Our purpose in this article is to explore the fascination, over the last decade, with crime narratives that centre on the figure of the forensic pathologist. Principally this involves a reading of Cornwellâ��s Scarpetta series, but we also discuss a growing number of other novels that confront readers with the â��realityâ�� of the dead body. In some cases (for example, Kathy Reichs and Priscilla Masters) writers use, as Cornwell does, the figure of the forensic pathologist; in other instances, such as Nicci Frenchâ��s The Red Room (2001) and Jan Burkeâ��s Bones (1999), the female protagonistâ��s reading of the crime is determined by alternative forms of first-hand access to the â��underworldâ�� of the grave or autopsy room, such as that of the crime journalist or criminal psychologist. In contrast to the kind of police procedural novel that gives centre-stage to the psyche of the serial killer, the forensic pathology novel aims instead to evoke the â��appalling human messinessâ�� of actual crime through a perspective nearer to that of the victim. By providing readers with not only a body of experts but an expert on the body the novelist allows them to listen to the voices of the dead.
This article, which first appeared in Terrains vagues (Paradoxa no 20, 2006, ISBN: 1-929512-20-1), is reprinted with permission of the publisher. For more information about Paradoxa, visit www.paradoxa.com