Larceny, she wrote: Patricia Cornwell sues

Best-selling crime writer claims millions in earnings have gone missing

A flashy Ferrari disappears. Then the aggrieved owner begins to suspect that her bank accounts have leaked tens of millions of dollars without explanation. If this was the plot of an airport suspense novel, you'd expect violence before 20,000 feet. If it was real-life America, you'd expect a fat lawsuit.

We are in lawsuit territory here. But the plaintiff, as it happens, is none other than Patricia Cornwell, the crime writer who specialises in skulduggery and, indeed, the occasional murder. Better still, her latest book featuring, as ever, the forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta, called The Scarpetta Factor, is partly about victims of a giant crooked Ponzi scheme of the Bernard Madoff variety.

While touring for the new book, the 17th in the Scarpetta series, Ms Cornwell was peppered with questions about a lawsuit quietly filed last month against a New York-based financial management firm, Anchin, Block & Anchin, which looked after all her affairs until July. She is claiming that she should be about $40m richer than she is and is accusing them of mismanaging her funds.

Because the case is ongoing, Ms Cornwell, 53, has so far restricted herself to only the occasional, oblique comment about her cash reserves (she is reported to earn about $10m per year as one of the world's most prolific best-selling novelists) and what it was that the defendants may or may not have done.

The details of the complaint include: that since 2005, the company has been negligent in handling rental properties and other assets and that one of the partners of the firm wrote a cheque for $5,000 for the bar mitzvah of their daughter on funds in a Cornwell account. The writer had not even met the young lady.

And there is the revealing snippet that she blurted at the weekend to an interviewer with the Courier-Mail newspaper of Australia, about the vanished sports car. "We have no records of what happened to one of my Ferraris," she said. "You trust someone to sell it for you and you don't have any idea what you got for it."

She acknowledges that all this partly echoes the narrative of the new book. "It's weird that I would write that and then find myself in a very similar situation," she says, before also conceding that, whatever her problems, she is not exactly a pauper. "I'm so much luckier than most people ... I don't even want to complain about this, except that it's not right."

It isn't the first time that Ms Cornwell's private life has fallen under public scrutiny. That she is a lesbian – she is married to Harvard University neuroscientist Staci Gruber – became widely known in 1992 after she had an affair with an FBI agent that went awry when the agent's jealous husband tried to murder his wife.

Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP specialises, according to its own blurb, in financial management for "privately held businesses and high net worth individuals", including the likes of Robert De Niro. It has so far declined to comment directly on Ms Cornwell's suit, which was filed in a Boston court. Ms Cornwell and Ms Gruber live in Massachusetts where gays and lesbians can legally marry.

"Ms Cornwell is a bestselling crime novelist whose ability to write is dependent upon the ability to avoid distractions," the lawsuit says. "A quiet, uninterrupted environment, free of the distractions of managing her business and her assets, was essential to her ability to write and to meet her deadlines."

Money meltdowns: Credit crunch celebrities

*American photographer Annie Leibovitz, 60, nearly lost the rights to her entire back catalogue of work when she put them up as collateral for a $15.5m (£9.3m) loan after suffering financial difficulties. The situation came to a head in the summer until Art Capital Group decided to withdraw its lawsuit against her in September, agreeing to extend the due date of her repayment.

*Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage is allegedly broke and buried in debt after he was confronted with claims for millions of dollars in unpaid taxes. The £10m-a-film actor was recently forced to sell his Grade One-listed castle in Somerset and is said to be suing his business manager who he claims put him on the path to financial ruin.

*Musician and poet Leonard Cohen was left with just $150,000 of his fortune after his manager allegedly stole $5m from his retirement fund while Cohen spent five years living as a Zen Buddhist monk in California.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas