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Publisher's Summary

It is the week before Christmas. A tanking economy has prompted Dr. Kay Scarpetta - despite her busy schedule and her continuing work as the senior forensic analyst for CNN - to offer her services pro bono to New York City's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

In no time at all, her increased visibility seems to precipitate a string of unexpected and unsettling events. She is asked live on the air about the sensational case of Hannah Starr, who has vanished and is presumed dead. Moments later during the same telecast she receives a startling call-in from a former psychiatrist patient of Benton Wesley's. When she returns after the show to the apartment where she and Benton live, she finds an ominous package - possibly a bomb - waiting for her at the front desk.

Soon the apparent threat on Scarpetta's life finds her embroiled in a surreal plot that includes a famous actor accused of an unthinkable sex crime and the disappearance of a beautiful millionaires with whom Lucy seems to have shared a secret past.

Scarpetta's CNN producer wants her to launch a TV show called The Scarpetta Factor. Given the bizarre events already in play, she fears that her growing fame will generate the illusion that she has a "special factor", a mythical ability to solve all her cases. She wonders if she will end up like other TV personalities: her own stereotype.

The Scarpetta Factor, the 17th in the series, finds the familiar cast of characters together again in New York. Marino is working for the NYPD; Benton Wesley uses his forensic psychological expertise at Kirby and Bellevue; and Lucy continues to dazzle with her expertise in forensic computer investigations as she works yet another case with New York prosecutor Jaime Berger.

Flesh and bone: investigate more of Kay Scarpetta's forensic cases.
©2009 Patricia Cornwell; (P)2009 Penguin

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Lee
  • Shamrock, TX, United States
  • 10-22-09


I've found since the "death" of Benton Wesley that the books have taken a very dark turn. There doesn't seem to be any joy in them at all. Even when they win there is no sense of triumph. Any sense of happiness seems to be out of obligation rather than emotion. I'm not buying this version of Marino at all. He has had such a sense of honor and duty in previous books that to accept this version is a stretch. There needs to be a book of healing to bring the characters back to life.When I started this book, I thought this could be the one but was disappointed to find I was wrong.NO healing began until the last 4 pages.

57 of 59 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Cleo
  • Plainwell, MI, USA
  • 10-29-09

oh, for the good old days....

I used to absolutely love Kay Scarpetta stories. I couldn't get enough and eagerly awaited each new book - but the last two....well...they wouldn't have hooked me. This one is better than Scarpetta but no where near as good as the earlier books. The characters have gotten "thin", have lost a lot of their personalities, and it now seems that technical details are included just to show off the authors knowledge when they don't add to the story at all. Yeah, I'll listen to the next one, but with the spirit of hope more than eager expectation.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


I give up. I used to love her books. The narrator's manner of reading is so frustrating to listen to that I want to scream at her. Just speak naturally. Don't try to sound like a man. She really does a terrible job with that. Don't try to make Scarpetta sound like such a depressed prima donna. Her voice drones and drones and her inflections make no sense. And, don't tell the story like a prigish school marm. And why is everyone so angry and dysfuntional in this book. They all hate each other and complain about their behavior. Who wants to listen to that. I have noticed this occurring in her other recent books. There is no joy in the story. I feel like I'm wearing cement boots and I am exhausted.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Suzn F
  • Fletcher, VT, US
  • 10-31-09

Ms. Cornwell, Alright-Already

Again, I am sorry to say that in my opinion, this like the last, Scarpetta novel falls short. This series was once fun, engaging and scary, all one wants from a mystery I think.
But here for more than the first 3/4 of the story, the author has us listen to charcters who do nothing but bicker and complain. Benton now can't seem to speak more than 10 words without using the F word (I'm no prude, but this is totally not like this charcter AT ALL). And finally in the last maybe hour we get some action relating to the mystery and other charcters, and this is where the book finally gets interesting, but then.... zip it's over, end of book.
Really, I wish I hadn't wasted my credit, I'm sorry to say because I used to look forward to Conrwell's books. Oh well.... maybe next time.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Rants galore

I, too, used to like the Scarpetta series. However, in the last couple of novels, Cornwell seems to be straining for plots. The previous one had a reliable friend going off the rails in an unlikely way. In The Scarpetta Factor, everyone is angry. I got very tired of listening to the rants of the various characters, which seemed immature and unfocussed. Also, no real plot developed until the second half, and then it wasn't very compelling. Maybe Cornwell needs to take a rest--or retire Scarpetta and come up with some other character. I could barely get to the end of this audiobook--almost gave up several times. Had I known the ending, I wouldn't have bothered, despite the price.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Do not waste your time

I don't know which is worse, the writing or the narration. Cornwell needs to drop the Scarpetta, et al characters and start over. She should begin by reading PD James to see how really good mysteries are written really well. As for the narrator, oy. So monotonous I could hardly tell which character was speaking. The last straw for me was the 20 minute sleep inducing dialogue between Benton and Clark. The text is hackneyed, the plot simplistic, and the writing and dialogue nervewrackingly tedious. What was the editor thinking? Wake up, Cornwell. Splash some water on your face and write something that does not cause drowsiness in the listener/reader.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Carolyn
  • Mililani, HI, United States
  • 10-27-09

Enjoyable book

It's worth working your way through the middle of the story. There was too much anger in the middle of the book but it does end well.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Morey
  • Brookfield, IL, USA
  • 11-09-09


Patricia Cornwell seems to have moved from good forensic crime writing to angst filled drama. If I wanted this much conflict, I would go watch 90210 on TV. I wish she would go back to her strong crime writing with good lab scenes and evidence being examined, and leave the drama to others. She almost never had any characters in the labs and no one seemed to be doing real crime solving. Instead everyone was all worked up about personal relationships and no real detective work was being done.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Kelly
  • Colorado Springs
  • 06-12-17

Another dismal book in a series I used to love.

I wish that I didn't already own the next three books as I feel like the last few have killed all of my desire to follow the doings of Kay, Benton, Pete and Lucy. I am not sure I will read them even though I do own them.

Ugh. Kay used to be smart, dedicated, loyal, loving and hopeful. She loved to cook and entertain. She respected her employees who were loyal to her in return. Kay used to think about her deceased person more than herself, and that compassion drove her desire to solve the case. Recently the books are more about her ego, and her desire to solve the case seems fueled by her need to be the best more than her need to get answers for the deceased. Her interactions with Benton are dull and sad. Her interactions with Lucy are judgmental and angry. Her interactions with Pete are bossy and violent. I no loner like any of these characters.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Rachel
  • United States
  • 03-08-10

Not her best

This is one of her worst stories....not up to Ms Cornwell's standards.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful