I've just finished a sort of weird book that I picked up at a book sale. It's from 1998; I bought it without really looking much because the author is Patricia Cornwell. A glance at the blurb told me it was not one of her Kay Scarpetta series but since I like her writing, I bought it. Well, I should have looked at it a little better. The cover says this is a "sometimes zany" look at big city police so that should have warned me.
It's called SOUTHERN CROSS. Everyone who has ever read Cornwell knows that she and her character Scarpetta are known for their cooking. In this book her recipe involved taking a bunch of morons, throwing in a sociopathic teenager, and stirring well. The recipe doesn't work; it left a bad taste in my mouth. I didn't realize until I was well into the book that it was apparently supposed to be a comedy, until then I was simply puzzled.
The story begins as the police chief and her assistant from Charlotte, NC have been sent to Richmond, VA to try to turn that police department into a professional law enforcement arm. Turns out some of the morons in the story are the Richmond cops. Chief Hammer, Assistant Chief West, and a rookie, Andy Brazil, who they take along aren't actually much brighter than anyone else - with the possible exception of Brazil. No one can figure out the new computer system Hammer wants to use, they are unable to solve a rash of robberies of people at ATMs, and then there's the matter of someone using paint to turn a cemetery statue of Jefferson Davis into a black basketball player.
The sociopath is a high school student who doesn't attend school, and who finds the dumbest of the dumb to force them into his six person gang. We also have a Bubba who works the night shift at a cigarette plant, but who thinks the cigarettes he makes are actually fuel rods for alien spaceships. He is upset at the increase in cigarette/fuel rod prices because those are the only things keeping the aliens from running out of fuel and landing, thus taking over the world.
Are you laughing yet? Neither was I. Instead of finishing the book and saying, "Wow, that was good," I closed the book saying, "Well, that was a waste of time."
I haven't read everything Cornwell has written, so I do hope she sticks to writing about intelligent adults who go about the serious business of solving murders. This was definitely a mistake.