At one point a call is placed on a cellular phone

I was worried when I picked up the latest Book Lover's Cookbook entry, Patricia Cornwell's Unnatural Exposure, that I wasn't entirely up for a gruesome murder mystery. I read quite a bit of Cornwell in my late teens or so, but that was back when my tastes generally ran that direction and I knew a slightly concerning amount about serial killers. These days I find I don't really have the stomach for it, because having children has made me weeeeeeaaaaaaaaak (and/or more empathetic to human suuuuuuffering). For example, I stopped watching Boardwalk Empire when Anna was an infant because during a scene in which a random gangster (who was not nice and would definitely be dead by now anyway and also was fictional) was repeatedly punched in the face, I became overwhelmed with the thought that he was once someone's child. Parenthood is exhausting.

My point being, I didn't really know if I was in the mood for dismembered bodies and such, but what I was in the mood for without even realizing it was a story written in 1997 that centers on everyone being somewhat afraid of and confused by The Internet. It's SPECTACULAR. 

And there are CRAB CAKES in it.

How no-nonsense is everything surrounding our heroine, Dr. Kay Scarpetta? The excerpt in the cookbook is literally just one character saying a recipe for crab cakes, out loud. They are described as "no-fuss." They are from a lady named Bev. No time for frills, there are dismembered bodies everywhere!

Here are my favorite parts of Unnatural Exposure, in the order that they occur:

Page 18  Her beeper goes off.

28  The jerkface investigator's first name is Percy, which brings to mind Thomas & Friends. I hate him immediately and immoderately.

36  The killer sends Scarpetta an email with a picture attached. It takes roughly eighteen paragraphs for her to see it. "An image began to materialize on my screen, rolling down in color, one band of pixels at a time."

81  In case you have spent the past 45 pages wondering what "pixels" are, here is a definition. The definition involves a dot matrix.

109  Whoa did you guys know you could get a portable color scanner for "four, five hundred bucks"?


126 Their tour of Graceland is conducted via cassette tape, although to be fair, this might still be accurate to Graceland, I have no idea.

139 "The point is, scanning files into your computer and sending them through the Internet is very accessible to your average person, which is why telecommunications crimes are keeping us so busy these days." Dammit average people quit ruining everything good with your crimes.

142 The killer has sent electronic mail DIRECTLY TO THE WHITE HOUSE. The missive is all lowercase and lacking punctuation because the killer is actually pretty advanced as far as the internet goes.

191 The Martha Stewart "whipping up something with meringue" on the Today show has never been to jail, because these truly were simpler times.

199 The FBI's big sting operation involves Scarpetta hanging out in an AOL chat room waiting for the killer to happen upon it. This endeavor is successful. ("A/S/L?" she fails to ask, leading me to question her investigative skills.)

243 A character says "Don't you die on me." This is followed, appropriately and necessarily, by "Don't you dare!" This strategy is also successful.

250 A package arrives with a shipping label that appears to have been printed from a computer. Everyone is extremely unnerved by this.

258 This professional profiler is on to you, internet commenters: "His refusal to use punctuation indicates his belief that he is not like other people and the same rules do not apply to him."

General observation: Surnames in this book include Kitchen, Pleasants, Ring, and Wheat, yet the total pun count based on character names comes in at a tremendously disappointing one.

Hilariously terrible association with the recipe even though all the cookbook did this time was copy the recipe straight out of the novel: it is implied more than once that the crab may have been infected by a mutant strain of DEADLY MONKEYPOX.

This probably goes without saying, but I recommend this book very highly.

You'll have to excuse me now, however, as Anna is pitching me on a concept called "The Coffee Factory" that involves chocolate pixie dust and I need to liquidate some assets because I am definitely investing ASAP.