September 17, 2009 - Scarpetta (Patricia Cornwell). The 16th novel in the author's Kay Scarpetta series reunites the usual cast of characters in a new location. The early books had Scarpetta based in Virginia. Lately, however, she (or Cornwell) has gotten restless. Scarpetta's been to Paris, Florida and Charleston. Now, she and new husband, Benton Wesley, are based in Massachusetts but have side interests in New York City.

Manhattan is where the action in Scarpetta takes place over a period of about 36 hours. During that time, the gang investigates the murder of a "little person" while simultaneously trying to keep the prime suspect, another little person, from becoming a victim himself. At the same time, the characters work on repairing relationships that were severely damaged in the previous book.

Overall, I found Scarpetta to be a fast, satisfying read. Cornwell tells the story by getting into the heads of the various characters. In other words, the action is communicated through their inner thoughts and their outer conversations rather than through the eyes of just one character or the generic omniscient narrator. I think the technique works well, and frequent changes of perspective keep the story moving.

I do have two criticisms, however. One concerns motive. The killer's head is about the only one that Cornwell doesn't get into, so we're left with a picture of the killer as a sick, sadistic person but we never learn how or why the killer got that way. The other concerns Cornwell's decision to build the story around little people. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's also no particular plot-related reason for it, i.e. the killer does not specifically target little people. On the other hand, maybe the fault is on my end for expecting their small size to play a bigger part in the story.