Cover image for A feast of carrion
A feast of carrion
McCarthy, Keith, 1960-
Personal Author:
First Carroll and Graf edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Carroll & Graf Pub., 2003.
Physical Description:
327 pages ; 23 cm
General Note:
"First published in the UK by Constable ... 2003"
Format :


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Forensic science and law enforcement do not prove to share the same conclusions in this darkly plotted debut novel by Keith McCarthy, himself a practicing pathologist. His suspenseful and ingeniously twisted tale opens inside the walls of the venerable St. Benjamin's Museum of Pathology, where any death would send shock waves through the academic community. But the death of Nikki Exner is far from ordinary. Not only raped and murdered, she has been grotesquely executed. That the museum employs a formerly convicted rapist and drug addict, Tim Bilroth, leads the police easily to their prime suspect, and Bilroth's suicide while in their custody serves only to confirm his guilt. But Helena Flemming, the Bilroth family's solicitor, is not so sure, and to help her determine Tim's innocence, she calls upon former crack forensic pathologist John Eisenmenger. He performs a second autopsy on the victim's drawn-and-quartered body, and his findings stand almost completely at odds with the police department's medical examiner. As Eisenmenger and Flemming set out to discover who really killed Nikki Exner, they uncover a trail littered with drugs, blackmail, sexual favors, and suspects, and they fear that they and the police may not be on the same side.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Nikki Exner is found murdered and mutilated in St. Benjamin's Museum of Anatomy and Pathology. Police inspector Beverley Wharton is quick to arrest a young museum employee with a rape conviction in his past, and the suspect commits suicide while in custody. His family hires solicitor Helena Flemming to prove their son was wrongly arrested, and she persuades former forensic pathologistohn Eisenmenger to perform a second autopsy on the victim. Eisenmenger's results differ dramatically from those of the medical examiner, but the police consider the case closed. Flemming, Eisenmenger, and former cop Bobohnson investigate themselves, discovering incompetence, corruption, and denial in both police and academic circles. This engrossing debut interweaves forensic details throughout as layers are peeled away to discover the complex truth behind Nikki's murder. Characters are all damaged people in a story where corruption goes unpunished. Readers who enjoy Patricia Cornwell orathy Reichs will appreciate the forensic details, but the pacing is far more leisurely here. --Sue O'Brien Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Readers who don't get enough strong forensic medicine from the likes of Patricia Cornwell or Kathy Reichs, and who need another print fix between TV episodes of the various incarnations of CSI, will welcome this first book in a new series from a British pathologist. Beginning with the savage murder of a young female medical student who's been hung, drawn and quartered inside a famous old museum of pathology, and going on through enough autopsies and postmortem probings of body parts to fill several medical textbooks, McCarthy lays on the grisly detail, with a practicing doctor's detached eye. He's also adept at showing how the internal politics of police and pathology clash: his main character, John Eisenmenger, now in charge of the museum, is a former forensic pathologist with a checkered past-which comes out when an attractive woman lawyer, Helena Flemming, working for the family of the leading murder suspect, persuades him to redo the original autopsy. But even Flemming, a seasoned criminal lawyer obviously destined to join Eisenmenger in a second volume in the series, has her limits. "I'm not quite as clinical as you are," she tells him when he discusses details of the crime over lunch. "Perhaps in time, but for the present I'd rather eat my lunch without considering the grossest aspects of human depravity." Those with weak stomachs should take heed. (Sept. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved