Tuesday, March 2, 2010
The Scarpetta Factor. Patricia Cornwell. Little, Brown (2009)
This is a very enjoyable, well constructed and gripping thriller. Kay Scarpetta is working in the New York City's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and is involved with two high profile cases. The disappearance of a financier Hannah Star and the murder of a young woman, Toni Darien, in Central Park. A disastrous guest spot on a television programme and the delivery of a suspect package to her apartment start the coils of the plot. They tighten very satisfactorily around Kay Scarpetta, her husband Benton Wesley, her niece Lucy and an old police colleague, Pete Marino. The reveals are very well timed and delivered, the story is nicely expansive and the cast are sharply drawn and the climax logical and satisfactory.
What is most striking about this book is that the central cast, other than Kay Scarpetta herself, are in a state of rage for the course of the story. It is not the events of the story that upset them, they are furious before the plot takes shape. It is an interesting dynamic to follow, each of the principals is hobbled in some by by nearly overwhelming anger. Of the cast the most extraordinary is Kay Scarpetta's niece Lucy. She is fractionally socialised, someone who breaks what she cannot control, obsessively self-centered and maddeningly self-pitying, to all intense a bully who classifies herself as a victim. She is also strongly identified as one of the good guys in the struggle. It is a neat twist by Patricia Cornwell to have such an obvious villain play an unexpected role and the book strongly benefits from it.
For a book that is a late entry in a long running series, Patricia Cornwell manages continuity with skill, there are enough hints of back story to convey the history of the cast without it ever intruding or being required to enjoy this story to the full. A sharp plot and interesting cast combine to create a very enjoyable read.