Thursday, December 10, 2009

That's It. I'm Out.

Yes, I still read Patricia Cornwell. I know, I know. But before you start throwing stones, I'd be willing to bet most of you have a similar deep dark secret. An author you can't give up, even though you know you should. A series you can't quit, even though each new installment leaves you questioning your sanity. I've been reading mystery/suspense way longer than I've been reading romance, so the nostalgia factor is harder for me to kick in that genre. And that's why I still read Cornwell. That, and my job has made it hard for me to kick the habit completely. "I'll just put myself on the wait list for it at work, and when I get it, I'll read it. No big deal."

After slogging through The Scarpetta Factor, the 17th installment, I think I am finally able to call it quits. I'm done. I'm out.

In lieu of an actual review, I'm going to steal Kati's terminology and call this a review-ish. Partly because I'm lazy and partly because I'm not sure what the hell I just read. When a book clocks in at almost 500 pages that's typically not a good sign.

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for bullshit. Just get to the bloody point already. Reading The Scarpetta Factor left me wondering if the author gets edited anymore. Had I been the editor on this book the margins would have been littered with red-inked chicken scratch saying things like, "Who is this? And why should the reader give a crap?," "Where the hell is this going?," "Are you going to get to the point sometime this century?," "Could we drop this nonsense and flesh out the 'suspense' - like yesterday?"

This entire book had a completely unfocused feel. There's one dead body, and one missing person. There's a whack-job former mental patient, a sleazy Hollywood actor, a crack-pot forensic specialist, the mafia, the current economic meltdown, and a CNN talking head who is a bit like Nancy Grace on crack. On top of all that is the mountain of character baggage that by now is so out of control I'm left wondering why these people aren't on serious psychotropic drugs yet. It might have worked, and been interesting, if the author had cut out about 150 pages, and got to the point - tying it all together in some way that made sense. There's also a ton of series-itis going on here - most of it I don't remember. I was left with the impression that I was supposed to already know some of the baddies, and frankly, I didn't. Which is probably an indication of how unmemorable the last several books in this series have been.

It's a mess. Truly. The only reason I kept reading was because I got my Detective Pete Marino fix. Now that the author is done bending him over and screwing with him, he's back to being a politically-incorrect, semi-hostile, but good cop. There's a moment in the story where he's telling Scarpetta how annoyed he is with his state-of-the-art Blackberry and I actually laughed. Out loud.

In the end though, none of this worked. Kay is a pale shadow of her former self. I'm left wondering how Lucy isn't in a maximum security prison yet, and I wanted to bitch-slap Benton Wesley repeatedly. Too much series baggage left unexplained. Too much unfocused rambling, and the suspense was so loosey-goosey that by the final chapters I didn't care how it all turned out or even what the hell was going on - I just wanted it to be over.

Final Grade = D-

Now let's see if I can remember all this when the next book in the series comes out. Stay strong Wendy. Stay strong.

23 comments:

Kendra said...

Okay, Wendy, I think after that I'll probably just skip this one. Obviously, I hadn't been in a rush to read it. (Honestly, hadn't been in a rush to read the last few.) Sad to see this, because I really, really loved the first of this series. Like keeper shelf loved.

Katie Mack said...

My mom is having the same problem with Cornwell. She's been reading them for so long -- and really loved them in the beginning -- that she can't seem to make herself stop, even though she complains after each one. I ask her why she keeps reading them, and she can't really explain it, except to say that with each new release she gets that grain of hope that THIS will be the one where Cornwell gets back on track.

Smokinhotbooks said...

Confession I just broke up with Christine Feehan earlier this year. Dark Curse had 3 page long "healing chants" just WTH was she thinking?

Kate R said...

Thank you. Knowing other people can't seem to stop bad series makes me feel a little better about my inability to quit reading Spenser books.

He doesn't get worse and worse, just a little more cartoonish...okay. So maybe they are getting worse. But they're also getting shorter and shorter! That's good.

Five hundred pages, oy. I was just going to load it onto my MP3 player (it's available as a download at the library) but maybe I should pass.

Kati said...

I'm going to steal Kati's terminology and call this a review-ish. Partly because I'm lazy...

Hey, wait. What? ;o)

I broke up w/Scarpetta a while ago, but I still read Linda Howard and shell out HC prices for her. Even though her last three books have made the sweet baby Jesus weep.

Jill Sorenson said...

I also used to love this series! We broke up over Lucy's weird medical condition. I just felt jerked around, as a reader.

Jenifer said...

This book is up next on my to-listen list. I'm another that should have broken up with it long ago, but I also haven't been able to. Even this review doesn't work. I'm going into the listen hanging my head and full of doubt, but I can't quit. Yet.

Maybe this one will do it for me too. If it does, we can remind each other next time around to back away from the book. Maybe.

Wendy said...

Kendra: Did you read the last book? Scarpetta. That one I liked OK. I thought it was really her best in the last several years. Which is probably why I got my hopes up a bit with TSF. It's just a mess. Way unfocussed. Half the time I wasn't entirely sure what was going on.

Katie: Dating myself here - but I started reading this series as a teen, which is why I suspect I'm having a hard time cutting the cord. I get really nostalgic with mystery/suspense series. It's an awful affliction.

Smokinhotbooks: Exactly! I think every reader has at least one author that they hang on to for a wee bit too long.

Kate: I only seem to have this problem with mystery/suspense, and it's always series I discovered as a teen. Darn my nostalgia!

Kati: I didn't mean it that way! Honest! That probably wasn't fair to your review-ishs, since yours tend to be more fleshed out than what I did here. I guess I probably should have called this a "rant-ish." Heh.

Jill: Yeah, and her medical condition is not addressed at all in this book. I don't remember her being cured? Or maybe she was and I've blocked it out? Seriously, my memory has been like a sieve concerning the last several books. That's probably a major indicition....

Sandy Jay said...

LOL, Wendy. I so agree with everything you said. I got strong sometime ago and quit her.

Wendy said...

Jenifer: As I was reading a throught struck me that maybe I should have tried this one on audio. I think I still would have disliked it, but maybe I would have hated it less had I listened it. Maybe? Possibly? Oh heck, it's hard to say.

Seriously. There needs to a support group for readers like us. Right now I am strong in will. I will quit! I am done! But a year down the line I wouldn't put it past me to cave. Sucker that I am.

Wendy said...

Sandy Jay: I know so many readers who have successfully made the break. Not me though. Seriously, I'm blaming my job. It's hard to break up when the new book arrives at in your office to smack you in the face.

Mayberry Mom said...

I've never gotten into this series so I can't comment on it, but I know how you feel.

I've stopped BUYING Suzanne Brockmann's books, but I'll still get them out of the library. I so LOVED her early SEAL books that I find it hard to break up with her even though the SEALs she writes about now are politically correct douchebags. Um, did I just say that out loud? LOL

And like you said, I keep reading them hoping the next book is the one where she writes like she used to.

*sigh*

JamiSings said...

You make me so glad I gave up on Cornwell a long time ago. I was so sick of Scarpetta never aging. Lucy's a lesbian. Now she's not. Now she's a lesbian again. And Cornwell's hatred of all fat people and moms. You know that the serial killer will have a fat mom.

Heck, in one book Scarpetta actually sits there and wonders how a woman can allow herself to get fat when "she could do something about it."

Um - excuse me, Kay, you bigoted b**ch, but not every single woman is fat because she's "lazy." My mom had a friend who was 400 pounds. Doctors were always accusing her of sneak eating. You know what it turned out to really be? She had a TUMOR on her thyroid! Wrapped around it! You try losing weight in that case. Oh, and the doctors think I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Guess what one of the symptoms of that is? Yep! OBESITY! Looks like the only way I'll ever be able to really lose weight is with a gastric bypass. And frankly, I'd rather be fat then have that!

*deep breath, lets it go* Sorry, I just hate Cornwell's constant blaming the mother and always making at least one fat character who's totally unsympathetic. *grumbles*

I can't think of a series I had a hard time giving up. Except for certain childrens' books like Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl, most of the series I read are by authors long dead. Like Doyle. But I did have a hard time giving up Stephen King, even though his books started to suck more and more after that car hit him. It's like being hit by that car took away his writing talent.

Ana T. said...

This makes me so sad... I have Book of The Dead in the TBR pile so you can see how behind I am but I was really hoping she would get better again...

Wendy said...

Mayberry Mom: Oooooh, you better be careful! The Brockmann fangirls will show up at your front door carrying torches and pitchforks :)

Jami: Deep breathes. Deep, cleansing breathes.

Harry Potter is a great example of a series that consistently worked for me from book one thru seven. Maybe that was because the author had a definite "end" in sight? Hmmmm.

Ana: The previous book before this one (which was just titled Scarpetta) was actually halfway decent. Nothing to write home about, but it didn't suck. So I was hoping that this new book would follow along that path. 'Fraid not. Sigh

michellewillingham said...

Jude Deveraux wrote my favorite historical romances when I was growing up. Then she moved on to women's fiction, and thought I tried them, I couldn't quite connect. There was something fun and upbeat about her early historicals (Twin of Fire, The Princess, etc.).

Have you tried her new historical? Is it any good?

A Library Girl said...

Laurell K. Hamilton is my Patricia Cornwell, and, before that, Mercedes Lackey was. I kept up with Lackey because I'd started reading her books as a teen and had all kinds of teenage nostalgia baggage to get through before I could finally say "enough." I'm embarrassed to say I still slog through Hamilton. I've got one of her books sitting, waiting to be read, right now. And I keep putting it off. When reading something becomes more a chore than a joy, it's probably best just to stop, but it's hard when you've got, well, a history with the author/series. ::sigh::

Renee said...

. . . before you start throwing stones, I'd be willing to bet most of you have a similar deep dark secret. An author you can't give up, even though you know you should

I have no idea what you're talking about. ::reaches for CD of Skin Trade by Laurell Hamilton and loads it on computer::

I'm so sorry this new Cornwell didn't work for you. I used to love her books (back in the days of Body Farm and From Potter's Field). Sue Grafton is the only author I've read for an equally long time and though her books have had their ups and downs, I'm more often happy when I finish them.

Kristie (J) said...

It's sad for me when I break up with an author 'cause it's usually not a good break-up. Try as she might to win me back, I'm fickle and replace her with someone new. And it's sad since we had had so many good times. My saddest and hardest breakup I think, was Lorraine Heath. Ahhhhh the good times we had before she moved away from me - from the west clear over the ocean. I still mourn the loss of that relationship.

Wendy said...

Michelle: Deveraux is one of those authors I need to reread. I read her during my brief torrid affair with the genre when I was a teen, and not since. Curious to see if those books I devoured still "hold up."

And I've heard absolutely nothing about the new book. Anyone out there read it yet?

Library Girl: That's my exact problem with Cornwell. Teenage nostalgia. I've noticed that it's easier for me to "break up" with authors I discovered as an adult. But those teenage discoveries? So hard to say goodbye to....

Renee: LOL! As I was typing this post up I thought of you and Hamilton :) From Potter's Field is probably my favorite Cornwell. Truly. Oh, and I wrapped up U Is For Undertow yesterday. I really, really liked it! Grafton has had her ups and down, but a big reason she still works for me is that she's stayed true to the character of Kinsey. That helps tremendously.

Kristie: It's never a good break-up, is it? Especially when they move all the way across the ocean :( (LOL - I turn of phrase tickled me despite how sad and true it is)

Mayberry Mom said...

Wendy~LOL There are enough people out there that agree with me though, I promise~I've talked to them on the 'net. lol

The problem with the over political views in the books is that Brockmann has made her views well known, so you know the characters are speaking what she believes. If you agree completely with her politics you may not notice it. However, if you don't, and you know that the characters are saying exactly what she believes, it's like getting lectured as you read a book. Not a fun experience. I don't read fiction to be lectured.

Now I'm really in trouble. LOL

Seriously though, I'm not criticizing Brockmann as a person, just they way her books are being written now. I know from things she's said, she can handle criticism as long as it's about the books.

Bonnie said...

I have lackadaisically thought about picking up one of Cornwell's recent Scarpetta books, but I just couldn't bring myself to. After Point of Origin, which I loved, I was super excited to see what happened next. Then came Black Notice and I was left with a giant question mark over my head and it just went downhill from there. I walked away and I am satisfied with the warm memories of great thrillers without the heavy weight of bad book after bad book. My mom left after she realized that all Kay did was essentially whine about how horrible her life was without doing anything to better herself.

Wendy said...

Mayberry Mom: I'm one of those readers who like my fiction books politics-free. Even when I agree with the political views expressed, I still don't like to have them invade my fiction reading. I get enough of that stuff in "real life" thankyouverymuch.

Bonnie: What made Kay such a great character in the early books is pretty much non-existent these days. I remember liking Black Notice OK - it all started going downhill for me with Blow Fly. Oh man, did that one annoy me no end....