Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Review #21

The Bone Bed, by Patricia Cornwell. Unabridged audio.
A famous paleontologist vanishes in a Canadian excavation site, and a bizarre email message leads Scarpetta to believe that the case may soon land in her office in Boston. When it does, she is faced with more danger than she ever could have expected. There is also a body found in a river, booby-trapped to rip apart when moved. But Scarpetta is able to retrieve the body, and then use her forensic skills to determine the perpetrator.

I love the fact that the main action of the book take places over less than 72 hours. This gives the novel a sense of pacing that is exciting. As readers, we experience the same sense of not being able to catch our breath that the main characters are also experiencing. Scarpetta's busy-ness becomes a plot point in the novel. She is tardy to a courtroom appointment, and is dressed down mercilessly by the judge for valuing her time and job above everyone else involved in the trial. We are meant to sympathize with Scarpetta in this scene, but I can't help but notice that the judge is actually making a pretty good point. Due to some clever computer hacking, Marino is implicated in the crime, adding another level of stress to Scarpetta.
This is the 20th Kay Scarpetta story that has Cornwell has written, and the 20th that I have read (prior reviews are here and here). I have followed her from Richmond to Miami, and now to Boston. It seems a little unlikely that all of her cast of characters would follow her around the country, but the advantages of having everyone together outweighs that consideration.
This novel pushes the characterizations forward: Scarpetta and Benton are both tempted to cheat, Marino's marriage may be dying, and Lucy has re-connected with an old flame. I like that a tawdry incident from Marino's past, which Scarpetta thought would be hidden forever, comes to light. All of this reminds us how long we have spent with these characters, and how much of their lives we have seen. There is a nice sense of continuity here, although the specific mystery being solved is a stand-alone story.

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