Book Review: Patricia Cornwell’s Bone Bed

Posted December 31, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Patricia Cornwell’s Bone Bed

Bone Bed


Patricia Cornwell

forensic mystery that was published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on October 16, 2012 and has 464 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Cruel & Unusual, Port Mortuary, Red Mist, Dust, Flesh and Blood, Depraved Heart, The Scarpetta Factor, Trace

Twentieth in the Kay Scarpetta forensic suspense series. This one is based in Boston.

I really want to give this a “3”, but when I try to figure out my reasons for that…it doesn’t cut it. Cornwell has made me angry, uncomfortable, and worried. And that’s not a good reason to drop it a point. Sure, there are some loose threads and some really lazy issues in this story, but she’s mostly kept the pace and the excitement of the forensic sleuthing. And…I guess I should appreciate that Cornwell is willing to dig into uncomfortable emotional territory that easily reflects real life.

My Take

This one was irritating. Oh, it has all the usual suspense and fascinating forensic detail, but it seems as though Cornwell is deliberately creating drama for the sake of it. I don’t know about the rest of her readers, but I still look forward to hearing about her next case. The next bit of suspense. I don’t need this jealousy crap thrown in to make it exciting.

Yeah, I know, the author is supposed to create tension and drama. However, there’s an artificiality to this one that bugs me. Suddenly Kay is feeling defensive and guilty. She’s whining.

There’s a Supreme Court ruling that Kay keeps going on about, and it’s just plain scary that law enforcement has to be so incredibly careful that they’re more willing to avoid being involved. Isn’t that supposed to be their job? To serve and protect? Doesn’t that require being involved? It’s frustrating when I can understand both sides. When someone can so easily be framed for something they didn’t do, and a lazy cop isn’t interested in doing the work to unravel the truth (although, we’d probably have fewer interesting stories). Then there’s the other side of it in which cops are doing their best to catch the crooks, but the system keeps providing all these stupid loopholes. Ya can’t win for trying!

The whole harbor-body recovery scene seems stretched out. Kay is whining on and on about how careful they need to be and how difficult it is and, oh my god, she may be lost. It took Scarpetta forever to get to where I got much earlier. I was gittin’ irritated and bored!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, so Lott’s been in jail for months. So, what? He’s got enough money he could hire anyone to take out anyone he’s pissed at. Er-duh. I’m kind of wondering why Kay is putting up with Marino. He’s so obnoxious in this story.

I didn’t know onions or garlic can be toxic to dogs and cats! I guess I’m one of the few pet owners who doesn’t know this…

What? Cornwell couldn’t figure out an easier way to dangle the hints in front of Kay and Benton than to have Lott show up at the morgue?

I’m missing something. Kay Scarpetta has been performing an exemplary job as a forensic pathologist for how long? And everyone around her is questioning her judgements, her decisions? WTF? I sure wish Kay had had a recorder on while undergoing that particular interrogation.

Thank god Marino is fictional! The way he rants on about Penny wearing antique buttons on her jacket, and then I think about the vintage buttons I use on my own clothes. Eeek! What is with Marino anyway?

Wow, this demonstrates a scary use of Twitter with an inside look at hacking someone’s data.

Eventually, Cornwell starts to hook things up. Make the connections with the stray bits she’s been casually setting down so far. And it all makes a scary sense. A rather terrifying use of “evidence” if you haven’t the funds to investigate it OR the knowledge that such things are possible!

Loose Threads
Oh my god, loose threads abound in this! I don’t know if Cornwell is saving them up for a future story or just didn’t care. The judge’s excessive antagonism. The purpose for the clothes Pretty Please is wearing.

Why does Shubert get involved? How stupid is Cornwell insisting Kay be? The silver SUV that’s been following her happens to be parked right next to her vehicle, and she already has a good idea of how the murderer is taking these women? W. T. F. Cornwell’s gettin’ lazy.

Hmmm, maybe it should be a “3”…

The Story

It’s a gruesome find in Boston Harbor, all thanks to the ten-foot-or-more long leatherback turtle that got caught up in some fishing lines. Without him, well, that body may not have survived.

It’s when Kay and Marino get back from the disastrous day in court that everything comes unraveled. Benton has done an end run around Kay and talked her assistant into opening up their latest victim when Kay has specifically told them not to start without her. And it just gets worse from there.

Someone is trying to frame Marino. Benton is angry and jealous. Kay is even angrier with his team. It’s a set-up of monumental proportions all the way around.

The Characters

Dr. Kay Scarpetta is the chief medical examiner and the head of the Cambridge Forensic Center (CFC). She’s also a reservist colonel and part of the Armed Forces Medical Examiners (AFME). Special Agent Benton Wesley is an FBI criminal intelligence analyst, a.k.a., a profiler, and he’s married to Kay. Sock is their rescue brindle greyhound.

Pete Marino is a former cop and is now Kay’s head of investigations at CFC. He’s an ornery, blustering guy with a long history with Kay. Detective Sil Machado, a.k.a., the Portuguese Man of War, is with the Cambridge PD, and he’s friends and neighbors with Marino. General John Briggs is chief of the AFME.

Lucy Farinelli is Kay’s gay niece, a helicopter pilot, proficient with most weapons, a computer hacker extraordinaire, and quite wealthy from her inventions. She has no compunctions about using her skills or her wealth to find out anything she wants. Janet is former FBI and now a lawyer specializing in environmental law.

Kay’s staff at the Cambridge Forensic Center
Bryce Clark is her chief of staff and a regular motormouth. He keeps her dressed and tidied up. Ethan is his life partner and they have a cat, Indy Anna. Dr. Luke Zenner is her assistant chief medical examiner whom Benton and Marino hate. He’s also Dr. Anna Zenner’s nephew. Ron appears to be a very loyal security guard and a former MP. There are six investigators on staff including Toby, Sherry, Marino, and Barbara. Anne is a technologist. Dr. Ned Adams is one of the area dentists certified in odontology.

Special Agent Douglas Burke is Benton’s partner. And, man, does she have a hard-on for Kay! Val Han is with the cyber squad. Special Agent-in-Charge Jim Demar is with the Boston Field Office.

Peggy Lynn Stanton, a.k.a., her Twitter handle, Pretty Please, isn’t a conundrum for long. Howard Roth is a black, disabled vet and now an alcoholic who gets by with his disability checks, recycling cans and bottles, and the occasional odd job. Emma Shubert is a missing paleontologist in Alberta, Canada.

Mildred Lott is the missing socialite wife of billionaire Channing Lott, who has been accused of her murder and is being held pending trial. Shelly Duke is his chief financial officer; Albert Galbraith is his chief of operations. Jill Donoghue is the pit bull of a defense lawyer whom I just want to carve up. Dan Steward is the prosecutor whom Kay suspects of setting her up. Judge Joseph Conry, presiding over Lott’s trial (the one to which Kay is so incredibly
late), is one major jerkwad! What is his problem??? It’s not like he doesn’t know why she’s late, and, being a judge, he must have some clue as to the urgency of running tests!

Out in the harbor
Dr. Pamela Quick is a marine biologist with the New England Aquarium with a humongous chip on her shoulder. Lieutenant Bud Klemens commands a marine unit, and Kay seems to be attracted to him. And not. It’s very confusing whatever Cornwell is trying to imply.

The Cover and Title

The cover reminds me of fall with its colors — oranges and red, but closer examination makes me think of Shubert’s dig up in Canada with the black background and the fossilized blots of brown. It’s the fill for the title that reflects the story with the warm, yet stony textures inside the first two words and ending in a blood red with the last word.

The title is true enough for there is The Bone Bed, but I have no idea how this tangent weighs in on the Boston-area victims.