I've been reading mysteries series, particularly series written by American women, for probably 20 years. Recently, I've been wondering how many titles an author can write about one character before "jumping the shark" (to borrow a phrase from television).
Several years ago, when Patricia Cornwell brought FBI Special Agent Benton Wesley back from the dead, I thought she had gone off the rails. But I gave her another chance and she seemed to be back on track. Unfortunately, The Scarpetta Factor is a full-scale train wreck.
At the beginning of the book, three of the four main characters--medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, her husband Benton Wesley, and her niece Lucy Farinelli--all seem as if they're about to have breakdowns. (When police officer Pete Marino is the sanest of Scarpetta's characters, you know something is wrong.) Meanwhile, they are working the disappearance of a tycoon's daughter (who is the cause of Lucy losing her fortune), the murder of a jogger, and what appears to be a stalking of Benton and Kay. After nearly 500 pages, everything leads back to a psychotic killer from one of the earlier Scarpetta books, Jean-Baptiste Chandonne. Cornwell has always been good at creating truly creepy characters, but here Chandonne's creepiness is talked about but not experienced.
The bulk of the story revolves around computerized data analysis in one form or another--yawn! Kay spends almost no time in the autopsy room --instead, she's searching an apartment with Lucy and analyzing documents. By the end of the book, everyone seems to have regained their equilibrium for no apparent reason (except for Wesley, who is rid of a couple of his archnemeses and thus could be expected to be in a somewhat better mood).
Favorite passage: None