For those of you not familiar with this bestselling series of novels, Kate Scarpetta is a top notch medical examiner. Most of the prior novels in the series have taken place in Richmond Virginia, where Scarpetta was chief medical examiner; however, when The Scarpetta Factor opens, Scarpetta is working as a volunteer ME consultant with NYPD, and is doing guest appearances as a forensic analyst on CNN.
This is a chronological series, and I believe this is about the 17th book in the series. If you haven’t read the novels that predate this one, I would normally urge you to do that rather than read this review; however, reading 16 books can be a hassle so I’ll leave it up to you. Maybe reading this one will inspire you to go back and start at the beginning. A good place to get used copies inexpensively is Amazon (link below) or Powell’s Books.
If you’re familiar with Patricia Cornwell’s work, you can skim this paragraph. For those of you who are new to her novels, she is an excellent author and her Scarpetta series is very well written. The subject matter revolves around homicide and in many cases serial killers, so it can be difficult at times but it’s worth it because the characters are very human and 3-dimensional, and the relationships are very complex. If you’re squeamish, it’s your call about whether you can handle reading this kind of subject matter.
Even though most of us know life isn’t always roses and fine wine, it can be extremely uncomfortable to see the underbelly of our society. Patricia Cornwell lays open that underbelly as neatly and precisely as Scarpetta performs an autopsy.
The Scarpetta Factor finds Scarpetta and Benton, Lucy and Jaime, and Marino still living in NYC. Although Scarpetta and Benton do have a house in the Boston area, all of the action takes place in Manhattan. The economy has tanked — sound familiar? All of our friends have things they are withholding from each other. Lots of unresolved issues remain from the events in Charleston and from Benton’s disappearance and “resurrection.” No one has really moved on, although they’re all trying. There’s also friction because of Scarpetta’s agreement to provide on-air analysis for CNN. Basically the recent and not-so-recent past comes back to haunt each member of our team in this latest episode.
Scarpetta’s instincts and findings about a young crime victim don’t match the “facts” as NYPD and everyone else sees them. She is, as usual, someone who sticks to her guns. What develops from this clash of findings/facts is far more bizarre than anyone could have imagined when the book begins.
Since 9/11, NYPD has at its disposal extremely sophisticated analysis methods which, along with Lucy’s technological genius, Scarpetta’s findings and Benton’s instincts lead to an unraveling of layers upon layers until the truth is disclosed. Some people may have issues with some of the technical exposition; however, I felt it was needed for the storyline. Without it, the findings would not have seemed possible. If it gets too technical for you, you can always skim those parts.
Disclosure time: I’ll be honest. Although I was a faithful reader for a long time, I stopped reading this series at one point because the books had taken a turn with which I was uncomfortable. I felt Scarpetta was getting too hard and brittle, and the criminal subject matter seemed to have crossed a line. The last book I read was Point of Origin, the novel in which Benton disappeared and was presumed dead. That book really upset me; however, I had felt the series getting darker for some time. Point of Origin was kind of the last straw for me. That said, I’ve always loved Patricia Cornwell’s writing, and felt a real connection with Kate Scarpetta, so I kept thinking I’d like to give the series another try. I’m very glad I did! I loved The Scarpetta Factor!
One of the things I love about Patricia Cornwell’s books is that her villains are as 3-dimensional as her good guys. There is no black and white thinking here – everything is shades of grey, just like in real life. We get glimpses into everyone’s psyches – glimpses that can be extremely unsettling at times. Her psychological analysis is as masterful as her medical and technological research. Combine that with excellent storytelling and her novels ring true, no matter what subject she chooses to portray. Enjoy!
As always, if you’re read The Scarpetta Factor and/or are a Patricia Cornwell fan then please comment!
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