Sunday, March 15, 2009

REVIEW: At Risk by Patricia Cornwell

At Risk coverSeries: Winston Garano #1
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pub. Date: 2006, Penguin Group
Format: Hardcover, 224 pages
Source/FTC Disclosure: I purchased my copy of this book. I was in no way compensated for this review and my opinions are my own.
A Massachusetts state investigator is called home from Knoxville, Tennessee, where he is completing a course at the National Forensic Academy. His boss, the district attorney, attractive but hard-charging, is planning to run for governor, and as a showcase she’s planning to use a new crime initiative called At Risk -- its motto: “Any crime, any time.” In particular, she’s been looking for a way to employ cutting-edge DNA technology, and she thinks she’s found the perfect subject in an unsolved twenty-year-old murder -- in Tennessee. If her office solves the case, it ought to make them all look pretty good, right? Her investigator is not so sure -- not sure about anything to do with this woman, really -- but before he can open his mouth, a shocking piece of violence intervenes, an act that shakes up not only both their lives but the lives of everyone around them. It’s not a random event. Is it personal? Is it professional? Whatever it is, the implications are very, very bad indeed . . . and they’re about to get much worse.

Sparks fly, traps spring, twists abound -- this is the master working at the top of her game.


The dust jacket also notes that Cornwell originally created At Risk as a 15-part series for New York Times Magazine. Well, all I can really say after reading the book is that it shows. I've never read Cornwell before but I can't say that this book made me want to read her again; however, I know that many of her other novels are highly rated so I'll probably give one of those a try. 

This book was just not an easy read. The writing felt choppy and I found myself having to reread passages every now and then to make sure I was understanding things correctly. If I hadn't known better I would have thought this was the author's first book, it seemed so poorly written. The mystery actually wasn't really that difficult to figure out, either, which was disappointing. I like to find myself pondering many possibilities, not coming to a conclusion relatively quickly. Some of the characters were pretty likeable--Detective Garano and his grandmother, "Nana," to name a couple. And you loved to hate Garano's boss, Monique Lamont. None of them were particularly well-developed, though. That, coupled with a weak plot make this a book that I can't recommend to anyone.

 1 star


  1. I used to read Cornwell a lot but then I found her books lagged off somewhat and I quit. Doesn't sound like this as one of her best either.

  2. Well, I traded in a few books today at our local used bookstore and came back with The Precinct--I aimed for an early title because you're not the first person who's mentioned that Cornwell's been going downhill with more recent books... We'll see!!


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