The Scarpetta Factor

September 19, 2010 - The Scarpetta Factor (Patricia Cornwell). The 17th novel in the author's Kay Scarpetta series forces several characters to confront demons from their past. Once again, the action is set mainly in New York City, where members of the gang have relocated on either a full or part-time basis.

It's a week before Christmas and Kay is doing some work for the medical examiner in New York City. She's also appearing frequently as a guest on a CNN show hosted by a Nancy Grace-type woman named Carley Crispin. Lately, Crispin has been beating the drum on the disappearance of well-known society woman, Hannah Starr. Now, in the latest sensational case to hit New York, a jogger has been killed and dumped near Central Park. Despite (or maybe because of) Crispin's constant attention to such cases, her ratings are tanking. CNN wants to give Scarpetta her own show. Without saying yes or no, she heads back to her apartment.

As she gets to the desk, she's handed a package that was left for her at the desk. A strange smell makes Scarpetta suspect it's a bomb of some kind. Police are called and tense moments ensue. The package has many similarities to one sent to the office of Kay's husband, Benton Wesley, at a mental health facility in Massachusetts. Who is sending these packages and why? Benton has his suspicions, but he's not prepared to share them with Kay just yet.

On the whole, the book is another solid entry in the series. It's a quick read and features all the technical talk and acronyms you could want. But, as she did in the previous book, Cornwell spends a lot of time exploring the main characters' inner thoughts. So, we know what's going on even though not all of the characters are in the loop. That quality is nice, on one hand, because the reader gets to know the individual characters. On the other hand, it felt like all that individual attention took away from the characters' interaction with each other and from the overall action. In the next book, I'd like to see more talking and less thinking.