Books by Patricia Cornwell

QUANTUM by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Oct. 1, 2019

"In place of human interest, savor all those acronyms: HIRF, FOD-1, EVA, OEM, TLC, PSS, DARPA, PONGS, PRCH, STM, SPIRNet."
The creator of Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta (Chaos, 2016, etc.) peers into space and finds just as much skulduggery there. Read full book review >
CHAOS by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Nov. 15, 2016

"Fans, aware that this particular fatality is incidental to the larger saga of the heroine's epic struggle with the forces of evil, will forgive the absence of a coherent mystery or characters worth caring about. The closest analogue to Cornwell's wildly successful series, in fact, may be a superhero franchise."
Dr. Kay Scarpetta's talk to the bigwigs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government is delayed by murder, malicious online posts, anonymous messages, a visit from her sister, and a familiar malefactor from her past in this kitchen-sink 24th installment. Read full book review >
DEPRAVED HEART by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Oct. 27, 2015

"A trademark Cornwell mystery: terse and tangled, messy and body fluid-y, and altogether satisfying."
Another gritty, world-weary tale of mayhem by masterful mysterian Cornwell (Flesh and Blood, 2014, etc.). Read full book review >
FLESH AND BLOOD by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Nov. 11, 2014

"No wonder Scarpetta asks, 'When did my workplace become such a soap opera?' Answer: at least 10 years ago.
Happy birthday, Dr. Kay Scarpetta. But no Florida vacation for you and your husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley—not because President Barack Obama is visiting Cambridge, but because a deranged sniper has come to town. Read full book review >
DUST by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Nov. 12, 2013

"The takeaway? 'People still suck.' Yes, they do, and they do very bad things to each other. Stay tuned."
Kay Scarpetta is back, as world-weary and sharp-eyed as ever, in this latest Cornwell (The Bone Bed, 2012, etc.) outing, the 21st in the series. Read full book review >
THE BONE BED by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Oct. 16, 2012

"An ingenious murder method, more hours in the mortuary and forensics lab than usual, an uncharacteristically muffled killer, and all the trademark battles among the regulars and every potential ally who gets in their way."
Having survived brushes with ruthless killers, human monsters and treacherous colleagues of every stripe (Red Mist, 2011, etc.), forensic pathologist Dr. Kay Scarpetta limps into her 20th case to encounter more of the same. Read full book review >
RED MIST  by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Dec. 6, 2011

Yet another demonstration that the murderous enemies of forensic pathologist Dr. Kay Scarpetta aren't neutralized by life imprisonment or death. Especially not death. Read full book review >
PORT MORTUARY by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Nov. 30, 2010

Quite a homecoming for Dr. Kay Scarpetta after her six months at Dover Air Force Base—a corpse back in Cambridge that seems to have been locked away in a mortuary still alive. Read full book review >
THE SCARPETTA FACTOR by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Oct. 20, 2009

"A helpful appendix lists the seven previous novels (Scarpetta, 2008, etc.) related to this one. Readers who don't know them will be baffled; readers who do will be exasperated."
A Manhattan waitress's murder kicks off yet another round of forensic-driven navel gazing for Dr. Kay Scarpetta and her friends and enemies. Read full book review >
SCARPETTA by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Dec. 2, 2008

"The title perfectly suits a challenging mystery that's only a pendant to the endless soap opera revolving around a heroine who just can't stop posing for Mt. Rushmore."
Dr. Kay Scarpetta celebrates her 20th anniversary as a larger-than-life medical examiner by taking on a case of murder among little people. Read full book review >
BOOK OF THE DEAD by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Oct. 23, 2007

"Proceed at your own risk. "
Pioneering pathologist Kay Scarpetta (Trace, 2004, etc.) goes up against a wraithlike killer whose self-appointed mission is to "relieve others of their suffering." Read full book review >
TRACE by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Sept. 7, 2004

"Cornwell's full-employment approach to evil hits all her high notes: grueling forensics, supernal villainy, Scarpetta's righteous duels with bullying authority figures. If the result is more synthetic than inspired, fans won't be disappointed."
Five years after getting eased out in a nasty political brawl, Dr. Kay Scarpetta (Blow Fly, 2003, etc.) is back in Richmond to battle still another monstrous killer. Read full book review >
BLOW FLY by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Oct. 13, 2003

"A more serious problem is that the perils feel recycled, shapeless, and so soaked in evil that they're headed nowhere in particular for Sisyphus Scarpetta."
Fresh from tussling with a nonpareil real-life serial killer (Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper, Case Closed, not reviewed), Cornwell brings back forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta for her first outing in three years. Read full book review >
THE LAST PRECINCT by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Oct. 16, 2000

What could be more open and shut than a case in which a widely sought killer tricks his way into the home of Virginia's Chief Medical Examiner, attacks her with a hammer of exactly the same sort he'd used in killing Richmond Deputy Police Chief Diane Bray, and is still on the scene when police arrive? But when Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the intended victim of notorious Jean-Baptiste Chandonne, hears the statement the suspect (dubbed Le Loup-Garou, the Werewolf, for the fine, undisguisable hair covering his entire body) has given the police, she realizes that despite her obvious suffering and terror, attested by the elbow she broke just after throwing some providential formalin into her assailant's eyes, the case boils down to her word against his. As she and her embattled loyalists—ATF niece Lucy Farinelli; neanderthal Richmond Police Captain Pete Marino; New York sex crimes ADA Jaime Berger—toil to link Chandonne's current murder spree first to the killing of a Big Apple weathercaster two years ago, then to the execution of Scarpetta's FBI lover Benton Wesley, the news gets steadily worse until Scarpetta finds herself entering a grand jury chamber not as an expert witness but as a homicide suspect. Read full book review >
BLACK NOTICE by Patricia Cornwell
Released: July 1, 1999

Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta has never liked Christmas, and this year, when she's still mourning the death of her FBI lover Benton Wesley (Point of Origin, 1998), looks like her worst holiday season ever. While she can't identify or name the exact cause of death, the corpse found in a sealed shipping container aboard a cargo ship from Belgium is the least of her problems - even though Cornwell leads from strength by presenting one of her most extended (and unnerving) postmortems. Just as Scarpetta and her longtime police ally Capt. Pete Marino are running into industrial-strength flak from Richmond's new Deputy Chief, ambitious, manipulative Diane Bray, someone in Scarpetta's office is sabotaging her more underhandedly: a series of petty thefts is only the nuisance that finally awakens her to a fraud countermanding her orders and masquerading as her over the Internet. And her niece Lucy Farinelli, an agent working out of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms' Miami office, is undercover with a bunch of seriously bad people. The web of evil that binds all these plots together (think drug smuggling; think Interpol; think werewolves) isn't believable for a minute, but expertly mired in Scarpetta's fathomless professional battles, you won't have a minute to think about it till you've turned the last page. Read full book review >
SOUTHERN CROSS by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Jan. 11, 1999

Widowed of the pusillanimous husband who worshiped her from afar in her debut (Hornet's Nest, 1997), Charlotte (N.C.) Police Chief Judy Hammer, backed up by Charlotte transplants Virginia West and Andy Brazil, travels to more familiar Cornwell territory—Richmond, Virginia, home turf to Dr. Kay Scarpetta (Point of Origin, 1998, etc.)—to clean up a police force that needs a crusading woman's touch. (Literary Guild/Mystery Guild main selection) Read full book review >
POINT OF ORIGIN by Patricia Cornwell
Released: July 6, 1998

Does Kay Scarpetta ever have a nice day? No sooner has she been taken from the arms of her FBI lover Benton Wesley by a disquieting note from her niece Lucy's murderous ex-lover Carrie Grethen, locked up ever since The Body Farm (1994), than she gets called to the scene of a particularly horrific arson. Nineteen horses are dead at the farm of black publishing mogul Kenneth Sparkes, a longtime adversary of Scarpetta's, along with what looks like the body of Sparkes's onetime lover Claire Rawley. All indications are that the fire started in the commodious master bathroom, but since there's no sign of accelerant or fuel, Scarpetta's forced to fall back on her specialty, testimony from the corpse, which eventually leads her back in time to a series of equally inexplicable arson-murders. By now, Carrie Grethen has escaped and written to every newspaper on the East Coast that she was seduced by Lucy and framed by Scarpetta and Wesley; Scarpetta is at loggerheads with Teun McGovern, Lucy's new boss at Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and Scarpetta's irascible buddy Capt. Pete Marino is indulging himself in intimations of mortality that turn out to be only too well-timed. As in Scarpetta's recent cases (Unnatural Exposure, 1997, etc.), the final face-off between good and evil comes as something of an anticlimax after the trademark grueling forensics, showing once again that Cornwell's most compelling characters tend to be dead. (First printing of 1,000,000; Literary Guild/Mystery Guild main selection; $750,000 ad/promo) Read full book review >
RUTH, A PORTRAIT by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Sept. 19, 1997

A syrupy but engaging biography of the famous preacher's irrepressible wife. This is bestselling novelist Cornwell's (Unnatural Exposure, p. 759, etc.) second attempt at a biography of her mentor, 77-year- old Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy. The first try, published in 1982, caused the very private Ruth to distance herself from Cornwell for eight years. It's hard to imagine what Ruth could find objectionable about this version: She comes across as a near saint, enduring a dangerous mission childhood in China, terrible migraine headaches as an adult (of which she ``never complained''), and marriage to a mostly absent husband. Graham himself doesn't come off so well in this telling, seeming at times imperious or callous, even leaving a feverish Ruth alone for days, right after their honeymoon, when he received an invitation to preach (in his bestselling autobiography, Graham notes that, after all, she ``recovered quickly''). The book is filled with the tales of Ruth's quiet and heroic efforts to help others, visiting murderers and addicts in prison, aiding Vietnamese refugees, and assisting many students through college. These stories are touching, but they reveal less about the person of Ruth than they do about the genre of hagiography. In writing this book, Cornwell had complete access to Ruth's diaries but notes that, on a couple of key issues (like her migraines), Ruth censored her own journals. Yet whenever Cornwell allows this guise of saintly perfection to slip away, we glimpse a truly intriguing woman—one who designed their family's hand-hewed log cabin practically behind Billy's back, who learned to ride a motorcycle as an empty-nester, and who nearly killed herself in 1974 while rigging up a daredevil mudslide for her kids on their Carolina mountain. (b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour) Read full book review >
UNNATURAL EXPOSURE by Patricia Cornwell
Released: July 7, 1997

Whoever shot the latest unidentified female victim Dr. Kay Scarpetta's called out to examine—whoever cut off her head, dismembered her, and bagged her torso for disposal in a Virginia landfill—may have been doing her a favor. Though Virginia's chief medical examiner doesn't realize it until she's called out to an even more horrific death scene—an inoffensive old woman on Tangier Island who seems to have died of smallpox—the earlier victim had signs of the same ravaging illness, supposedly eradicated in 1977. The violence to the first victim, and the care taken to conceal her identity, would point to murder even if Scarpetta hadn't started to get sinister computer messages from somebody called ``deadoc,'' who soon goes on to order the President: ``apologize if not i will start on france'' [sic]. Arrayed against deadoc are the Richmond homicide squad (headed by Scarpetta's old friend Capt. Pete Marino), the Virginia State Police, the FBI (including Scarpetta's on-again lover Benton Wesley and her niece Lucy), the Center for Disease Control, and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. But in true Cornwell fashion, the good guys are their own worst enemies: The state cops and the FBI are mired in turf wars; a slick state investigator's determined to arrest the wrong perp and smear Lucy for an old lesbian affair; the USAMRIID, woefully underfunded, has furloughed so many unessential employees that there's hardly a nurse to care for Scarpetta when she comes down with a fever she can only pray isn't smallpox. Cornwell's tenth (Hornet's Nest, 1997, etc.) shows her bestselling formula—in-your-face forensics, computer terrorism, agency infighting, soap-opera romance, penny-dreadful villain- -wearing a little thin. But fans, swept up in a fever of their own, won't care a bit. (First printing of 1,000,000; Literary Guild/Mystery Guild main selection; $750,000 ad/promo) Read full book review >
HORNET'S NEST by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Jan. 6, 1997

Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the most famous medical examiner in fiction (see Cause of Death, p. 715, etc.), will have to fend for herself this time, as her creator leaves her behind for a big- city cop novel set in Charlotte, North Carolina. Not that Cornwell's heroines aren't just as tough (and don't need to be) as Scarpetta. Police chief Judy Hammer's force would die for her almost to a man; even her ineffectual husband dreams of being ravished by her in full cop regalia. Deputy Chief Virginia West, Hammer's head of investigations, is married only to her job and has no energy for diplomacy when Hammer assigns her to ride with Andy Brazil, the hard-charging Charlotte Observer reporter who's earned top marks at the volunteer police academy in order to snare the police beat at his paper and make his stories more authentic. And what a story Brazil's on the trail of: the Black Widow, a killer who preys on visiting businessmen, ambushing them in their rented cars, shooting them, and spraypainting their genitals orange (you won't believe why). As if the Black Widow weren't menace enough, Brazil also has to contend with slimy TV reporter Brent Webb and with vengeful redneck Bubba Rickman, who, beaten up by Brazil while riding with West, is convinced that ``it was his calling . . . to smite them in the name of America.'' The action boils furiously, but the hostility—between cops and crooks, cops and the press, cops and cops—is so unrelenting that eventually Cornwell's cast, divided into superhuman workaholics and lesser mortals driven by envy and lust, starts to get monotonous: You may hardly notice when Bubba and the Black Widow get their oh-so-just deserts. Cornwell brings an edgy authority, a gimlet eye for her city, and a taste for nonstop conflict to the police novel, but not the commanding focus of Wambaugh or Daley—or her own earlier forensic procedurals. (First printing of 750,000; $500,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild main selection; Mystery Guild main selection) Read full book review >
CAUSE OF DEATH by Patricia Cornwell
Released: July 2, 1996

The fascination with monstrous evil that's run through Cornwell's recent work (From Potter's Field, 1995, etc.) blossoms with a vengeance when Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta is called out on New Year's Eve to examine the body of Ted Eddings, an investigative reporter killed during an unauthorized dive in Norfolk's Inactive Naval Ship Yard. The typically arresting opening sequences—which take Scarpetta from beneath the icy waters of the Elizabeth River to the morgue, where she makes a shocking discovery about the manner of Eddings's death—masterfully set up all the conflicts that follow, from Scarpetta's instant antipathy to the Chesapeake police detective who'll end up lodging a sexual harassment complaint against her to her uneasy examination of the Book of Hand, the Bible of radical New Zionist messiah Joel Hand. And the momentum builds through a second murder, as usual unnervingly close to Scarpetta (has any series heroine ever survived so many deaths by proxy?). It's not till Scarpetta joins her brainy FBI niece Lucy and her tormented FBI lover Benton Wesley, who's leaving his wife but still can't commit himself to Scarpetta, to run the New Zionists' nefarious, incredible plot to ground and flush them out of their hidey-hole that Cornwell's apocalyptic moralizing turns shrill and unconvincing. Full marks, as always, for the gripping forensic detail and beleaguered Scarpetta's legendary toughness. It's only the sketchy, unbelievable villains who ring hollow. (First printing of 1,000,000; $750,000 ad/promo budget; Literary Guild main selection; Mystery Guild main selection) Read full book review >
FROM POTTER'S FIELD by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Aug. 3, 1995

Before he killed the woman Dr. Kay Scarpetta knows only as Jane, Scarpetta's nemesis Temple Gault (Cruel and Unusual, 1993) took his victim to the shark exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, walked her through the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, and made her strip despite the Christmas Eve weather. And then? The dead woman's body provides the most eloquent testimony, and Scarpettadragged away from cutting up a Richmond drug-dealer to consult with the FBI's Investigative Support Unitis the ideal interpreter of Gault's handiwork. But Gault is always a lengthening step ahead of her. He's already stolen her Amex card and broken into CAIN, the Crime Artificial Intelligence Network pioneered by Lucy, Scarpetta's brilliant niece. As Gault's footfalls grow louderin one particularly macabre sequence he delivers the corpse of his latest victim directly to Scarpetta's morgueit's obvious that he has his eye on Scarpetta and Lucy. Their only defense: Scarpetta's uncannily revealing analysis of telltale physical evidence ranging from a set of gold foil dental fillings to a pair of jungle boots. When Cornwell drops the helter-skelter subplots of The Body Farm (1994) and keeps Scarpetta's endless fights with Lucy, lover Benton Wesley, and neanderthal pal Capt. Pete Marino in the background, nobody can make the details of forensic investigation as rivetingright up to the moment when the killer's ``transected femoral artery hemorrhaged to the rhythm of his horrible heart.'' Take that, Hannibal Lecter! (Literary Guild/Mystery Guild main selection) Read full book review >
THE BODY FARM by Patricia Cornwell
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta (Cruel and Unusual, 1993, etc.) has given up smoking and strayed far enough from her high-pressure office to act as a consulting profiler for the FBI, but her nerves are just as frayed at Quantico, especially since her rebellious niece Lucy is a computer-whiz trainee for the Engineering Research Facility down the hall. Scarpetta's latest case is ugly even by her standards: the North Carolina sex murder of Emily Steiner, 11, whose forensics are so contradictory that Scarpetta wants to exhume her for a second autopsy. Before she can do so, North Carolina Bureau investigator Max Ferguson, returning home from Quantico, dies, apparently of autoerotic asphyxia, and his local contact winds up in the hospital with a heart attack. Scarpetta scurries to work out how and why Temple Gault, an apparent serial killer who's the leading suspect in Emily's murder, might have killed Ferguson—and what to make of her gruesome discovery in Ferguson's freezer. No sooner has she finished the grisly re-examination of Emily, than word comes from Quantico that Lucy's sneaked into an unauthorized area after hours and is getting washed out of the program. Scarpetta's two nightmares come together with a crash—a car crash that sends Lucy to the hospital and Scarpetta out to the field to run forensics on her own automobile. As always, tension is ratcheted up, rather unconvincingly, by plots whose interconnection is never quite clear and by the constant friction between Scarpetta and her niece; her sister; her FBI lover, Benton Wesley; her boorish buddy, Capt. Pete Marino; and Emily's mother, with whom Marino is having an affair. But beneath the welter of quarrels and coincidences is as insidious a study of evil as Cornwell has turned in. (Literary Guild main selection) Read full book review >