The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell

Kay Scarpetta is back. We were book buddies for a long time, but I didn’t see her for a while. Then a few years ago we caught up again in my car via audiobooks and have been seeing each other annually for the last few years.

I know, I know, some of you out there have quit reading this series, thinking it went down the toilet. I admit it was hard going for a while, but as I’ve said the last two years, I believe Cornwell is getting back on track. Her plots are always intense, but I read this series for the characters. I’m always curious about what’s going on in their lives and what new twists Cornwell will turn.

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.

Cornwell is way out of the closet and sharing much more of her personal life these days, such as in the CBS video that I embedded at the end of this post. I love seeing a writer’s work space.

As a participant in Roof Beam Reader’s The Literary Others, I’ve been thinking about the importance of Cornwell’s coming out. In the video below Cornwell says that she’s probably lost some readers when she came out, but knows that she’s gained some, too. I had wondered if some people quit reading her even before she came out, back when her character Lucy first came out.

Personally, I’ve lost friends when I’ve come out to them. And to this day certain family members don’t ask how my partner of 11+ years is doing when I run into them (yet they’ll ask me how my sister’s husband is doing), so it takes little imagination to think how easily a writer who comes out might lose readers. Many of us take being out for granted, even if we are still fighting for equality and younger people face extreme harassment at school. We need more people in the limelight to come out and risk the negative repercussions. Thankfully, there are shining examples of celebrity careers thriving after coming out, such as Ellen, but remember how her successful sitcom was yanked when she first came out?

Let’s hope that the positive of people coming out only continues to increase over the years. In the case of this one author, I like to think that Cornwell’s coming out and increased willingness to talk about her personal life has brought new readers to her books and have made some longtime readers even more enthusiastic about the Scarpetta series. And I do hope that she’s helped to enlighten the minds of some readers who may have been homophobic.

Thank you, Patricia Cornwell, for coming out. Now, back to the book:

The Bone Bed is the 20th Kay Scarpetta novel, which means this cast of characters has been together for a long, long time. Some of the old patterns are repeated: Marino gets into trouble, Lucy is secretive, and Scarpetta deals with a disloyal insider. I was okay with Marino’s trouble and with Lucy’s aloofness, but the disloyal insider stick seemed a little forced this time around. I really like what’s going on with Lucy’s character in this book (animal rights activism and a blast from the past) and hope these lines are developed in future novels. Benton and Kay are a bit shaky even with the hot morning sex, but we all know sex doesn’t necessarily imply a happy relationship. I’m sure we’ll see more of their strain in future books. Benton is probably the least interesting character at this point in the series. I’ve never trusted him since that fake death/Bobby Ewing phase. I no longer get what Scarpetta sees in him.

All of the action takes place over two days in Boston. Unfortunately, there’s no archaeological action up in Canada, but Scarpetta suits up and jumps in the Boston Harbor to pull in a body that’s been set adrift in a rather diabolical manner. There’s a long court room scene that didn’t seem all that realistic (would a judge allow an attorney such free reign?) and the final action scene doesn’t seem all that suspenseful (we all know Scarpetta won’t be murdered, right?), but all-in-all, this is a well-paced thriller where the feelings of anxiety are almost palpable, but not crippling to the characters. Scarpetta is getting back to being more of the confident, yet sensitive woman she was in early novels–more action, less paranoia. I hope that trend continues.

I’m not sure how appealing The Bone Bed will be to readers who are unfamiliar with the series, but I’m one of those hopelessly habitual readers who almost always has to start reading a series with the first book.

Now begins the long wait until next year….

The Bone Bed
Patricia Cornwell
Putnam, October 16, 2012
Source: ebook purchased via Kobo


  1. I haven't read a Cornwell book in forever and ever. I don't know if I'll pick one up again but you never know.

    This is a beautiful post by the way. Three cheers for people loving who they are, for loving who they want and for being brave enough to share that with others.

  2. Dang. How come neither of us has a helicopter, even though we're out? Wait. Maybe you DO have a helicopter… 😀

    Thanks for the words, here. And I, too, am glad Cornwell came out, if only to live her own truth.

  3. Thank you for your kind words, Jennifer! I thought I was done with Cornwell, too, for a while, but then got hooked again thanks to audiobooks. And oddly enough, I rarely listen to audiobooks. Go figure.

  4. Yeah, well, wish I could say I was out flying and that's why it took me a day to reply to your kind comment, but, sadly, no. 🙂

    I can't help thinking that Cornwell's coming out, that living what seems to be a more authentic and integrated life, can only help her writing.

  5. And wouldn't you know I had a dream last night about flying helicopters? However, I lost my glasses and iPhone during the flight and was annoyed that I had no camera to take pics of the great scenery I was flying over. Lots of fun dream analysis there. 🙂

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