Patricia Cornwell’s 2008 novel Scarpetta is a wonderful mystery/thriller, the first of Cornwell’s novels I actually finished. I'm a mystery writer — so, I admit, I have different standards than a general reader. I always thought Cornwell's popularity was deserved, it was just that she hadn't written anything that interested me and my peculiar tastes. (I love books by people you’ve never heard of, like B. M. Gill.)
Book Blurb: Early one morning, Patricia Cornwell’s medical examiner protagonist, Kay Scarpetta, enters Bellevue Hospital’s criminal psychiatric ward to examine a suspected serial killer — not surprising, except that she’s there as his physician, not as a police investigator. By midnight, Scarpetta knows the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Unfortunately, she can’t do a thing about it.
Why is she “handcuffed”? Alone with Scarpetta, the suspect, a “little person” with a Ph.D. in forensic pathology, professes his innocence, but he also cleverly confesses an unusual love affair with the killer’s most recent victim. Having been tricked into a privileged relationship with him. Scarpetta can’t repeat anything to investigators, not even her suspicion that the man is innocent.
Sidebar: There’s plenty of titillating forensics in the novel that particularly appealed to this mystery maven. No one should be disappointed in it, especially not Cornwell’s fans. One very clever forensic bit involves the way a detective counterfeits fingerprints at a crime scene in order to cast suspicion on an innocent man. It’s actually something I’ve thought must be possible but couldn’t figure out.
The final chapter of Scarpetta led me to expect this to be the last in the series. Since 2008, though, Cornwell has published two more novels about the medical examiner and her computer-genius niece: The Scarpetta Factor  and Port Mortuary . I’m eager to check them out, too.
Sidebar: I don’t believe the Lucy character is truly a technical genius and would suggest that Cornwell find a real computer geek to help her with the technical details. Specifically, I found jarring a gratuitous reference to “neural nets” and repeated references to PDAs when Blackberry’s or iPads were what she meant. (I volunteer!)