Audiobook Review: The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell, Read by Kate Burton

Even after having somewhat mixed feelings about our previous audiobook listening experience with Robert Parker’s Widow’s Walk, the missus and I decided to give another book a listen on our way back from Ohio after New Year’s. While perusing a rack at a rest stop, we stumbled across Patricia Cornwell’s The Scarpetta Factor. Unlike most of the other sets on the stand, we had at least heard of Cornwell and after the missus read the back and declared it was kind of like Bones, I was sold. The trip wound up being shorter than the audiobook, so it wasn’t until this weekend while driving all over creation registering for baby stuff at Baby’s R Us or checking out potential sleeper sofas at Bob’s that we finally finished the endeavor. We both agreed that this one was a lot more absorbing and quick than Walk wound up being.

Our main, or at least titular, character is Kay Scarpetta a medical examiner who’s a big enough deal to regularly appear on CNN to help explain modern medical practices and how they can be used in forensic investigations. This is one of the more recent entries in a series that goes back to 1986, so there’s a lot going on with relationships and whatnot that were revealed to the new reader (which we were). She’s married to a forensic psychologist who used to work for the FBI and her niece is a tech whiz with a mad on for seemingly everyone and also happens to be dating the DA that Scarpetta works with along with NYPD detective Pete Marino. This book picks up with the unusual death of a young woman who was dumped in the park which may or may not be related to the disappearance of a celebrity financial whiz. There is a LOT going on in this book with investigations into the recently dead girl, the missing financial lady and attacks on Scarpetta from a crazy woman who her husband used to treat. There’s also references back to her husband Benton’s past in the FBI which I assume were mentioned in previous books, but who knows?

The story here is very tight and intricate, sometimes taking veers off into other areas that don’t seem like they matter quite so much which really absorbed us as we were driving along. I really thought about ripping the last disc onto my computer to play out loud the very  next day, but wanted to finish it with the missus. I’ll be honest, there were still some aspects of the book that I’m not completely sure I understand, but that’s kind of good. Widow’s Walk ended with a complete recap of what happened which felt very much like a TV movie. There’s still a bit of that in this book, but it didn’t seem quite as “here’s every single thing that happened in case you missed it.” Another thing I liked about the book is that it felt like we were getting a view at a chunk of someone’s life instead of just a case they were working on. Sure, the action is kicked off by a murder, but the solving of that murder is not the only thing going on. We get into Benton’s past, Lucy’s love life and plenty of other strange occurrences going on. As it turns out, many of them are related, but not everything. I like that slice of life aspect over the alternative.

Unlike Widow’s Walk, there’s no mistaking Scarpetta Factor as a modern work of fiction because the characters–who work as a kind of crime fighting team–are constantly sending each other information pertinent to the various cases using their phones or macbooks. I really enjoyed the use of technology in this book, which is something that I haven’t even really seen on TV shows with similar themes. These people can share information with one another in seconds, which is how it seems like these things should work considering how powerful smart phones have become. In fact, it’s an interesting twist how quickly some of the characters get upset when they can no longer contact their loved ones and co-workers immediately. The end of this book would have been completely different had it been set even five years back.

Something interesting I noticed after we finished listening today was that this happened to be the abridged version of the book. The picture above is of the unabridged version, it’s not a huge image, but I think it says that version has something like 10 discs. It makes me wonder what we missed. Did they cut out chapters or subplots? Or is it something as simple as removing some of the “he saids”? If it was just to make things more theatrical that’s great, but if huge things were taken out that’s kind of a bummer. Does anyone know what the difference might be?

All in all we both really enjoyed this book. While Widow’s Walk piqued our interest in audiobooks, Scarpetta Factor solidified it. I’ll definitely keep my eyes peeled for more Patricia Cornwell novels in the future.

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