Kay Scarpetta Books

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The Kay Scarpetta series of books is a series of crime fiction books written by the American crime author Patricia Cornwell. The Kay Scarpetta series revolves around Kay Scarpetta, who starts the series of the Chief Medical Examiner, working out of the city of Richmond, and who is employed by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Later on into the series, Kay Scarpetta becomes a freelancers, consulting on cases as a forensic examiner. The character of Dr Kay Scarpetta is based on a medical examiner that Patricia Cornwell encounters while living in Virginia, Marcella Farinelli Fierro. The Kay Scarpetta series relies heavily on forensic techniques and terminology in order for the protagonist to solve the case, along with traditional detective work. Thanks to Cornwell’s experience in the field and extensive research, the Kay Scarpetta series is, for the most part, grounded in reality when it comes to the methodologies employed by the investigators.

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Order of Kay Scarpetta Series

# Read Title Published Details
1 Postmortem ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 1990 Description / Buy
2 Body of Evidence ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 1991 Description / Buy
3 All That Remains ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 1992 Description / Buy
4 Cruel and Unusual ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 1993 Description / Buy
5 The Body Farm ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 1994 Description / Buy
6 From Potter's Field ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 1995 Description / Buy
7 Cause of Death ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 1996 Description / Buy
8 Unnatural Exposure (By: Patricia Cornwell) 1997 Description / Buy
9 Point of Origin (By: Patricia Cornwell) 1998 Description / Buy
10 Black Notice (By: Patricia Cornwell) 1999 Description / Buy
11 The Last Precinct (By: Patricia Cornwell) 2000 Description / Buy
12 Blow Fly (By: Patricia Cornwell) 2003 Description / Buy
13 Trace ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 2004 Description / Buy
14 Predator ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 2005 Description / Buy
15 Book of the Dead ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 2007 Description / Buy
16 Scarpetta ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 2008 Description / Buy
17 The Scarpetta Factor ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 2009 Description / Buy
18 Port Mortuary ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 2010 Description / Buy
19 Red Mist ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 2011 Description / Buy
20 The Bone Bed ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 2012 Description / Buy
21 Dust ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 2013 Description / Buy
22 Flesh and Blood ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 2014 Description / Buy
23 Depraved Heart ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 2015 Description / Buy
24 Chaos ( By: Patricia Cornwell) 2016 Description / Buy
25 Autopsy (By: Patricia Cornwell) 2021 Description / Buy
26 Livid (By: Patricia Cornwell) 2022 Description / Buy
27 Unnatural Death (By: Patricia Cornwell) 2023 Description / Buy
28 Identity Unknown (By: Patricia Cornwell) 2024 Description / Buy
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The first book in the Dr Kay Scarpetta series of books is Postmortem, which was published in 1990. Postmortem won Particia Cornwell an Edgar Award in 1991 for Best First Novel, as well as a Creasey, an Anthony and a Macavity award. Postmortem introduces us to the character of Dr Kay Scarpetta as she is asked to attend the scene of a strangling. The victim is a woman, but the more worrying fact is that the murder is just the latest in the string of killings which are yet to be solved. Dr Kay Scarpetta must work with Sergeant Pete Marino and FBI profile Benton Wesley, both recurring characters in the series, to find out who is responsible for this series of murders. Kay Scarpetta must also try and juggle the case with the arrival of her young niece, Lucy, another recurring character in the series, as well as a problematic relationship with an attorney who also works for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Following the great success of Postmortem, the second book in the Dr Kay Scarpetta series, Body of Evidence was published in 1991. This time around, Dr Kay Scarpetta must work with the police in the violent murder of the romantic fiction author Beryl Madison, who was stabbed to death. On top of the murder, Scarpetta must also deal with the victim’s lawyer, who is accusing her of losing the final manuscript of Beryl Madison’s, which is an autobiographical piece chronicling her early years under the guidance of a successful novelist. However, Beryl Madison is not the only victim, and soon Dr Kay Scarpetta finds herself in the cross-hairs of the serial killer. She must try and solve the case while keeping herself alive, and also dealing with the emergence of a former lover who vanished from her life many years previously.

In 1992, All That Remains, the third book in the Dr Kay Scarpetta series, was published. That was followed by Cruel and Unusual in 1993 and then The Body Farm in 1994. From Potter’s Field was published in 1995, and Cause of Death in 1996. Unnatural Exposure and Point of Origin followed in 1997 and 1998.

Black Notice, which was published in 1999, marked a milestone in the Dr Kay Scarpetta series, as it was the tenth book to be published in the series. But there would still be many more to followed in the series, with The Last Precinct following Black Notice in 2000.

There would then be a gap of three years between the publication of books in the Dr Kay Scarpetta series, with Blow Fly published in 2003, which is the 12th book in the series. Trace was published in 2004, Predator was published in 2005.

Again, Cornwell took a short break from the Dr Kay Scarpetta series, and in 2007, Book of the Dead was published. This was followed by Scarpetta in 2008, The Scarpetta Factor in 2009, Port Mortuary in 2010 and Red mist in 2011.

Patricia Cornwell reached another milestone in the Dr Kay Scarpetta series in 2012, with the publication of the 20th book in the series, The Bone Bed. Patricia Cornwell followed The Bone Bed with Dust in 2013, Flesh and Blood in 2014 and Depraved heart in 2015, which was the 23rd book in the Dr Kay Scarpetta series.

In the later books, she becomes a private forensic consultant in Florida, as well as other places. She is a perfectionist and a sharp (yet always professional) dresser and is blonde haired. Her father dying of leukemia effected her all of her life, and has caused her to surround herself with death everyday of her life. She loves to cook from scratch (especially Italian food), is dedicated to her work, and upgrades her Mercedes annually.

She was divorced at the start of the series to a man named Tony Benedetti, and has serious relationships with different men throughout the series. Her name means “Little Shoe” in Italian. The Kay Scarpetta character was not as big in original drafts of the first novel, but people within her publishing house told her to focus more on Scarpetta and flesh her character out more.

Other characters that appear in the books are Pete Marino and Benton Wesley, who she works with. Lucy Farinelli is her niece who is neglected by her mother and later joins the FBI. As a child, Lucy turns to Kay for stability.


The “Kay Scarpetta” books have won quite a few awards. The first book, “Postmortem” won the Macavity Award, the Anthony, an Edgar, and the John Creasey Memorial Award (Cornwell is the only author to win all these awards in one year). “Cruel & Unusual” won the Gold Dagger award. The character Kay won the Sherlock Award for Best Detective in 1999. “Red Mist” won the RBA International Thriller Prize.


For those people looking to get into this prolific and popular novel series, here some novels in the series to start with.

Postmortem: The first book in the series, the book set the world on fire, winning many awards for Patricia Cornwell. The novel shows Kay investigating a serial killer who leaves behind a substance that fluoresces under light, some semen, and in one scene a weird smell. The killer is strangling victims, paralyzing the city. Scarpetta has to deal with her relationships with her sister, niece, and co-workers (Special Agent Benton Wesley and Detective Pete Marino) as well. Kay must also deal with the fact that someone is trying to sabotage her investigation from within and at the same time, kill her. The novel is dated in the sense that DNA profiling was still new and characters talking about how there was no criminal DNA database.

All That Remains: The third book in the series, is based on the Colonial Parkway Killer, who is supposed to have killed eight people in the eighties in Virginia. Young couples are disappearing, only to turn up months later, mutilated. The daughter of a big drug guy goes missing, Kay knows that it is time to get the killer. Through the course of investigating things, she finds that these killings are tied to past brutal killings. Kay must track down a killer who knows how to eliminate clues just as well as Scarpetta can find them.

Cruel & Unusual: The fourth book in the series, Scarpetta is to autopsy Ronnie Waddell, a convicted killer after his execution. The police are baffled, when another the killing of a little boy happens similar to Ronnie Waddell’s early modus operandi with his prints found at the scene. Kay Scarpetta, Pete Marino (a detective), and Benton Wesley (a special agent with the FBI) try to figure out what is going on. Additionally, the police try to figure out how the death of the young child could be possible if Waddell was the killer.


“Eve Dallas” series by J.D. Robb. The star of this series, Eve Dallas, was found beaten, with a broken arm, no memory, and old blood that had dried on her. Throughout the series, she finds that her father was raping her and was getting ready to pimp her out.

“Bones” by Kathy Reichs. Also called the “Temperance Brennan” novels, the series is told from Brennan’s point of view, and Brennan’s background is in physical anthropology.

Alex Delaware” series by Jonathan Kellerman. Set in Los Angeles, the series focuses on Alex Delaware, a forensic psychologist who has a history of working in child psychology.

Dr Kay Scarpetta FAQs

Q: Who writes the Dr Kay Scarpetta series?

A: The Dr Kay Scarpetta series is written by American author Patricia Cornwell.

Q: What is the first book in the Dr Kay Scarpetta series?

A: The first book in the Dr Kay Scarpetta series is Postmortem, which was published in 1990. It won Patricia Cornwell multiple awards, including an Edgar Award and a Macavity Award.

What Is The Next Book in The Kay Scarpetta Series?

The next book in the The Kay Scarpetta Series by Patricia Cornwell is Identity Unknown and will be released on October, 8th 2024.


1 thought on “Kay Scarpetta”

  1. The Kay Scarpetta forensics / mystery series is great! I do have to say that it started off strong, and the storyline (and writing) definitely weakens as the novels go on, but they’re all still good reads. The books don’t focus too much on the forensics side of things, and you get to know Kay Scarpetta’s life outside of her work, which was actually enjoyable.

    I give the author props because these books came out before he TV networks jumped on the forensics bandwagon, and they’ve survived after the boom too. They still keep you on your toes and the main character’s inner dialogue really keeps the books interesting.

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