Sunday, November 29, 2009

No bones about it, Scarpetta is back (Patricia Cornwell)

From --

No bones about it, Scarpetta is back --

By thrillers myles mcweeney --
Saturday November 28 2009 --

THE SCARPETTA FACTOR Patricia Cornwell. (LittleBrown stg£18.99)

It's the week before Christmas in a grey and depressed post-credit crunch New York and forensic pathologist Dr Kay Scarpetta, now working pro bono for the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, has a puzzling case.

The murder victim, a young woman called Toni Darien, was found dead at the edge of Central Park, apparently raped and killed by a blow to the head. Scarpetta's findings suggest a different scenario; that the victim had been alive and unconscious for some time after she had been struck on the head. Where had she been kept for the 36 hours she lay in a coma, and who had attacked her?

Later that evening Scarpetta, who has a contract with CNN as their senior forensic analyst, is asked on live television about the startling disappearance some weeks before of Hannah Starr, a famous financier who is missing and presumed dead. To her dismay Carley Crispin, the TV presenter, then links that case to the death of Toni Darien. Crispin has information that suggests there is a leak in the investigating team.

When she returns to the apartment she shares with her husband Benton Wesley, the former FBI agent who has become a prominent psychologist treating the criminally insane in Bellvue, a suspicious package is waiting for her. As long-time friend Pete Marino, now working for the NYPD, deals with this apparent threat to her life, Scarpetta finds herself embroiled in a deadly plot that involves a famous actor with unspeakable sexual impulses, a deranged former patient of her husband and a psychotic consultant on the paranormal with a long-nursed grudge against Benton Wesley.

Worse still, it appears that Lucy Farinelli, Scarpetta's brilliant and wealthy gay niece, may have shared a secret past with the vanished Hannah Starr. But as Benton Wesley begins to put things together, his greatest fear is that that a deadly spectre from his and Kay's shared past is again reaching out to destroy them.

This is the 17th Scarpetta novel, and signals a welcome return to tip-top form by the author who invented the now somewhat crowded female-forensic-pathologist-as-heroine genre.

Patricia Cornwell cleverly adds a lot of interesting meat to the bones of her regular cast of characters, and her fascination with up-to-the-minute information and medical technology is used to great effect to drive the story forward at a relentlessly accelerating pace to its genuinely suspenseful conclusion.

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