Excerpt: Patricia Cornwell's 'Port Mortuary'

PHOTO "Port Mortuary" by Patricia Cornwell
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In the world of thrillers, there are few bigger names than Patricia Cornwell and her fictional star Kay Scarpetta.

"Port Mortuary" is the 18th book penned by Cornwell and starring Scarpetta, and in it, readers get a look into Scarpetta's early career and a terrifying mystery there-in.

As Cornwell criss-crosses the country on a book tour for "Port Mortuary," she'll also be supporting the troops through the "America for Vets" organization by taking in donations of daily supplies for veterans.

CLICK HERE to learn more about "America for Vets," or HERE to visit the campaign's auction website.

Read an excerpt from the book below, and head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.

Chapter 1

Inside the changing room for female staff, I toss soiled scrubs into a biohazard hamper and strip off the rest of my clothes and medical clogs. I wonder if Col. Scarpetta stenciled in black on my locker will be removed the minute I return to New England in the morning. The thought hadn't entered my mind before now, and it bothers me. A part of me doesn't want to leave this place.

Life at Dover Air Force Base has its comforts, despite six months of hard training and the bleakness of handling death daily on behalf of the U.S. government. My stay here has been surprisingly uncomplicated. I can even say it's been pleasant. I'm going to miss getting up before dawn in my modest room, dressing in cargo pants, a polo shirt, and boots, and walking in the cold dark across the parking lot to the golf course clubhouse for coffee and something to eat before driving to Port Mortuary where I'm not in charge. When I'm on duty for the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, the AFME, I'm no longer a chief. In fact, I'm outranked by quite a number of people, and critical decisions aren't mine to make, assuming I'm even asked. Not so when I return to Massachusetts, where I'm depended on by everyone.

It's Monday, February 8. The wall clock above the shiny white sinks reads 16:33 hours, lit up red like a warning. In less than ninety minutes I'm supposed to appear on CNN and explain what a forensic radiologic pathologist, or RadPath, is and why I've become one, and what Dover and the Department of Defense and the White House have to do with it. In other words, I'm not just a medical examiner anymore, I suppose I'll say, and not just a habeas reservist with the AFME, either. Since 9/11, since the United States invaded Iraq, and now the surge of troops in Afghanistan —I rehearse points I should make—the line between the military and civilian worlds has forever faded. An example I might give: This past November during a forty-eight-hour period, thirteen fallen warriors were flown here from the Middle East, and just as many casualties arrived from Fort Hood, Texas. Mass casualty isn't restricted to the battlefield, although I'm no longer sure what constitutes a battlefield. Maybe every place is one, I will say on TV. Our homes, our schools, our churches, commercial aircraft, and where we work, shop, and go on vacation.

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