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 2,000 miles away in Boston. Despite all of her connections, including her “special reservist status with the Department of Defense,” it is up to her to find the answers that might be hidden in the ear she has gotten. She has no idea why.
When Scarpetta and the team get to the Canadian site, a woman’s body is tied up with a giant leather back turtle, an endangered species. She has to get to the body without hurting the animal. No easy feat under the circumstances: the turtle and woman are tied up in rope that is attached to a fender of some sort. 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, possibly even more than one, inexplicable tortures, and trace evidence from the last living creatures of the dinosaur age, a giant Turtle.
"THE BONE BED is one of the best books that Patricia Cornwell has written. She certainly offers readers a large dose of suspense and mystery.... Cornwell defines her genre and offers a stellar novel."
At home, when she turns to those around her, Scarpetta finds that danger, betrayal and suspicion have penetrated even her closest circles. Her niece Lucy speaks in riddles. Her lead investigator, Pete Marino, is suddenly too quiet, a definitely unusual state for him. And her husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley, is not being completely honest with her. But the indefatigable Scarpetta moves on with her close examination of the clues she has and looks at everything within her view.
In addition to all that is going on, trying to find or retrieve the bodies of other women, Scarpetta is dealing with another person who acts like a thorn in her face. This female FBI agent is jealous of Scarpetta for many reasons, not the least of which is Benton. Douglas Burke is in Scarpetta's face as often as she can be. She would love to show Scarpetta up or ruin anything she is working on just to make a fool out of her. Scarpetta is aware of “Live feeds from headquarters, [she thinks]. Search engines chugging through the news and downloading it to Burke so she can ambush [her] while she’s got the chance.” But as usual, Scarpetta is above it all and remains stoic regardless of the antics Burke may play out.
Once it is established that at least three women are missing or dead, the focus turns to a local man who did handy work for people in the neighborhood. When the group goes to his house, they find him dead at the bottom of the concrete basement steps. But his wounds do not speak to a fall; he was probably dead before hitting the floor. What was his involvement with the women that would lead to his death beyond fixing little things for them? The team ponders this as they trudge through the investigation.
As the narrative unfolds, we learn that real trouble bubbles hotly between Scarpetta and Benton. She tries to talk to him and he tries to respond, but circumstances and people keep getting in the way. One of those people is Marino. Years ago, in a drunken state, he attacked Scarpetta and tried to rape her. She says he did not go that far, but Benton will never forgive him. “Marino’s been framed: if nothing else he’s been discredited, been humiliated by [the killer]. He’s managed to make his…position much worse because of his rude defensive behavior…acting like a defiant, uncooperative total jerk.” This conversation takes place between Scarpetta and her husband as she drives them to another site. She is also aware that much of what Benton is saying is really directed at her: he saw her in the autopsy room not moving away or rebuffing one of the males on the autopsy team. He is jealous and furious. She is embarrassed and feels “caught in the act,” even though nothing happened.
THE BONE BED is one of the best books that Patricia Cornwell has written. She certainly offers readers a large dose of suspense and mystery. The end comes as a surprise after counting clues and profiling the cast. Cornwell defines her genre and offers a stellar novel.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on October 19, 2012