After 20 Scarpettas and at the end of the year number 20, The Bone Bed, saw its birth I think it’s time to review the series in its whole. Many critics have said a lot, and I won’t sing in their chorus about Patricia Cornwell being a gifted writer, the mother of CSI, the bestselling queen of crime, the creator of a whole Scarpetta world, the rockstar amongst writers who to meet fans fly through Europe and the U.S. No, there is a different aspect that is important to me.
In the 20 weeks before The Bone Bed was published in October 2012, I took part in the „Scarpetta Challenge“, reading one book of the series per week starting with PostMortem and ending with Red Mist. So far I had not read one book of her twice but always had a very cherished one, and I was curious if its status would be confirmed. It was.
The one I love dearly is The Last Precinct. I could read that book over and over and over. I actually couldn’t live without it. Call me nuts, but I love each and every sentence in it. And why is that so? Simple. In this particular book Kay lets down her hair, all her walls fall to pieces. She shows her inner self, her weak spots, her anxieties, her fear, and what she has not under control. It’s about who she is when we suddenly find ourselves alone with her in a room and she steps out of her professional coat. In no book before (and not for a long time after that one) we get so close to her that it actually feels like crawling under her skin and being in her blood.
For years to come after The Last Precinct I wished Patricia Cornwell would do that again, she would let us come again so close to Kay Scarpetta that we can wrap ourselves around and melt into her because it is such a wonderful place to be.
I had to wait until Red Mist. It was not the same intensity, it was more a probing to open up some gates in that book, but my hopes ruffled their wings. Finally, in The Bone Bed, there it is again. Scarpetta lets us see right into her heart. And I hold on to the hope that she won’t vanish again behind those walls of glass through which we can see but not touch her.
But then, the question is how come? Is this what makes Patricia Cornwell so outstanding under thousands of writers?
„I’m all my characters“, Patricia once said in an interview. This makes them three-dimensional, gives them heart and soul, and it’s the clue as to how it was possible that Scarpetta turned into more than a fictional series, that it evolved into a „Scarpetta Universe“ in which the author herself lives and in which the fans are also invited and join happily.
But the writer can only give her characters what is within herself. When we love Kay Scarpetta, Pete Marino, Lucy Farinelli and Benton Wesley, in the end it’s Patricia Cornwell we love. When we follow the paths her characters take through life it’s her we want to accompany. And when we read Scarpetta’s inner musings holding our breath it’s Patricia Cornwell herself we want to get to know.
She let us see into some rooms and far away corners of her soul already. These are beautiful places, even when we’re allowed a glance into those where great sadness and a certain loneliness seem to reside. And if we follow her own resolution and „do no harm“ I hope she will go on doing it in many Scarpetta books to come.