Review: The Front by Patricia Cornwell

Title: The Front (the 2nd book in the Win Garano series)

Author: Patricia Cornwell

Publisher:Hachette Audio UK [2008]

ISBN: N/A (acquired via download fromiTunes)

Length: 4hrs 26mins (unabridged)

Narrator: Kate Reading

I used to be a huge fan of Cornwell’s Scarpettabooks but some years ago found they had become bogged down in unnecessary length and the plots were increasingly convoluted and ridiculous. I eventually gave up all together after Tracein 2004. Since then I have, very occasionally, wondered whether I am missing out on anything by forsaking all things Cornwell so when I noticed The Front, the second of a series featuring Massachusetts State Police investigator Win Garano, was short (under 5 hours or less than 200 pages in the print version) and on special at iTunes I took the opportunity to check it out.

Monique Lamont is a District Attorney with greater political ambitions and as part of her long term publicity strategy she orders Win Garano, a special investigator assigned to her office, to re-open a 40 year old case in which a young English woman living in Boston was murdered. Lamont seems to think they can tie the murder in to the infamous Boston Strangler case and Garano is both skeptical and reluctant to have anything to do with the investigation. He is supposed to be helped by a female cop nick-named Stump (which we discover has nothing to do with the fact she has a prosthetic leg) but she is occupied by other things including investigating a series of robberies.

The book is better than that last Scarpetta I read in that the story moves at a faster pace and is a more manageable length. But it reads more like the treatment for a new, not very good, TV series than a novel. There’s little depth to the characters and they all felt like stereotypes to me (the ice maiden female, her disgruntled, smarter underling, the feisty disabled woman, the hippy grandmother…).  There’s lots of dialogue but most of it is the kind of unrealistic psycho babble that no two humans would ever actually engage in.

The real downfall though is the plot. After meandering down some not terribly interesting alleys (maybe someone could make the theft of copper from building sites interesting but Cornwell couldn’t) the protagonist makes a huge leap of logic and the whole thing is wrapped up neatly. Except for the Scotland Yard connection: I still don’t know what that was about and I even re-played the last hour to make sure I hadn’t been daydreaming. Even though the book is short Cornwell manages to find room for a swag of irrelevant subjects including terrorism, the mafia, JFK’s Presidency and the aforementioned Scotland Yard.  I hope Apple paid her for the numerous mentions of their famous phone because the gratuitous product placement didn’t help the book in any way. No one I know mentions the brand of their phone every time they check the thing for messages.

I can’t say I was disappointed by the book because I didn’t set out with tremendously high expectations. Perhaps that’s an unfair way to head into a book but this is the woman who revived a favoured character from the dead in the silliest plot device I’ve ever had the misfortune to read. Given that I didn’t pay much for it and it didn’t occupy a lot of my time I guess I’m happy to know for sure that I’m missing nothing by reading other authors in preference to Cornwell.

Audibook specific comments: I thought the narrator did a good job given the book was so dialogue-heavy and there were a lot of characters but as an Aussie I didn’t notice what was, according to other reviewers, a less than stellar Boston accent.

My rating 2/5

Other stuff

None of my usual sources have reviewed thisbook. I’m sure if you Googlethe title you’ll find the a swag of professional reviews which sing the book’s praises but in an undoubtedly pointless stance against the tsunami that is brand-name publishing I’m not going to link to them here.

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5 Responses to Review: The Front by Patricia Cornwell

  1. Dorte H says:

    I stopped buying Cornwell´s books years ago, because the Scarpetta plots were so far out. I really can´t imagine anyone in her position would be personally involved and endangered in each and every case she is involved in.
    I have one on my shelf from the library though, and who knows, I may even read it if I have the time before they want it back.

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  2. Maxine says:

    I loved her first few Scarpettas but like you have long since stopped reading them, they are dreadful – bloated, boring, etc. I read the first book in this series but also found it tedious in the extreme.

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  3. bernadetteinoz says:

    So who the heck is reading her then?

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