A top crime-writer looks at leadership

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Patricia Cornwell has rightly earned her reputation for her crime-novels, and in particular the series starring her forensic heroine Kay Scarpetta

Her stories are procedural but with flashes of creative insight. I found one such observation in a recently published (2015) novel, Depraved Heart.

A Special Ops team arrives to support forensic scientist Kay Scarpetta and her loveably crude sidekick, detective Pete Marino.  The author muses on what makes these action men (and women) so special? Here’s how Cornwall sees it:

When they shift their weight or move they are subtle and silent. They’re agile and non reactive. They’re disciplined, stoical, what I consider the perfect hero blend of selflessness and narcissism. You have to love yourself if you’re going to fight gloriously and bravely..

Selflessness and narcissism

Cornwell is commenting on the heroic person, and what sets them apart.

The only named member of this group of special people in the book is Ajax. After a little checking, I remembered that Ajax figured in Greek mythology as a heroic figure. (So did Hero, another point worth remembering). Let’s just say Cornwell knew what she was doing. Ajax was a warrior with magical powers. Homer’s Ilead leaves Ajax alive, but in the nature of Greek tragic drama, Ajax eventually over-reaches himself, carries out an unworthy act of violence, and commits suicide at the disgrace it brings on his name.

When Cornwell nods

I found Depraved Heart rather plodding, one of the weakest of the Kay Scarpetta novels.  My view is shared by other reviewers, but even when Cornwell nods, she is capable of flashes of insight.  She concludes the episode involving super-agent Ajax and team with an oxymoronic comment on the nature of heroism, which  might apply to notions of the great leader.

It’s a contradiction.  It seems illogical.  It’s not a stereotype or a cliche when I say that special ops aren’t like the rest of us.

 

Beware of stereotypes, she is telling us, they are too one-dimensional.

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