The Scarpetta Factor

scarpetta factorby Patricia Cornwell

Reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

                A “procedural” is a type of mystery that follows police at work.  The reader “listens” to in-depth conversations about forensic science or police techniques for dealing with cordoning off an area for public safety.  Often the discussions are long, dry, detailed, and boring… just like real police work.  Procedural mysteries take us into the daily activities of a police officer or a crime scene investigator, like this book’s main character, Kay Scarpetta.  In this era of CSI and other forensic crime shows, Patricia Cornwell’s forensic heroine and her writings are extremely popular.

In this story, Scarpetta has become well known and is in high demand.  Television shows want a forensic expert like her to explain things to their audiences.  They want the “Scarpetta Factor” to draw viewers and raise their ratings, especially when a serial killer is stalking New York City.  CNN is torn between reporting the news and making it.  Is it possible that this maniac is driving a yellow cab and killing women?  Are the people of the great city in danger?  The disappearance of an important, influential financier adds to the city and the police concerns and complicates the search for a possible serial killer.

What people don’t know is that Kay Scarpetta and her husband, Dr. Benton Wesley, are being stalked themselves, apparently by one of his former mental patients.  Their lives and safety are threatened when a package that looks like a bomb arrives at their apartment.  It becomes even more complex when an organized crime figure becomes involved in the plot.

Patricia Cornwell introduces new readers to the people in Kay Scarpetta’s life.  In addition to her husband who is a forensic psychologist and former FBI profiler, we meet her niece Lucy, who is a computer whiz assisting the police.  Scarpetta’s watchdog is the tough cop, Marino, who now works for the hard, driven district attorney, Berger.  Cornwell was never directly involved in police work.  However, much of her character’s lives reflect Cornwell’s own personal experiences, whether it was having a fatherless childhood, marrying an older man as a father image, or entering into intimate relationships with other women.  Cornwell’s own foibles and flaws are used to mold Scarpetta’s world.

For those who love CSI and procedural mysteries, you will enjoy this book.  It is a very long novel that could have been much shorter.  Cornwell must explain who people are, events from the past, and how characters’ relationships developed, for those who have not read her earlier Scarpetta mysteries.  This makes it sometimes wordy and repetitive, but the story is strong.  We recommend it with the understanding that there are weaknesses in this particular book.

Key Ideas from different club members:

Needed knowledge from previous books to really understand; Too long; Too wordy; Too many characters; I got confused with the twists in the story; Hard to follow plot and I usually like her books; Not as good as her other books; Could not stay interested in the book; Enjoyed use of language and phrasing; Intriguing plot; I really liked the book, will read more.

The Club Members rating of this book:

Linda Bowman, Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Linda Troll, and Rae Ann Weaver

Club’s Average Rating:  3.3 of 5       Rating Range:  2 to 5

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Crime, Mystery

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