, along with page-turning suspense, has earned Wesley fans both stateside and here in Europe.
When in Munich, Wesley will read from the fifth book in the series, Easier To Kill, currently being published in German. The Glatteis bookstore has prepared for the event by stocking up on English editions of Wesley’s mysteries. The latest book in the series, The Devil Riding (June 2000), is, to date, available only in English. In this installment, Hayle leaves her familiar setting of Newark, New Jersey, when she is hired to find a runaway teenager in Atlantic City whose roommate turns up murdered. Despite a change of scenery, Wesley’s razor-sharp wit and so-clichè-they’re-entertaining metaphors abound: “She’d run to a fun-loving city in dangerous times, and she was young, pretty and rich, a combination that will make a victim out of a woman quicker than hot grease catches fire.” If you’re looking for a fun and fresh twist on a classic genre, then Wesley’s books will surely satisfy. Valerie Wilson Wesley, December 4, 19:00, at the Amerika Haus, Karolinenplatz 3. Advance tickets can be purchased for DM 10 at Glatteis Buchhandlung, Corneliusstrasse 31, or by calling (089) 201 48 44.

The last precinct ***
By Patricia Cornwell
Little, Brown and Company UK
(October 2000)

Do you believe in werewolves? In The Last Precinct, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, chief medical examiner of the state of Virginia, is certainly beginning to. Serial killer Jean Baptiste Chandonne — on account of a rare genetic disease, which causes his entire body, except the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet, to be covered in long, baby-fine hair he calls himself “The Werewolf”— is the key suspect of Scarpetta’s investigation into several murder cases. As she tirelessly examines each piece of evidence, the psychopath shows up on her doorstep, intending her to be his next victim. She narrowly escapes her would-be fate, but her real nightmare is just beginning as more bizarre murders occur, and she gradually starts to see connections between these new victims, long-unsolved cases and “The Werewolf.” Every piece of the puzzle brings Scarpetta closer to the truth, but, in a hellish twist, causes the police to point a finger at Scarpetta herself.
Fans of criminal novelist Patricia Cornwell will be engrossed by the intimate details and complicated plot elements which tie Scarpetta’s past to the “werewolf case” — piecing together clues from former novels is part of the fun for readers. The Last Precinct is the eleventh novel in the popular series starring Dr. Kay Scarpetta. As Cornwell says herself, “It’s a book about secrets, the secrets of the dead, the secrets of the living, and Kay Scarpetta’s own secrets.”
As in past novels, Cornwell pays close attention to forensic evidence, especially in scenes where Scarpetta performs autopsies: “The cartoid arteries lie like rails in the neck. Between them are the tongue and neck muscles, which I flip down and peel away so I can examine them closely on the cutting board. There are no hemorrhages in deep tissue. The tiny, fragile U-shaped hyoid bone is intact. He wasn’t strangled.” Complicated, scientific explanations of DNA analysis also show that Cornwell’s knowledge is not surface. In fact, her graphic description comes from firsthand experience working as a technical writer at the medical examiner’s office for the U.S. State of Virginia.
Even if you are new to the Dr. Kay Scarpetta novels, the spine-chilling prose will keep you up at night — for more reasons than one. <<<

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