Sunday 6 January 2013

The Bone Bed

No Bone Unturned

The Bone Bed
by Patricia Cornwell
Little Brown ISBN: 9781408703441

It may be that I’m getting old, but I tend to cherish the few times in life when I have the luxury to indulge myself, without interruption, in the little rituals I have come to acquire over the years. Old or, you know, maybe I’m more like a dog than a human. Dogs need rituals... they’re important to them and to stray from those little patterns they have lodged in their brains is something which causes them confusion and suspicion.

And so, it’s that “once a year” time again where I, too, get to follow my little ritual. 

There are a few little ingredients needed for this ritual. Number one is a comfy chair away from TV or Internet noise. A bed is acceptable, but a comfy chair is preferable so one may keep one’s back near to vertical. Then some small snack might be on hand. Cheese, crackers and a glass or two of port is a good combination. A cup of tea is acceptable as a stand in for the port if required. Then comes the last and most important part of my ritual, which is reliant on my mother and father remembering the unspoken rule of “the Christmas present”. Because, every year, I unwrap one of my Christmas gifts and it’s the new Dr. Kay Scarpetta mystery from Patricia Cornwell, which I then, when able, throw into the mix with the port and cheese and comfy chair as soon as I possibly can.

It’s my Christmas ritual you see... and I’m happy to say that, thanks to the kindness of my parents, it’s one I’ve been able to indulge in once again this year... as I have for over a third of my life.

The Bone Bed is, as you may expect from Cornwell of late, another great page turner which will pull you inside the covers with her main protagonists and antagonists and not let you go until she’s had the good Doctor make you alarmed to ever even think about committing any kind of crime (or misdemeanour even) in this day and age of science and criminology. She’s a great writer and, once again, she proves so here.

The story of The Bone Bed is not one I’m going ot spoil for you here, suffice it to say that the set up may surprise you since it doesn’t immediately sink in why the book starts out like this, until you’re a good way through the novel. A sea turtle, dinosaur bones, they’ll keep warm in the back of your head as the case Scarpetta is working on is ready for you to take them back out of storage again... pulled open and revealed in that big meat locker inside your head.

Cornwell has been on Twitter for a while now, think I’ve been following her for just over a year, and I remember wondering, when I discovered her on there via some of my followers, if she wasn’t using the idea of Twitter to research the way interactions take place to use it as an element to one of her future novels. Well, it’s certainly got no small part to play in some of the initial plot details in this one but, again, you’ll have to read it to find out. What I will say, though, is that, as usual, Cornwell sometimes makes me feel a little bit of an idiot when it comes to surrounding myself with caution in everyday life. I’m sure Cornwell treads a different and much more interesting but also much more intensively disturbing path through life than her average reader, so some of her judgement calls and attitudes to certain areas of modern living are maybe a tad more harsh and critical than they may seem to her audience. What that means, when I came to read this particular one of her novels, is this... I’m just a tiny bit more paranoid about some of the followers I talk to on Twitter than I used to be. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not but, once again, Cornwell reminds me of my naïvety.

Like her last couple of novels, the action is returned to the first person style narrative which marked all her great early books, and I still prefer this style of writing, being allowed the privilege of being inside Scarpetta’s head when she starts making deductions. Also, like her last couple of novels, the action takes place within a very short time frame. A day or two covers the whole thing and, although she doesn’t use as dramatic chapter endings as some of her contemporaries do to make you rush headlong into the next chapter, it’s true to say that she brings the characters alive to such an extent that you’ll certainly be shooing away or cursing unwelcome interruptions as you rush through the book in as few gulps as you can manage. Great stuff.

My one complaint may be that, again, there’s not enough of the Lucy Farinelli character in it for my taste. Would still like to see a lot more of her like the “old days” but at least she’s in it to a certain extent and plays an important role in the proceedings. I was also glad to see another character back from Lucy’s distant past who I’d completely forgotten about but who I am really glad has been reintroduced in to the novels... albeit briefly this time around.

And that’s all I’ve got to say this time, I think. 

I’ll just conclude by saying what I always end up saying about the latest of Cornwell’s Scarpetta novels. If you like Cornwell and are a fan of her characters (and why wouldn’t you be?) then you can rest assured that The Bone Bed is once more a solid and welcome read from this writer. If you’ve never read one of her books though... well, the characters grow and drop in and out of the books in a very organic and progressive way, so if you are going to make a start on Cornwell then I’d advise you to go right back to the start and read the books in chronological order. It’s worth it just to see Lucy growing up.

Another satisfying read by the Queen of Modern Crime fiction and something Cornwell fans won’t want to miss.

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