Which Patricia Cornwell Book Should You Start With First?
Patrica Cornwell is one of the most prolific crime writers out there. She’s written over thirty books, most of them featuring the beloved Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner based in Richmond, Virginia. Her crime stories are known for their substantial focus on forensic science, which often features heavily in the plots. In addition to the Kay Scarpetta series and several shorter series, she’s also written several nonfiction crime books. There are currently 24 Kay Scarpetta novels, and each one focuses on a different mystery, so they can all be read as standalones. If you’re excited to try out a new crime writer, but aren’t sure where to start, never fear: here are eight must-read Kay Scarpetta books to try.
Cruel and Unusual
Cruel & Unusual finds Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta dealing with a conundrum. She's called in to autopsy the body of convicted murdered Ronnie Waddell—just another day on the job in her line of work. But then, a few days later, a young boy turns up murdered in a manner consistent with Waddell's style. And Waddell's prints are all over the body. Along with FBI agents and her seventeen-year old niece Lucy, Kay attempts to figure out how a dead man could be committing murders.
The Body Farm
When an eleven-year-old girl is murdered in the small, quiet town of Black Mountain, North Carolina, Kay Scarpetta is called in to lend her forensic expertise to the case. In a community where even one homicide a year is rare, the girl's death shakes Black Mountain to its core. But when her investigation leads her to the research institute known as the Body Farm, which studies the decomposition of corpses, Kay soon discovers that the case is not as simple as it seems.
Body of Evidence
In Body of Evidence, Kay Scarpetta finds herself smack in the middle of a literary mystery. It begins when Beryl Madison, a successful author, flees Key West after receiving threatening messages. But the night she gets back to Richmond, she disables her alarm and lets someone inside who ends up nearly killing her. Trying to understand Beryl's actions leads Kay to the murder of another author, and soon she's up to her neck in a dangerous case that's a little too close to home.
All That Remains
Young couples are dying all over Richmond. When Kay takes on the case, four couples have already disappeared, their corpses found months later. The stakes get higher when the daughter of a high-ranking politician and her boyfriend disappear. As she follows a trail of evidence tying the present-day murders to a crime long in the past, Kay knows she only has so much time before it's too late to save any more young lovers...
Point of Origin
In Point of Origin, Kay Scarpetta is faced with two deadly problems. The first: she's called out to a farmhouse in the Virginia countryside which has recently burned down; her search reveals a murdered body in the ashes. Equally disturbing is the news that Carrie Grethen, a murderer who nearly destroyed Kay's life, has disappeared from a forensic psychiatric hospital. Carrie has even started communicating with Kay, detailing her chilling plans for revenge. It's a race against time as Kay tries to solve a mystery—and save her own life.
Filled with riveting details of forensic science and the latest innovative crime-solving technology, Unusual Exposure is full of Cornwell's signature plot twists and gory detail. Kay Scarpetta is faced with a gruesome puzzle: five headless cadavers in Ireland, and four similarly mutilated corpses found in a landfill in Virginia. In the midst of a public panic, Kay tries to unravel the mystery of these linked crimes, which turns out to be far more complex than a search for an average serial killer.
From Potter's Field
While the holiday season is a time of revelry for most, it's always been grim for Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta--the holidays always seem to lead to a spike in crime. So Kay is sadly not surprised when the body of a woman is found in Central Park. The worst part is that the manner of the woman's death is familiar to her, and points to a chilling truth: Kay's nemesis, Temple Brooks Gault, is on the loose again.
Cause of Death
On New Year's Eve, Kay Scarpetta finds herself in the depths of a ship graveyard under the frozen Elizabeth River. She's searching for the remains of an investigative reporter, and he's only the latest in a string of murders that has made the past year one of Virginia's bloodiest. As Kay wades deeper into the case, it soon becomes clear that she's stumbled onto shadowy conspiracy that will take all of her considerable forensic skills to unravel.
What to Read Next