This month’s Across the Page features Patricia Cornwell’s The Scarpetta Factor (Putnam), The Others, by Seba Al-Herz (Seven Stories), and Caprice Crane’s Family Affair (Bantam Books).
The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell (Putnam)
Out author Patricia Cornwell’s latest release, The Scarpetta Factor, opens with the formidable Dr. Kay Scarpetta at the New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. She has just finished her third autopsy of the day: a woman in her mid-twenties named Toni Darien who was found raped and murdered by the edge of Central Park shortly before dawn.
The case should be straightforward, but the condition of Darien’s body does not fit with the details of the crime.
As Scarpetta works to figure out exactly what happened, we get an inside look into all of the major players in the investigation: Lucy Farinelli, Scarpetta’s lesbian niece, whose lover Jamie Berger is the Assistant District Attorney on the case; Benton Wesley, Scarpetta’s husband and a forensic psychologist whose patient may be connected to the crime; and detective Pete Marino who is now working as an investigator for Berger.
Scarpetta is also trying to manage her new role as a Senior Forensic Analyst for CNN — she is a contributor to Carley Crispin’s show, The Crispin Report. Her aim is to educate the public, who believe that forensic science is accurately portrayed in shows like CSI. But the role is more stressful than rewarding, as Crispin breaks their agreement and asks questions about cases that Scarpetta is currently working on and can’t discuss.
Though Scarpetta still doubts the details of Darien’s case, Marino wonders if she is the one who’s mistaken: “He’d seen it happen time and again, people believe their own press and quit doing the real work, and they f— up and make fools of themselves.”
But soon Scarpetta’s team begins to connect the Darien case with Hannah Star, a beautiful and extremely wealthy heiress, and a movie star named Hap Judd, who Lucy and Berger are investigating.
In the midst of the investigation, Cornwell also weaves tension throughout the relationships: Marino doubts Scarpetta’s analysis; Wesley is unable to tell his wife about his past; and Lucy and Berger are suspicious of each, though not for the right reasons.
Cornwell is the number one crime novelist in the world and her attention to detail and her ability to bring the latest forensic science into the story are both remarkable.
If you’re looking for a good crime mystery, with just a touch of lesbian intrigue, pick it up.