myspace layouts, myspace codes, glitter graphics Totally Biased Book and Movie Review: Hornet's Nest Book Review

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hornet's Nest Book Review

Hornet’s Nest

By: Patricia Cornwall

Published By: Putnam Adult, January 13, 1997

337 pages

Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all a good night…. Or something like that. I always get my holiday clichés messed up.

Anyway, with a (rare) day off, at least until I lose my job, I picked up a book I’ve had sitting on my desk for a couple of months. Hornet’s Nest, by Patricia Cornwall, is not a Kay Scarpetta novel. As some of you might recall, I have a weird, fascinated/repulsed relationship with Cornwall’s Scarpetta. I find Cornwall to be a good, maybe sometimes even great, writer, but her characters, Scarpetta in particular, leave me cold. Kay is self-centered, whiney and constantly in a state of personal psychoanalysis as she trots around examining brutally murdered people and solving cases that in real life, would probably be handled by the police. The secondary characters in the Scarpetta books are just as annoying. Still, I find myself reading these books whenever they come out, annoyed and exasperated, but able to follow the storyline with ease and interest. It’s a strange addiction, and I’m not proud of it, but until they come out with Cornwall Anonymous, I’ll probably go on in my crazy way.

Hornet’s Nest doesn’t take place in Scarpetta’s town, Richmond, and the main characters are not medical examiners. Virginia West is the deputy police chief in Charlotte, and the other main character, Alex Brazil, is a journalist and sometimes-volunteer police officer, assigned to cover the cop beat. Yes, it is hard to imagine the police department allowing a journalist, and a rookie one at that, to actually ride around with them while they fight crime, but in Cornwall’s world, this is a perfectly normal thing to do, especially if the rookie is a cute, young guy who looks good in a tshirt and has won many tennis championships… why is any of that important? It’s not, but you’ll read all about it in this book. You’ll also read about how he plans to (when he grows up and is really important) be nice to the little guys because everyone is so meeeen to him, and it’s just not fair at all! Sulk Sulk. Moan Moan.

Yeah, in other words, my hopes that the people in this story would be a little less petty were sadly dashed within the first couple of chapters. If anything, they’re even worse. Cornwall jumps from each one’s perspective, and the entire book is filled with their mixed-up perceptions of the other- motives, thoughts, and actions are constantly misinterpreted and taken offense against. Brazil, twenty-two and full of himself, is supposed to be a sympathetic guy, a young genius who works hard to make a name for himself among the newspapers and police department alike. This is spoiled by his childish personality. The dude is always getting his feelings hurt and dodges quickly between resenting West for being “cold, unfeeling and hateful” and wanting to get in her pants, although she is also old enough to be his mother, eats junkfood and smokes, all cardinal sins in the young, impassioned view of Mr. Brazil.

West isn’t any better. She hates the young reporter, then she likes him. She ignores his existence, and rues the day she ever met him, and then takes him to the shooting range on her day off. These people make no sense!!!! The only admirable character is the chief of police, Hammer, a tough older lady who can kick butt while wearing pearls. But I don’t think I was as impressed with her as I was supposed to be, either.

Cornwall obviously tries to write Real People, folks the reader can relate to and understand on a personal level. Maybe I’m a Pollyanna of the greatest degree, but I don’t spend even a quarter of the time these people do, trying to figure out why life is so unfair to me, and minutely describing in my own mind how evil and just plain mean others are. News flash right here and now- Life is not fair, and no one pretended it was going to be. Someone should tell Cornwall’s characters this little nugget of info.

There is no real plot to speak of. A serial murderer is on the loose, but that plotline seems less important than the relationship between West and Brazil, with all its convoluted misunderstandings and hurt feeweengs. There’s a lot of time devoted to exploring the relationship between Hammer and her husband, fat, angry, of course pathetic, Seth, who resents his powerful wife and thinks killing himself will show her how wrong she’s been in treating him like a fat, angry, pathetic man all of their married life. Alex’s mother, a grossly disgusting alcoholic, watches daytime tv an hates her son while worrying that he might leave her to fend for herself. A pervert makes obscene phone calls to Brazil on a regular basis, for no apparent (plot-related) reason. A gay colleague dreams about him. (And at one point, Alex goes on to dinner with the guy, although I do not know of ANY straight men who would go out to dinner with a gay man who is in love with them, under any circumstances, as a way to “get even” with the woman who has spurned them and made them feel rejected. Yes, that was his reason.) Actually everyone dreams about him, because he’s so good-looking and so strong, and so hot… apparently, in Cornwall’s world, personality has nothing to do with attraction, or the young writer would have fewer admirers. None of this leads anywhere reasonable approaching a climax of the novel. Storylines twist and intersect and leave the reader with nothing truly concrete to follow. It’s just like reading a few people’s personal diaries and alternately pitying and scorning them.

The only redeeming character in the whole thing is actually West’s cat, Niles, a crazy Abyssinian, into whose insane little feline brain we the readers get to peer. He worships the bank building, he treats his owner with all the scorn she deserves, he fishes wet panties out of the washing machine to tell his mistress there’s money laundering going on (The bank building told him this, of course). Still, Niles is more reasonable than the human characters, infinitely more interesting, and a whole less self-centered… and he’s a spoiled cat.

I give it a yucky green on the Reader’s Rainbow.

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Blogger Karen said...

Hey chick...check your Hotmail account for a Paypal transaction. You should have gotten it hours ago.

5:00 PM  

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