Cruel & Unusual - Patricia Cornwell Another test drive into the world of mystery, this book is my first book written by Patricia Cornwall.
Life as a medical examiner isn't easy for Kay Scarpetta, particularly when fingerprints of a man killed in the electric chair appear at the scene of a crime a few days after he was killed. Then, after the death of her assistant, Susan Story, Kay becomes implicated in the crime. Can she discover the true killer before she ends up either in jail or dead herself?

What I Liked:
First off, I enjoyed Cornwell's writing style. She writes with intelligence and detail, brining you into the very scene. The autopsies, the attention to detail (particularly in relation to Eddie and Jennifer), the thorough regard for the scenery all made it very easy to transport myself to Virginia with Dr. Scarpetta.
Further, the story was pretty interesting and left you guessing. When I opened the book, I would have had no clue of the outcome, which was surprising (if, in a sense, a little disappointing as well). Several seemingly unrelated people die, but somehow Cornwall is able to tie their deaths in at the very end.
My favorite characters included Benton Wesley, Marino, and, of course, Kay. Benton was an intelligent man, kind and someone Kay could turn to. But he almost held an aristocratic air. Marino, on the other hand, was more down to earth. I enjoyed his arguing with Lucy and how the gruff man ended up coming to Christmas to Kay's after all. Finally, I grew fond of Kay. At first, I found her hard to approach, but then I realized that was her personality anyway. As the story progressed, I felt I got more of a handle on who she was and what she wanted. Further, I enjoyed how she paid attention to detail and thought things through logically.

What I Did Not Like:
Now, this could be due to my taking a month longer than I should have to finish this book, but I felt the story was slow (but not in an obvious "Will this book ever end?" fashion). I was plugging along and realized, "Hm, I'm halfway through and still have no clue how the heck this is going to end". This is not necessarily bad, but I would certainly not classify this book as one of those racing thrillers that keeps you on the edge of your seat every moment.
My biggest complaint has to be the character of Lucy. She is probably the most annoying character in the book. Her selfish, bratty whining made me wish frequently she would go home. Her actual purpose in the book was so small, I have no idea why she was included for most of it! All she did was discover the message left in Kay's computer and that AFIS had been corrupted. I felt that Cornwall was repetitively shoving Lucy away because she was in the way (sending her to ski with Benton's wife, having her left home alone while Kay ran around doing errands, etc.). And I have a hard time believing that a 17 year old could be such a computer brainiac. I think the story would have been much better without her.
Lastly, I felt the ending was rather rushed, the story concluding rather hastily in the last 10 pages or so, almost as if Cornwall was being pushed to get the story done and hurriedly threw the last bits together.

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
Dialogue is relatively tame, considering the genre. A few d***, h***, ba*****, and some wandering appearances of the f-word.
Lucy complains about her mother's promiscuity and asks Kay if her aunt will have an affair. Kay's lover is brought up. Marino goes home with a woman after a Christmas party.
Finally, three people are killed in the course of this book (well, more if you count Waddell, the death row criminal, and his victim). The autopsies describe the injuries, which can make the squeamish squeam. Also an explosion is described in retrospect.

Overall:
My first thought at finishing this is "Ho-hum". "Cruel and Unusual" is not really a bad book. It is well written and fairly interesting. I just felt that parts drug more than they should and really couldn't stand certain nameless (LUCY!) characters. 3 stars.