The Bone Bed (A Scarpetta Novel #20)
by Patricia Cornwell
October 16, 2012
Putman Adult, 480 Pages
Spoiler Alert - Please note that I've included a lot of detail here. While I don't tell you who the bad guy is I may tell you more about the story than you're ready to hear before you've had a chance to read it yourself.
What It's All About
A woman has vanished while digging a dinosaur bone bed in the remote wilderness of Canada. Somehow, the only evidence has made its way to the inbox of Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta, over two thousand miles away in Boston. She has no idea why. But as events unfold with alarming speed, Scarpetta begins to suspect that the paleontologist’s disappearance is connected to a series of crimes much closer to home: a gruesome murder, inexplicable tortures, and trace evidence from the last living creatures of the dinosaur age.
When she turns to those around her, Scarpetta finds that the danger and suspicion have penetrated even her closest circles. Her niece Lucy speaks in riddles. Her lead investigator, Pete Marino, and FBI forensic psychologist and husband, Benton Wesley, have secrets of their own. Feeling alone and betrayed, Scarpetta is tempted by someone from her past as she tracks a killer both cunning and cruel. (from the book jacket)
My History with Dr. Scarpetta
I have known Dr. Kay Scarpetta for years. She has always been one of my favorite literary characters and I have a tremendous amount of respect for her. When we met I was impressed with her style, character and personality. It was the early 90s and she was a woman in a position of tremendous power (Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Virginia) in a field that was dominated by men. Additionally, forensic science and investigation was entering a new era through the use of DNA profiling and advances in computer technology. Dr. Scarpetta was on the cutting edge using all the latest resources to discover how people came to be in her morgue. Along the way there were frightening and bizarre encounters with killers who ranged from charming to horrifying. Through it all she remained poised and in control using her intelligence, experience and insight to bring the criminals to justice.
I've gotten to know her family as well. Her niece Lucy has gone from a distant and troubled teen to a brilliant computer programer, pilot and entrepreneur. I've been with her when she was single, in various relationships and when she and her husband Benton got together. When she thought he died and when he came back to life after being in the witness protection program. I've watched her long time partner Marino's career change from police detective, to special investigator, working for Lucy and now working for Dr. Scarpetta at the CFC. She has always been the glue that held them all together.
Every time a new book came out I would rush to the library for my copy. I couldn't wait to see what grizzly, fascinating, surprising adventure was in store. Unfortunately it seems like the elements that originally drew me in are no longer the focus of her books. Instead of maturing into her role and settling into her life she has become anxious and self conscious, questioning many things both personal and professional. Also, the stories have become more about her relationships than about murder and science. It has left me wondering if after 20 books it might be time to retire? My overall reaction to her last few has been disappointment, but because we've known each other for so long I felt obligated to give this one a try.
Reading the Book
Keeping an open mind I grabbed my notebook and dug into the Bone Yard. I made notes at each sitting. Here's a look at what impacted me the most.
The inside book cover is (supposed to be) a teaser to spark your interest and give a brief overview of the story. This one says, ''events unfold at alarming speed" yet it takes more than 100 pages for the first body to be recovered. What's alarming to me is the dreadful amount of detail about Dr. Scarpetta's insecurities and how the hot young men she finds herself working with make her feel. She seems to be questioning everything.
Next is the encounter with the leather back sea turtle that may be the oldest living creature on Earth. On it's own that is an extraordinary event. But, I'm supposed to believe that it just happened to be swimming around in Boston Harbor where it some how managed to get itself wrapped up with a dead body. It seems too far fetched that there is a prehistoric sea creature discovered on the very same day that Dr. Scarpetta receives a cryptic message about a paleontologist digging for dinosaur bones in Canada that has gone missing. Honestly I just don't buy it. There is a tedious amount of detail surrounding this body recovery that I hoped would be important later. If it was, I must have missed it.
Once the first body is recovered the story rapidly picks up. And while I appreciate that we humans are capable of accomplishing a tremendous amount in a short period of time, what Dr. Scarpetta does in 48 hours seems possible only if you are a super hero. Which I'm pretty sure she's not. I debated the importance of including the list of activities here. In the end I think it helps to illustrate my point that things might be getting out of hand.
Here area the activities that I made note of. Dr. Scarpetta is involved in each one, and they take place over a period of 48 hours.
Looking at the list I'm overwhelmed. I'm exhausted just thinking about it! I wonder how she was able to get to so many places while navigating the congested Boston roadways. She must know short cuts. Perhaps I'm making too big of a deal about it. Maybe I should accept the fact that people in books are different from real people and they can do anything the author wants them to do. I'm willing to concede a little.
As I got into the second half of the book there was more of the sciencey investigative work that I'm fond of. There are several parts of the story (the turtle, Marino, Lucy, and the killers identity) that never worked out in a way that I was satisfied with, and it makes me wonder about our future. Do I need to resign myself to this older, questioning Dr. Scarpetta? Can I be satisfied knowing that her books are likely to focus on her personal relationships instead of forensics, criminology and scientific investigations? Maybe it's time for us to part ways. Or maybe take a break. We've had a good run and I hate the idea of saying goodbye forever, but I don't know if we're compatible anymore. I'll have to give it some thought. The good news is I have until the next book to decide.
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