Three years ago when I finished The Book Of The Dead, I thought I'd just read the worst popular crime fiction book possible.
Now that I've finished Patricia Cornwell's newest effort, "The Scarpetta Factor", I realize I was wrong.
Here is a book that features Kay Scarpetta - the most talented medical examiner of her generation, Pete Marino - the most talented homicide detective of his generation, Benton Wesley - the most talented criminal psychologist of his generation and Lucy - the most talented computer genius of her generation.
Cornwell then has these characters spend roughly 450 pages trying to find where Kay misplaced her cell phone.
I am not making that up.
Sure, at the end of the book we get roughly 45 pages of action, but they all involve Jean-Baptiste Chandonne, the most boring bad guy ever created by anyone ever. He was supposedly killed off four or five books ago (mostly after fans started writing letters and petitions to her publishing company saying "this character sucks, get rid of him or we will burn Cornwell's house down.") but now he's back.
Chandonne is a remarkable literary accomplishment. He's half human, half werewolf and the head of a 400 year old French organized crime family. It must have taken a lot of time and effort for Cornwell to make a character with that background boring. But, honestly, he's less interesting than reading the consumer warranty literature that comes with IKEA furniture.
Anyway, we are supposed to believe that this criminal mastermind with access to billions of dollars and hundreds and hundreds of henchmen has spent his time and effort creating an elaborate plan to steal Scarpetta's cell phone due to his deep seated hatred of her.
Because, I guess, that makes more sense than simply having one of the several dozen hit men on his pay roll shoot her when she's walking from her apartment to the New York City Medical Examiner's Office.
The rest of the book will be familiar to anyone who has read any of the other books in the series. Benton and Marino are rude to each other. Scarpetta cooks a lot of food and tries to tell everyone how to behave. Lucy is a weird emotional zero who can't figure out why her lesbian lover is being rude to her and they all come together to save Scarpetta from Werewolf Dude at the last minute.
At this point the only positive thing I can say about the recent Cornwell books is that the Lucy character obviously inspired Stieg Larson to create the considerably more interesting, but very similar, Lisbeth Salander character.
That, in and of itself, is a good thing.