Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Scarpetta Is Back

I'm sure there will be those who don't agree, but in my opinion Patricia Cornwell has finally done it again. She has returned to the Kay Scarpetta the world fell in love with in Postmortem twenty years ago. In the mid-200os, Cornwell seemed to get out of the groove of good mystery writing, penning Scarpetta novels such as Trace (2004) and Book of the Dead (2007) to mixed reviews. It seemed for years after Benton Wesley's death and reappearance, all Cornwell could harp on was how angry Scarpetta was at him for doing such a thing to her. That, coupled with some experimental writing gone bad (switching point-of-view, using both first- and third-person, etc.) has actually turned some readers away from the series.

In the latest Scarpetta novel, The Scarpetta Factor, there is once again a glimpse of the old Dr. Kay Scarpetta, who performs autopsies in a ritual to honor the dead. This time she is working in New York City doing pro bono work and on hiatus from her current paid position in Massachusetts. Benton also works in both Massachusetts and NYC, and believe it or not, the two of them are finally happy in their marriage. Notice I didn't say they were happy... just that they were happy together. In an ode to the profession, Cornwell describes the inscriptions found in the lobby of the New York City Medical Examiner's Office:

Carved in marble above the reception desk was Tacent colloquia. Effugiat risus. Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae. Let conversations cease. Let laughter depart. This is the place where death delights to help the living. Music sounded from a radio on the floor behind the desk, the Eagles playing "Hotel California." Filene, one of the security guards, had decided that an empty lobby was hers to fill with what she called her tunes. ". . . You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave," Filene softly sang along, oblivious to the irony.

Scarpetta is back to solving the mysteries of the dead in this latest effort from Cornwell. Also a consultant for CNN, Scarpetta is carving a name for herself with the American public. The "Scarpetta Factor" is the angle Scarpetta provides on the air regarding highly publicized murder cases.

Here's an interview with Patricia Cornwell on the set of CNN, where Scarpetta lends her expertise in the novel:

An interesting whodunnit follows, with some weaving into the story from the main characters' past lives. Benton is tortured by things that happened long ago in his FBI years, and Lucy has relationship problems with the assistant DA from a previous novel but manages to get a lot of technology-speak into the storyline, as well. Marino is back, and in my opinion more loveable than ever, after Cornwell almost ruined his character with an attack on Scarpetta a couple of novels ago.

There are places where Cornwell includes a bit too much technical talk (and relies on technology to drive the slightly-difficult-to-swallow plot in some instances). In the end, though, Cornwell delivers what her readers (and me!) have been waiting years to see -- a heartfelt depiction of the characters we love, involved in a fast-paced story replete with evil sociopaths, twists, and turns.

Kay Scarpetta is an icon with a Wikipedia page of her own and a life beyond her writer-creator, as discussed in an interview with Cornwell in the St. Petersburg Times.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails