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 Patricia Cornwell’s debut novel (first published in 1990) introduces the world to Dr Kay Scarpetta, Richmond’s intelligent and resourceful Chief Medical Examiner. Set in Virginia, the novel follows Scarpetta’s battle not only to find a sadistic serial killer on the loose, but also to hold onto her job in the face of insider threats to her own career.

The seemingly random (and never less than graphically described) attacks on women are examined sensitively by Scarpetta as she builds up a picture of the killer from the few forensic clues left behind. The clinical detail found in the forensic lab includes some familiar names (such as Stryker), and paints an accurate picture of the procedures necessary to elicit vital clues. Scientific laboratory techniques and the chemical smells and sounds of careful dissection are woven into the prose, making the scenes set in the postmortem lab all the more real.

The characters involved are well drawn, and the frustration and increasing desperation shown by all trying to solve the case as successive women are brutalised and killed adds to the suspense. The internal conflicts and suspicions relating to political departmental in-fighting add another welcome dimension to this cleverly thought-out crime novel.

Fast-paced and full of unexpected twists and turns, Postmortem keeps the reader guessing to the final page. This is a compelling and highly readable novel that once started, is difficult to put down. It’s no surprise that Cornwell has gone on to be one of the most successful crime fiction writers of our time.

Tina Young is a Director of Kirkham Young Ltd, a specialist healthcare and scientific sales recruitment agency.

On Target special offer
Little, Brown is offering a free copy of Postmortem to the first 3 On Target readers who answer this question correctly: Who was the author of the Review of NHS Pathology Services in England (2006)? Send your answer to: joel.lane@healthpublishing.co.uk.

Personal Social Responsibility
by Arvind Devalia (Nirvana Publishing, tpb, £9.99)

Personal Social Responsibility This slim book has the subtitle ‘A powerful workbook for being Socially Responsible in business’. It’s not a factual study of either personal or corporate social responsibility. Rather, it’s an attempt to guide the reader through an analysis of both terms and how they relate to the reader’s experience.

Devalia’s key argument is that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – defined by him as companies “doing the right thing” – is rooted in Personal Social Responsibility (PSR). By this means, he tries to reconcile the corporate imperative of maximising profit with the personal imperative of conscience – a balance he sums up as “being in integrity”. While this argument lacks economic rigour, it has a certain intuitive appeal.

How can companies improve the effects of their business on the community and the environment without sacrificing profitability? Devalia notes that in a recent survey, 95% of employees thought companies should do more to protect the environment, but only 39% of companies had a formal sustainability policy. He argues that, using the principle of personal integrity, we can define CSR as a balanced and sustainable strategy for business that makes a positive contribution to society.

The bulk of this book is taken up with 52 questions (or groups of questions) for the reader to answer on the facing page. These progress from the general and subjective (e.g. “How will the world be a better place because you have lived?”) to the specific and objective – the stakeholders, policies and implementation strategies associated with CSR (e.g. “What will you do to reduce your company’s carbon footprint to a minimum level?”). A final section invites the reader to sum up their thinking, and there is a list of websites containing information on CSR and sustainability.

This is a book of targeted questions, not answers. It’s low on facts, but fairly effective as a stimulus to joined-up thinking.

Ron Snargett is a freelance healthcare journalist.

On Target special offer winners: free copies of Time Management for Dummies by Clare Evans were won by Sharon Coombs, Bhavna Tailor and Cristina McDowall. Will it be you next time?


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