Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell

The Bone Bed
by Patricia Cornwell
5 stars - can't get enough of the Kay Scarpetta series

I have to give this 5 stars because this is the 20th Kay Scarpetta book and I have read every one. This, despite the fact that I actually have mixed feelings about the books.

Here's the thing. I don't like any of the characters. Not at all. While they are all very real and believable, they just aren't people I would ever want to meet. The main character, Kay Scarpetta, is a forensic scientist who is now Chief Medical Examiner in Boston (or maybe Cambridge since her office is apparently at MIT - huh?). She's selfish, cold, obsessed with her work, and frequently shows questionable judgement when it comes to her personal relationships.

Every new book by Ms. Cornwell is the same for me. First hundred pages or so, I am thinking that I won't finish because I just don't like the characters. Then she grabs me and I can't stop until I get to the end (which usually involves a relatively slow build up to a frenetic conclusion).

What keeps me coming back? The mysteries themselves. Ms. Cornwell started her professional life as a forensic scientist (but I am assuming that now she is a full time author) and so she knows of what she speaks. The mysteries all involve lots of really cool, nerdy details about how forensic investigations are carried out. How bodies decay in different circumstances, how fibers are used as trace evidence, how autopsies are conducted, the works. Come on, it is just too cool for school! 

Plus not every adventure in forensic medicine is directly involved with the main mystery, but it's up to the reader to suss out what is important and what isn't.

This particular novel starts out with Dr. Scarpetta receiving a blurry video and photograph of a human ear (no longer attached to the skull) via email. What the heck? Almost simultaneously, a body is discovered in a fishing net attached to a giant sea tortoise. But the body appears to have been frozen for some time before being submerged and is it somehow connected the to the missing person, presumed dead, whose husband is now on trial for hiring a hit man to kill her. Got it? Wow! 

In between, some personal intrigue between the regular players in the lab as well as the odd assortment of FBI agents. 

If I were just reading this book on its own, I would have given it four stars, but since I appear to be a hard core devotee of the series, it gets five. Haven't read any of these books? Start at the beginning with Postmortem (1990).


  1. I'm a huge fan, but haven't read one of her books since I attempted her non-fiction book about the Jack the Ripper case. Couldn't stay involved. I'll give this a try. Thanks!

  2. It's hard to read book after book about characters you don't like. That speaks volumes to Cornwell's storytelling abilities. i'll have to look for the series!

  3. Did you say the BONE bed!??! OMD! Heaven!

    Bart, Ruby and Otto

    Did you get one Dex?

  4. I tried one in the series and it didn't grab me, but ya never know. Let's see if I can find my library card. (Yeah.... I know... It's just that our library is the single most inaccessible place on the face of the planet.)

    -Dr. Liz, who is currently re-reading Lindsey Davis' mysteries set in ancient Rome (well, around the empire) - LOVE 'em

  5. I stopped reading her books several years ago. They just grew to where I couldn't even take it anymore. I love Kathy Reichs books (the books not the stupid tv show) and also check out the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. It is great.

  6. Also stopped reading her years ago. Gotta like at least one character in a book/movie, even if not the lead, or I lose commitment. Glad you can still enjoy her. It's nice to have a favorite series to follow over the years, if the writing is good and there is growth over the years. Enjoyed the Falco books, too, years ago, but drifted away.