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Review: The Scarpetta Factor – Patricia Cornwell (2009, mystery, Kay Scarpetta 17)

Review: The Scarpetta Factor – Patricia Cornwell (2009, mystery, Kay Scarpetta 17)Author: Patricia Cornwell
Title: The Scarpetta Factor
Series: Kay Scarpetta #17
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Pages: 494
Release Date: October 20, 2009
Genres: Mystery & Thriller

From the world's #1 bestselling crime writer comes the extraordinary new Kay Scarpetta novel.

It is the week before Christmas. A tanking economy has prompted Dr. Kay Scarpetta-despite her busy schedule and her continuing work as the senior forensic analyst for CNN- to offer her services pro bono to New York City's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. In no time at all, her increased visibility seems to precipitate a string of unexpected and unsettling events. She is asked live on the air about the sensational case of Hannah Starr, who has vanished and is presumed dead. Moments later during the same telecast, she receives a startling call-in from a former psychiatric patient of Benton Wesley's. When she returns after the show to the apartment where she and Benton live, she finds an ominous package-possibly a bomb-waiting for her at the front desk. Soon the apparent threat on Scarpetta's life finds her embroiled in a surreal plot that includes a famous actor accused of an unthinkable sex crime and the disappearance of a beautiful millionairess with whom Lucy seems to have shared a secret past.

Scarpetta's CNN producer wants her to launch a TV show calledThe Scarpetta Factor. Given the bizarre events already in play, she fears that her growing fame will generate the illusion that she has a "special factor," a mythical ability to solve all her cases. She wonders if she will end up like other TV personalities: her own stereotype.

The Scarpetta Factor, the seventeenth in the series, finds the familiar cast of characters together again in New York. Marino is working for the NYPD; Benton Wesley uses his forensic psycho­logical expertise at Kirby and Bellevue; and Lucy continues to dazzle with her expertise in forensic computer investigations as she works yet another case with NY prosecutor Jaime Berger.
Format: Hardcover
Also by this author: Chaos, Port Mortuary
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The Scarpetta Factor is the seventeenth book in the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell.


Jennifer’s Review of THE SCARPETTA FACTOR

It had been a long time since I read The Scarpetta Factor, so I decided to re-read it. I had forgotten that this was one of my least favorite Scarpetta novels, mainly because it drags on with unnecessary details and then resolves the case quickly off-stage. I will explain that in more detail below.

Brief Summary of the Plot

Scarpetta’s case is a young woman who was murdered and raped. The state of the body contradicts other evidence related to time of death. Scarpetta thinks the victim was dead much earlier than people are claiming. Meanwhile, Benton is dealing with an obsessed patient who might be trying to kill him and Scarpetta. There is also a subplot in the book for Lucy, who is having relationship problems with Berger. On top of all these problems for the characters in the book, a woman who Lucy knows has disappeared, and Scarpetta has to deal with a unscrupulous CNN reporter.

My Thoughts about…

  • The Characters

Kay Scarpetta seems mild in this book in terms of her emotional distress. The big issues belong to Lucy and Benton. They both come across as emotionally disturbed. I could understand what Benton was going through; it seemed temporary. Lucy, on the other hand, came across as crazy.

The reader doesn’t get to see much of Marino in this one.

Of all the elements of the book, characterization remained the strongest and most developed, just like in Patricia Cornwell’s most recent book, Chaos.

Even if the reader doesn’t like the characters, he or she can learn a lot about them and how they think. This is a good thing in many ways, but also slows down the pace with character’s thoughts.

  • Pacing

This is the weakest aspect of The Scarpetta Factor. The book dragged in places, had a long build-up, then rushed to a finish.

The climax happens too quickly. By the time anyone got around to analyzing evidence, Benton had already figured out the puzzle, off-stage. Scarpetta and Lucy had gathered some evidence that pointed them in the right direction, but Benton jumped right to the suspect without any information or evidence that the reader knew about.

Also, the attack on Scarpetta was resolved very fast. I don’t want to say too much about that, in case you haven’t read the book. Basically, it was: Kay is in trouble, Benton saves the day, problem solved.

  • Suspense & Mystery

The book could have been more suspenseful if it hadn’t been bogged down by small details and introspection. The mystery could have been better if Kay’s efforts had actually contributed to solving the case.

  • Setting Details

For the most part, I enjoyed the setting details. At times, though, they became tedious. I just wanted something to happen. For example, there was a long description about the contents of the victim’s refrigerator. This had no bearing on the case, so I don’t know why the author felt it was necessary to include it in the book.

  • The Writing

Overall, I liked the writing style. The writing was clean and consistent. I thought that third person was a bad choice for this book because it put too much focus on Benton and Lucy, whose minds I would have preferred to have stayed out of for this story.

Hooked or Not?

Based on only The Scarpetta Factor, I probably would not have continued reading the Kay Scarpetta series. Because I have read other books in this series that I enjoyed much more than this one, such as The Last Precinct, I am still a fan.

I enjoyed the different subplots in the book and the way a lot of the subplots were connected. My main complaint was the pacing. I would have liked it better if they had pieced it together as they went along, rather than solving everything in a big rush at the end.


Jen Schaper
I am a mom of three kids, a wife, and a wannabe author. For Books That Hook, I review books, create features and discussions, design the website, and do all the administrative stuff.

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