Book Review: The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell

Posted February 24, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 8 Comments

Book Review: The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell
Genres: Mystery, Forensics
Published by Berkley on Berkley
Pages: 592
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Trace

Seventeenth in the Kay Scarpetta forensics mystery series and revolving around a forensic pathologist and her psychologist husband. It’s a week before Christmas in New York City.

My Take

I tried to enjoy this, but all the whining and stupid reactions by the main characters made it an annoying read. It didn’t help that Cornwell was constantly hinting and inferring tidbits, some of which were revealed openly, others were buried, and some were ignored. Loose threads, anyone? She was also vague about some events.

That romantic trip to Vermont for Lucy and Jaime? Nope, didn’t pick up on it being a birthday gift for Jaime until much later. I think Cornwell should have played the gift aspect up as I was totally confused as to why they were even in Vermont. All that hinting around about the issues between Hannah and Lucy drove me nuts. Wherever does Jaime get the idea that Lucy is deceiving her? I admit it’s been a long while since I read the earlier Kay Scarpettas, so I may not be remembering issues from the “past”, but a little reminder would have been useful. Then there’s Lucy’s smarts. Jaime knows about Lucy’s background, her intelligence, so why is she going on about Lucy’s interrogation methods? It’s like Lucy and Jaime don’t know each other. It’s for certain sure neither of them trusts the other. I guess it was all supposed to be drama. Or tension? ‘Cause I sure got tense about it.

I gotta wonder why Cornwell is having her characters be this stupid. It takes over half the book before Kay figures out that, ta-duhhh, there must be a reason Lucy feels the need to keep track of where everyone is. I do agree with Kay that Lucy should have explained the why of those phones. As for Jaime having the right to be upset because Lucy hasn’t told her all of her past history. WTF? How is Lucy supposed to know which parts of her past she simply must inform Jaime about? For all that Lucy has done so far in her life, telling every detail (besides near impossible to remember it all and some of it probably classified) could take days, weeks, months. How stupid.

It will always seem stupid to me that law enforcement holds back information from each other. Special Agent Lanier is a real pain, and so typical of that FBI superiority. I’m with Pete. Why bother calling him if she’s not going to say anything? I certainly don’t understand why Jaime would refuse to talk to her own investigator. Nor do I understand why Lucy would hold back. Heck, I’d like Lucy to explain why she insists on giving her close circle of family and friends those BlackBerrys.

Since when do sentenced criminals get a choice of venue and doctor? Kay claims that the Boston office is overwhelmed, so why is she spending so much time in New York? Who’s doing the work in Boston? Why is the FBI allowing Agee to claim he was a profiler? Why hasn’t Benton told Kay the truth? Why would all those government agencies believe anything Agee said?

“Aggression occurs when it’s profitable.”

We do get background information on Benton’s death and some of his life as a “dead man”, how he kept tabs on Kay. I do understand why Benton is so angry over Agee’s actions, the FBI’s complicity, and not being able to work in law enforcement anymore. Those instincts of his just won’t quit. Kay has her own flashbacks about his “death” and how it affected her professional life.

Lucy is tightly wound in this one, and it’s causing problems between her and Jaime, lashing out at random people, and having angry flashbacks about her aunt. I suspect most of it is set off by the lack of communication between her and Jaime. As for her whining about being controlled, hmmph, she should talk. As for Berger and her whining… Hullo? What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander, or the other goose, in this case.

Yep, there is a lot of whining going on in this. I guess it wouldn’t have been so bad except that everyone kept going on and on about their own issues. Was Cornwell trying to pad things out or did she think it would create drama?

I think it would be interesting to do an analysis about what caused Lucy to be the way she is. Cornwell keeps describing Lucy as a sociopath, but my understanding is that a sociopath can only ape emotion. They don’t actually feel it. And Lucy certainly does feel emotional about Jaime, Kay, Benton, and Marino. She’d do anything to protect them. It may not be appropriate. It may be controlling, but she’d never let anything happen to them. With all the betrayal that Lucy has suffered her entire life — her mother is an excellent example of a woman who should never have been allowed to have children — it’s not surprising that Lucy has such insecurity. Although…then we wouldn’t have Lucy.

As much of a snob as he sounds, I do like Rupe. An honest, thoughtful man who reckons he’d be a lesbian too if he were a woman…because he likes women too, lol. Reminds me of a boyfriend I had who always claimed to be a lesbian *more laughter*.

Wow, Kay and Benton have been together for twenty years! How time flies.

There’s an interesting bit on freedom as Benton remembers his feelings when he came out of the witness protection program that spring of 2003.

The Story

Forensic expert Kay Scarpetta is surrounded by familiar faces, yet traveling down the unfamiliar road of fame. The show is an important platform for Kay, but the glare of the spotlight could make Kay a target for the very killers she would put behind bars.

The Characters

Dr. Kay Scarpetta is a forensic pathologist who technically works in Boston but is spending most of her time in New York. She also does a regular guest spot as CNN’s senior forensic analyst where she talks about advances in forensic science. Benton Wesley is her husband, booted from the FBI, and working as a consulting forensic psychologist at Bellevue and on staff at McLean, a Harvard-affiliated psychiatric hospital. Justine is their housekeeper at their Belmont, Massachusetts, home.

Lucy Farinelli is Kay’s gay millionaire niece with some mad computer and combat skills. For such a young woman, she’s had a full life: former special agent, certified fire investigator for ATF, creator of CAIN for the FBI while she was still a teenager, and an experienced deep cover operator. She currently operates a forensic computer investigative agency, Connextions, in her Greenwich village warehouse home. Jaime Berger is her significant other and the New York county assistant district attorney with the Sex Crimes Unit. Jet Ranger is their rescue bulldog.

Detective Pete Marino is currently working for Jaime. It’s been a year-and-a-half since the incident with Kay, the incident that has turned him around. Georgia Bacardi is the girlfriend Pete thinks he’s losing. Doris was his long ago ex-wife. Peter Rocco Marino, Jr, Caggiano is the son who went wrong.

Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) in…
…New York City is where Kay volunteers. Dr. Brian Edison is the chief medical examiner and Kay’s boss. And against Kay being on CNN. Rene is a tech. Filene is a security guard who enjoys rock ’n roll. Dennis is a medicolegal investigator.

Detective L.A. Bonnell is investigating the Darien murder and has a lot to learn about observation. Officer Mellnik is unlikely to rise from his current position. Police Commissioner Kelly. Lieutenant Al Lobo is in charge of the team disposing of the bomb. Ann “Android” Droiden is the female bomb tech. Geffner is a trace evidence examiner. The Two Truck is a police precinct? fire department? where they all celebrate Christmas dinner. Max is the Two’s rescued brindle boxer. RTCC is the Real Time Crime Center, the information-technology center at One Police Plaza where Marino goes data mining. Petrowski is one of the computer analysts.

Mayor Bloomberg. Judge Fable is Jaime’s favorite judge.

Special Agent Marty Lanier is with the Joint Bank Robbery Task force and the principal coordinator for the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime; they’re investigating the Granny and Clyde bank robberies. NYPD Detective Jim O’Dell is part of the task force and partnered with Special Agent Andy Stockman. Bay Bridge Finance was part of a Ponzi scheme.

Toni Darien, a waitress at High Roller Lanes, is a marathon runner who suffered a very confusing death. Grace Darien is her angry and confused mother. Larry is the deadbeat father suddenly very interested in his child. Joe is the super at Toni’s building. Graham Tourette is a neighbor. Harvey Fahley is a witness who’s taken advantage of.

Hannah Starr is a missing celebrity financial manager. Bobby Fuller, a hedge fund manager, is her husband. Rupe Starr was her father, the Money Manager worth millions who only took on big clients. Lucy was one of them. I think he looked upon her as a daughter. Rosie is the Florida housekeeper while Nastya is the one in New York.

Hap Judd is an actor (and a stupid man) who used to work at Park General before he became famous. Farrah Lacy was a patient in a coma at Park General. The overly dramatic Dodie Hodge, a witch and psychic advisor with a histrionic personality disorder, is a former patient of Benton’s who is totally whacked and stalking him and Kay. Betty of Betty’s Bookstore brought the charges against Dodie. Lafourche is Dodie’s Detroit lawyer. Jerome Wild is an AWOL Marine.

Carley Crispin is…
…a former presidential press secretary who is the irresponsible host of The Crispin Report on CNN. She overrides her guests and “edits” their remarks to suit her need for drama. Alex Bachta is the executive producer. The self-aggrandizing Dr. Warner Agee is a frequent profiler on the show and the man who brought about Benton’s expulsion from the FBI. He’s not above being “creative” with the truth. Interested in the paranormal, he was in correspondence with a Monsieur Lecoq.

High Roller Lanes is…
…a very upscale bowling alley owned by Freddie Maestro with entertainment businesses and restaurants all over the eastern half of the United States.

The Chandonne crime cartel is…
…mostly broken with the father in jail and Jay, the heir, dead. But, the nutso Jean-Baptiste who suffers from congenital hypertrichosis universalis, is still on the lam and running the family business. They’re the reason Benton had to “die” and enter the witness protection program as Tom Haviland.

Dr. Nathan Clark is the chief of forensic psychiatry at Bellevue and working with Benton on personal issues. Judy is the whiny elderly woman who had been a comedic actor years ago. Now she’s a widow drowning her past. Fresca is her dog, a gift from her husband years ago. Now she’s Kay and Benton’s New York neighbor and bitter about it. F.J. Reed is one of the ground handlers at Westchester County Airport where Lucy hangars her jet and Bell 407 chopper; the air traffic controller is Lech Peterek. Eric is a young man who does some work for Lucy. The Hotel Elysée’s night manager is Curtis.

The Cover and Title

The cover is dark on with a colonial blue brick wall proclaiming in raised letters where the story takes place and what Kay is (in Boston) The rest is in grays: a gradated one at the top with the author’s name in an embossed green-gold while the bottom fourth is a scraggly, grassy ground ending in a sidewalk, the title in an embossed silver.

The title is the promotional tag used by CNN, The Scarpetta Factor.

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8 responses to “Book Review: The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell

  1. I have read this and was a bit disappointed so I had to come see what you thought. Great review and I hope Patricia takes things to heart and tightens up a bit. I always wonder if they are on deadlines and the book pays the price. 🙂

  2. Pamela D'Amato

    I am so glad I read your review. Pretty much my opinion as well. All the whining! I am also listening to the audiobook and while the reader is okay, she mispronounces words so often that it takes me right out of the book. If it is literally your job to read words, shouldn’t you look them up first??

  3. Barbara Hoffman Field

    I have read them all up to now and this is the worst one. I’m on page 121 and find myself often feeling annoyed and impatient, even
    wondering if someone else wrote this one. I hope this stye is not going to continue in the few I have remaining to read. It just doesn’t feel fresh if that makes any sense.

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