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Kay Scarpetta #7

Cause of Death

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It is New Year's Eve, the last day of Virginia's bloodiest year since the Civil War. Dr. Kay Scarpetta plunges into the murky depths of a ship graveyard to recover the very human remains of Ted Eddings, an investigative reporter. What kind of story was Eddings chasing below the icy surface of the Elizabeth River? And why did Scarpetta receive a phone call from someone reporting the death before the police were notified? She soon discovers that Eddings' murder is merely the first layer of something much deeper --- a labyrinthine conspiracy that will put all of her criminal and forensic knowledge to the test like never before. For Scarpetts, the real challenge won't be cataloging the growing number of dead bodies, but preventing herself and those she loves from becoming the next victims.

356 pages, Paperback

First published August 1, 1996

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About the author

Patricia Cornwell

335 books16.8k followers
Patricia Cornwell sold her first novel, Postmortem, in 1990 while working as a computer analyst at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia. Postmortem, was the first bona fide forensic thriller. It paved the way for an explosion of entertainment featuring in all things forensic across film, television and literature.

Postmortem would go on to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity awards as well as the French Prix du Roman d’Aventure prize – the first book ever to claim all these distinctions in a single year. To date, Cornwell’s books have sold some 100 million copies in thirty-six languages in over 120 countries. She’s authored twenty-nine New York Times bestsellers.

Patricia’s novels center primarily on medical examiner Kay Scarpetta along with her tech-savvy niece Lucy and fellow investigator Pete Marino. Celebrating 25 years, these characters have grown into an international phenomenon, winning Cornwell the Sherlock Award for best detective created by an American author, the Gold Dagger Award, the RBA Thriller Award, and the Medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters for her contributions to literary and artistic development.

Fox 2000 bought the rights to Kay Scarpetta. Working with producer Liz Friedman, Marvel’s Jessica Jones and fellow Marvel EP and Twilight Saga scribe Melissa Rosenberg to develop the film and find Scarpetta a home on the big screen.

After earning her degree in English from Davidson College in 1979, she began working at the Charlotte Observer.

Cornwell received widespread attention and praise for her series of articles on prostitution and crime in downtown Charlotte. From the Charlotte Observer, Cornwell moved to a job with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia – a post she would later bestow upon the fictional Kay Scarpetta.

When not writing from her Boston home, Patricia tirelessly researches cutting-edge forensic technologies to include in her work. Her interests span outside the literary: Patricia co-founded of the Conservation Scientist Chair at the Harvard University Art Museums. She appears as a forensic consultant on CNN and serves as a member of Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital’s National Council, where she advocates for psychiatric research. She’s helped fund the ICU at Cornell’s Animal Hospital, the scientific study of a Confederate submarine, the archaeological excavation of Jamestown, and a variety of law enforcement charities. Patricia is also committed to
funding scholarships and literacy programs. Her advice to aspiring authors: “Start writing. And don’t take no for an answer.”

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Other areas of expertise & interests
Forensics | Forensic Technologies | Ballistics | Weapons | Explosives | Pathology & Autopsies | Crime | Historical and Unsolved Criminal Cases | Jack The Ripper | Helicopter Piloting | Suba Diving | Archaeological Excavation Experience |

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,050 reviews
Profile Image for Tara.
941 reviews55 followers
June 22, 2012
So much for the books getting better, I guess I spoke too soon! In this book Dr. KS is filling in for an out of town medical examiner. Then she's scuba diving (because she's certified because Dr. K can do anything), then her niece is crying and drinking and crying and what? And then the Libyan’s kill Doc Brown to steal his plutonium so Marty McFly takes off with the time machine thanks to the flux capacitor... Oh wait.. well, it was something like that.

It was like she took everything that was sort of timely at the moment she was writing- middle east, nuclear weapons and David Koresh and tossed it all in a blender and tried to make a plot out of it. The plot needed a ton of explaining and at the end it was like she realized that so she just stopped writing to save herself the trouble. Because there is no other reason for that abrupt ending.

The characters are going downhill fast. Seriously- Lucy is a mess and there is no way she passed any sort of psych eval to get into the FBI. I mean I've been saying it for a while, she is a little crazy-cakes. Why would the government let her carry a gun? Kay is the most unsympathetic character ever. I'm over her affair and I'm really over Benton. The best character the series has is Marino, and that doesn't say much. He has a mystery son, and a heartbreaking love for Kay (that she shits on whenever possible) and he is trying to kill himself with food and cigarettes to get out of this series. I can't say I blame him...
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,727 followers
April 29, 2023
Book Review
Cause of Death is the 7th book in the "Kay Scarpetta" thriller and mystery series by award-winning author Patricia Cornwell. I've read about 2/3 of the series and now returning to write reviews on everything I've read in the hopes it'll push me to pick up the series again in the coming weeks.

For those new to the series, Scarpetta is a Virginia-based medical examiner, but eventually she moves around a bit over the course of the 20+ book series. She's sharp, witty and tough. She's had strong ties with the police and the FBI, as well as been on the outs with them over her career. She's been the targeted victim by a few of the serial killers she's helped to trap and capture. She's not married for most of the books, but has a boyfriend for a while. Her niece Lucy helps her solve crimes on occasion. And her cop friend Pete Marino was in love with her at one point. Some of this may have changed after book 13/14 when I temporarily stopped. I stopped because I felt like I needed a new character to focus on, a different set of stories in a different place, but they are still all generally good books.

Cause of Death was one of the average books. Scarpetta's involved in more intrigue than usual, with international situations, and she's also filling in for a fellow ME on New Year's Eve when she is summoned to look at a dead body. The funny thing... she knows about it before the police do. Now who is after her? There are multiple story angles in this one, and Cornwell got too technical for me. I love to learn when I read, but I also don't want to have to look stuff up in an encyclopedia or online. By today's standards, some of this is more common knowledge, but over a decade ago, she was ahead of the curve.

While still a good story, it's not my favorite and I wouldn't recommend this one to start with if you're interested in the series.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Profile Image for The Girl with the Sagittarius Tattoo.
2,230 reviews277 followers
April 15, 2023
Well. That ended weirdly.

The back cover blurb tells you this is about a body fished out of the Elizabeth River who turns out to be an investigative reporter Scarpetta knew. The investigation starts looking more like murder than an accidental drowning. Before you know it there's a creepy Chesapeake cop groping Kay; Merino's in danger of stroking out; two of Kay's co-workers go missing; there's a pseudo-Satanic bible; the entire Medical Examiner building is doused in chemicals; radioactive material turns up in Kay's Mercedes; a weird cult is somehow involved. Oh, and I forgot to mention her yawny and regrettable (but ongoing) affair with Bentley Weston. Or is it Weston Bentley?

Sheesh, all I wanted was a drowning mystery.

The ultra-contrived nature of Dr. Kay Scarpetta is on full display here - I mean, is there anything she isn't qualified to do? She's a certified SCUBA instructor, she's a licensed ME in 3 states, and apparently she has a Law degree... I mean, really! It's getting ridiculous. Oh well, onward I go with this series!
May 2, 2019
I am an incongruous Patricia Cornwell fan. A medical examiner who occasionally describes autopsies, asks for thicker skin than my most frequent reading choices. Standard mystery is my milieu, literally in the middle. The family feel of Kay Scarpetta’s inner sanctum: computer-pro niece Lucy, chief of police friend Pete, and FBI director boyfriend Benton and the caring, professional leadership of her morgue staff, allow familiarity to build in their off-putting job field. Crime is my least favourite mystery device, so the unexplained circumstances of a drowned journalist in scuba gear, propelling the major part of “Cause Of Death”, generated a puzzler closer to the intrigue I like better. Ted Eddings’ interest in a decommissioned navy wharf was odd. Base personnel forcing Kay to exert her authority to investigate was unsettling and the extended absence of the morgue manager she was replacing in that town, was puzzling.

The novel shifted to Ted’s interest in a cult and police-grade weapons at his home. A whole other tone enters, when the out-of-town morgue assistant is murdered on his way to Kay’s office. It matches the intrigue at the wharf. There is recognisance of explosives, which unnerve Pete. Finally, Lucy’s investigation of an FBI internet infiltration intersected with Kay’s case, which I found implausible.

In the late chapters, a joint law enforcement sting of a terrorist holdup, was a stretch too far in a novel already saturated with a variety of angles. It changed the pace of the novel from mystery suspense, to a police action thriller. It was far less compelling and didn’t belong to the story I started. The weakest point is that Ted’s girlfriend could reveal a lot, if Kay pressed his Mother to name her. This is my least favourite case but I am undaunted about enjoying the series overall.
Profile Image for Sarah (is clearing her shelves).
1,029 reviews146 followers
April 2, 2016

2/4 - This took me more nights to finish than I expected, I thought I'd get it done in two nights of reading, unfortunately sleep decided to kidnap me a few nights in a row and I just couldn't manage as many pages as I was expecting to. I'm starting to find the 'kill Scarpetta's staff' theme a little tedious, working for her is becoming a dangerous occupation. I remembered the fact that among all of Scarpetta's other accomplishments she's also a certified scuba diver and I remembered that Lucy and her robot dog saved the day, what I didn't remember was the uranium-stealing terrorist angle of the story. That's possibly because it was only mentioned near the end of the book and that end felt rushed. I felt like this could have been 50 pages longer in order so that the climax didn't end up feeling like an anticlimactic after-thought, rather than the big reveal it should have been.

This is the last book in my mini Scarpetta marathon, for the moment at least. If I want to complete my challenges for the year (POPSUGAR and the one I set to read as many of the books I already own as possible) I have other books I need to get on with, I can't spend the rest of the year just reading Scarpetta. Well, I probably could but I don't think it's recommended with Cornwell as you begin to notice the flaws too easily if you read her books one after another till the end, plus I wouldn't feel like I've accomplished something I've set out to do the way I will if I finish this year's POPSUGAR list.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,821 reviews12.9k followers
December 18, 2013
Cornwell continues the Scarpetta series with another great mystery that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat. When Scarpetta receives an odd phone call on New Year's Eve about a body, she is left to wonder what to do, as little information is provided to her. Only later do authorities call her to seek help and they deny anyone would have contacted Scarpetta before. As she is covering for one of her regional medical examiners, she is faced with a new cast of characters while on the scene. What looks like a diving accident gone wrong soon unravels into a larger mystery with deeper implications. How does a local Zionist movement tie into all of this and what can Scarpetta do to solve this before the bodies begin to pile up? Cornwell treats the reader to another great installment of the Scarpetta series sure to keep her fans happy and add more to the list.

Cornwell's ability to think up new scenarios surely keeps the character fresh and ever-evolving. She has a way of adding layers rather than piling on to already known facts, which surely keeps the avid reader liking the always-expanding character of Dr. Kay Scarpetta. With dry wit and excellent dialogue, the reader will laugh, gasp, and perhaps even cry as they join Scarpetta on this and other mysteries.

Kudos Madam Cornwell on this excellent piece of work!
Profile Image for Bex.
385 reviews58 followers
May 25, 2010
Avoid at all costs! I would love to never have to read another page of conversation between Lucy and Kay. It drove me crazy and was endlessly irritating. I also have a hard time believing in a main character who committed affairs with married men. How am i ever supposed to believe what she says after that? Marino was cool and funny too. He is the only character worth anything in the story. The first half of the book was great and built up nicely. But the second half of the book was horrible and it has one of the worst endings in the history of books. It left me laughing it was so bad.
Profile Image for Baz MW.
118 reviews18 followers
October 4, 2017
I'm usually such a fan of the Scarpetta series but this one just fell short for me.

The beginning started well and there were promises of darkness and disturbing characters but then it seemed to lose its way.

Starting like a Horror it developed into a James Bond.

While Cornwell's writing is excellent as always, the action wasn't consistent, most secondary characters came and left without explanation and the darkness that often surrounds the Scarpetta investigations was minimal.

I'm not sure if Cornwell is moving in a new direction with this one (will see in the next book), but I found myself having to persevere during some points because it strayed quite a bit from our expectations of Scarpetta.

6.5/10 (3 Stars)
Profile Image for _inbetween_.
227 reviews62 followers
August 9, 2008
She reached the stage where it's so bad you laugh - it might not be a happy laugh, not even a very amused one, but you'll have to by the time it needs the state coroner to say "he ain't dead" instead of a more convincing actress. I regret that my reviews for the last four books run into each other, mostly because I wish I'd been able to make detailed notes (esp. since I'll have to get rid of these pretty volumes). This is the worst so far - it ends with IloveLucy and her aunt saving the world (aka USA) with a toy robot and some bad stoic acting. Even the only man that was interesting then caves in. Maybe he'll die between this book and the next? Seriously, terrorists and religious fanatics and all they are used for is for Lucy to move her hand and her aunt to visit a few laboratories she had not found a good excuse to describe so far. She does not even try to give excuses why generally considered crap Marino is involved anymore. I obviously already forgot if there was any plot, apart from the usual taking taxis and airplanes back and forth - but the little pointless showdown at the atomic reactor was the stupidest low point so far. I think. Don't remind me of others - see, the worst bit is that apart from four more KS I also have one more of the less beloved series that I found so interesting - and now it seems I was wrong, what seemed a refreshing and sharp meta text was perhaps really her utter inability to write stories and evolving human beings *sob* *must stop typing* the end.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,620 reviews988 followers
February 22, 2020
Invariably with almost every single detective crime series, bar Ian Rankin's Rebus, there comes a book in the series, where a shark is jumped, and to all purposes it looks like it was written to a deadline... and unfortunately this 7th book in the series has done it for Kay Scarpetta for me... despite some great ongoing story arcs, a superb supporting cast and some cool forensic investigations. Cultists! Nuclear Weapons! Libya! Dearie me! 2 out of 12.
Profile Image for Audrey.
509 reviews554 followers
October 26, 2022

Full disclosure - not my fave motive/mystery of the series. I liked the opening and the initial crime but the resolution wasn't totally for me.

I do still love the characters interactions but was missing a character who didn't have as big of a role, while also loving some major character development of another.

The reread project continues....
Profile Image for Lobstergirl.
1,750 reviews1,268 followers
September 11, 2009
There are some garish tidbits in this crime novel - a homicide victim whose urethra empties on the underside of his penis rather than the tip - but the whole thing is semi-interesting at best, and I truly became bored when domestic terrorists, inspired by a David Koresh-type leader and attempting to sell decomissioned submarines to Libya, took over a nuclear power plant. It was as if Tom Clancy had taken over writing duties, but a Tom Clancy obsessed with sullen lesbian FBI agents. (Ladies: why so hostile?) Cornwell's characters have too many failed marriages, family issues, adulterous liaisons, and erectile dysfunction to sustain my empathy. Also, how is it that main character Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner, seems to be directing the whole police investigation?

Another bone to pick: the cover photo is of a diver in crystal clear blue water, but the only diving that goes on in the book is in brown murky water where Scarpetta can't see her hand in front of her face.

She also quotes Luke 23:22 at the front of the book, because, conveniently, she found a bible verse that matches her title:

"And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him."

[She leaves out this part: "I will therefore chastise him, and let him go."] But of course what Pilate is saying there is that he hasn't found good reason to condemn Jesus to death, not that he's examined Jesus's dead body and can't determine what killed him. Beyond stupid.
Profile Image for Stephen Clynes.
537 reviews32 followers
July 27, 2022
Kay is called to a recovery of a diver, is it a sad accident or a homicide?

In this 7th novel in the series we have the usual forensic pathology but there is a lot more going on. Could the diver be involved in a conspiracy? And then more deaths come to light which ask yet more questions. Could Kay be frightened off investigating more than the death of the diver? Certainly not as Kay and her many contacts get to the bottom of what happened and why.

Jumping from the first novel to the seventh was easy for me. Many of the characters from the brilliant first novel were carried over and I felt very comfortable following their lives in and out of work. The computers that Lucy, who is Kay’s niece, works on have progressed to 486 PC’s running DOS 6 which was a refreshing trip down memory lane for me!

I did not enjoy Cause of Death as much as Postmortem because it was less forensic pathology and more crime thriller - the usual detective skills to capture bad guys. The conspiracy was interesting but not mind blowing and the intense action towards the end rather tabloid.

I did enjoy the technical bits about chemicals and guns with their bullets leading to how the forensic evidence can be interpreted. But the big surprise for me was the diver who had hypospadias. Kay explained this to the reader and I thought WTF? - so I googled it and it is true!

I think Cause of Death is an OKAY 3 star read that is fine to have on the go rather than page turning obsession.
Profile Image for Sherri F..
284 reviews
November 11, 2015
Audio version: 3 to 3.5 stars - #7 in Dr. Kay Scarpetta series

I started off really liking this series, but the more I've read (esp. several back-to-back in a short time), I've become more frustrated or disappointed in several of them, including this one. The audio might have magnified it some. I'm not sure if KS was written a little harsher in this one or if some of that was the audio's narrator. I've read most of the others prior to this & the one audio had a different narrator, which was a much better KS. I started off liking this one just b/c setting was a little different and finally not about Gault/Grethen as the 3 previously installments were, and for me it was getting old. However, not only did I begin to lose interest in the plot, but the sub-plot was so repetitive of several previous installments--KS still worrying about Lucy & complaining to anyone, including bosses, who would listen; someone else in law enforcement being crooked but turning it around & either making her look bad or outright accusing her; one of her staff being killed; all four main characters, despite different careers/orgs, miraculously all being assigned or working on same case, investigation or operation. Then it abruptly ended w/little to no wrap-up which is pretty unusual for this author/series so maybe was trying something different or she was as ready as I was for it to be over. There are still some positives esp. considering when they were written & published. I hope some of the newer installments are better and fresher.
Profile Image for Χρύσα Βασιλείου.
Author 6 books151 followers
June 12, 2018
Η αλήθεια είναι πως περίμενα να αναπτύξω μια πολύ καλύτερη σχέση με την Κέυ Σκαρπέττα. Μετά από τρία βιβλία,όμως,μάλλον ακόμα γνωριζόμαστε και προσπαθούμε να βρούμε κοινούς κώδικες. Το βιβλίο αυτό το βρήκα σχετικά αδιάφορο,παρόλο που το θέμα του αρχικά φάνταζε ενδιαφέρον.

Ειδικά η συμπεριφορά της Σκαρπέττα σε ό,τι έχει να κάνει με την ανιψιά της έχει αρχίσει να μου σπάει τα νεύρα. Πρώτον,η νεαρά δεν είναι πλέον νεαρά,είναι ολόκληρη γυναίκα. Δεύτερον,αυτή η υπερπροστασία που επιδεικνύει συνεχώς απέναντί της καταντά εκνευριστική τόσο για την ανιψιά,όσο και για μένα. Στο FBI είναι κυρά μου,και σε νευραλγικό πόστο μάλιστα. Τι θες,να τη βάλουν στη γυάλα μην την πλησιάσει κανένας και την κάνει ντα; Πραγματικά κάθε φορά που έχουν κοινή σκηνή αυτές οι δύο αυτόματα σφίγγομαι και ενδόμυχα σκέφτομαι πόσο θα νευριάσω πάλι.
Επίσης,και ο χαρακτήρας της Σκαρπέττα είναι ώρες ώρες ανυπόφορος. Εννοείται πως δεν παριστάνει ούτε η ίδια πως είναι ο καλυτερότερος άνθρωπος του κόσμου ή ο φωτεινός παντογνώστης,όμως μερικές φορές η συμπεριφορά της ή ο τρόπος σκέψης της για τους άλλους με εκνευρίζει επίσης. Δεν μπορεί να φταίνε πάντα οι άλλοι για προσωπικά ή επαγγελματικά ζητήματα. Δεν μπορεί να θέλει να επεμβαίνει στις ζωές όλων και να μη δέχεται μύγα στο σπαθί της για τη δική της. Δεν μπορεί να κρατάει μούτρα ή να φέρεται με ψυχρότητα στον άλλον,επειδή έχει κάτι προσωπικό μαζί του. Ειδικά όταν βρίσκεται στη μέση μιας υπόθεσης. ΟΚ,το καταλαβαίνω πως αυτά τα συναισθήματα είναι ανθρώπινα,όμως μάλλον η Κέυ Σκαρπέττα είναι ένας χαρακτήρας που δεν θα ήθελα στον δικό μου κοινωνικό κύκλο τελικά. Δεν ταιριάζουν τα χνώτα μας.

Παρ' όλα αυτά,μιας και για το 2018 ο στόχος μου είναι "διαβάζω με τη σειρά όλα τα βιβλία του εκάστοτε συγγραφέα που έχω",θα διαβάσω και τα υπόλοιπά της,αν και δεν νομίζω να αλλάξω πια και τόσο την άποψη που έχω ήδη σχηματίσει.
Profile Image for Noella.
953 reviews61 followers
February 25, 2022
Dit is het eerste boek dat ik las van Patricia Cornwell. Ik zag dat het over het algemeen geen denderende reviews had, maar ikzelf vond het best wel goed.

**spoiler alert**

Dokter Kay Scarpetta wordt opgebeld met de boodschap dat eer blijkbaar een man een duikongeluk gehad heeft op een werf van afgedankte schepen. De dode is een journalist die Carpetta kende. Ze gelooft niet dat het een ongeluk was. Vanaf dan krijgt ze de indruk dat ze in de gaten gehouden wordt. En op een morgen vindt ze haar banden stukgestoken. De man die na het herstel de auto terug bij haar zou afleveren, een jonge assistent-collega van haar, wordt vermoord. En in zijn huis wordt een soort Bijbel van een sekte, de Nieuwe Zionisten, gevonden.
Als de onderzoekers uiteindelijk ongeveer uitgeknobbeld hebben waar alles om draait, is het eigenlijk te laat: de sekte heeft een terroristische inval gedaan in een kerncentrale.

Best wel spannend dus, alleen was het laatste deeltje nogal technisch, al die uitleg over het uranium en over de technologie die het team moet gebruiken om op een veilige manier de zaak proberen op te lossen.
Profile Image for TheMadHatter.
1,326 reviews33 followers
March 6, 2019
Aussie Readers Reading Challenge 2019:
MARCH: A book that starts with the letter "C"

I am continuing my re-read of the Scarpetta series. I haven't picked these books up for over 20 years and they have sat on my bookcase staring out wanting desperately for someone to read them. I am finally re-reading them and then passing them on to the second hand book shop (a book has one function - to be read and read often....keeping these as "ornaments" for over 20 years makes me feel very guilty).

Parting with this book is unfortunately not a hard task as this has been my least favourite book in the series so far. The mystery is convoluted and not overly logical (mainly because it is dealing with fanatics and tries to cram in too many topical (for the time) issues with nuclear weapons, fanatics, Libya etc. Also it is the book where Kay and Lucy and Wesley are all in bad places in terms of relationships and all are remarkably unlikable.

The whole book is rather quite miserable and unfortunately was a bit of a slog to read. Thank-god for Marino who just brought authenticity and joy to every scene he was in. Time to dust off book #8 now. Farewell book #7 may you find a brand new reader out there to embrace you...
Profile Image for Christian Nikitas.
335 reviews50 followers
June 26, 2023
Murder and treason... Are there members of law enforcement and military involved? What does depleted uranium have to do with it? Find out how Dr Scarpetta and her friends in law enforcement and FBI figure out the mystery and save Virginia.

This novel expanded internationally. The content was there, but it wasn't as good as previous in the series. For me, it seemed like a lot of info, but didn't flow as smoothly as I would have liked.
Profile Image for Gayle Noble.
1,617 reviews28 followers
August 12, 2022
Scarpetta is covering an area called Tideswater for one of her subordinates who is away tending a sick relative, when she receives a call about a body which has been found in the Elizabeth River, near some decommissioned navy ships. The caller leaves their name & number & rings off but shortly after, Scarpetta receives a second call about the same body. When she queries this, the caller says that as far as they are aware no-one else has called, & the name & number left turn out to be bogus.

On site, most personnel there are strangely hostile when Scarpetta insists on retrieving the body herself. Changing into diving gear (she's a certified diver, naturally), she locates the body who turns out to be a journalist she is familiar with, Ted Eddings. The autopsy confirms that Eddings didn't drown but was poisoned with cyanide gas. What follows is a slightly meandering story incorporating a religious cult & the takeover of a nuclear power facility.

This isn't the usual style of plot for Cornwell & it's okay but not as page-turning. It’s also not as tightly plotted as most of the previous books, but the main problem is Scarpetta herself. First of all she really needs to back off when it comes to niece Lucy - Lucy is no longer ten years old, she's an FBI agent & Scarpetta needs to let her do her job instead of trying to shield her all the time. No wonder Lucy gets irritated with her aunt at times. Secondly, Scarpetta finds out Benton is separating from his wife but didn't tell her himself so she is mad at Benton for not telling her (understandable), mad at him for leaving his wife (huh?), & mad at him because he wants to keep distance between them whilst his divorce is happening. He literally cannot do right for doing wrong. Scarpetta needs to take a holiday & chill.

3.5 stars (rounded up)
Profile Image for Theresa (mysteries.and.mayhem).
123 reviews61 followers
August 10, 2022
I'm late to the game as far as the Kay Scarpetta series is concerned. Like a lot of books I read, I stumbled into this series on my Libby app at some point in 2021. I was looking for a good long suspense series. Little did I know how much I'd come to love the character cast that make up the core of these books. I dare to say that I absolutely love Marino! He's such a softie packed into gruff packaging. I love how he's always there to look out for Kay even when she doesn't want him to be there. The character writing is one of the main things that keeps me coming back to this series.

The book opens with Dr. Scarpetta house-sitting for a colleague who has gone to London because of a death in the family. She gets a mysterious phone call about a mysterious death at a Naval shipyard. From here the plot thickens and picks up throughout the remainder of the book. I wouldn't say there were any dull points in the storyline. In fact, I particularly love how Cornwell can throw a total curveball into the story which I know will be relevant at some point, I just can't figure out how. It seriously makes my gears turn trying to think through all the angles to figure it out before it's solved in the book!

My only little issue with this book is how Dr. Scarpetta always has a reason to be where that the action is taking place. No medical examiner is ever needed in the heart of the mystery throughout the entire investigation. But, as I'm well aware, if she didn't need to be everywhere, she wouldn't be Kay Scarpetta and we wouldn't have these fun novels to read.
Profile Image for Megargee.
643 reviews16 followers
September 11, 2014
If you are a fan of this series you may like this. Or not. This book appears to be an episode in a continuing story arc for the main characters, none of whose issues really engaged me. The main character, Va. Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta, wonders why other characters from other agencies are hostile and uncooperative. I suspected it was because of Scarpetta's own arrogance and unprofessional behavior as she intrudes on investigations that are out of her jurisdiction and job description. This is especially true when she tries to shield her niece, an FBI agent, from possible danger instead of letting her do her job. (Spoiler alert.) However, after jetting on the Concorde to London with her (married) boss to interview a suspect (and have a quickie) Kay belatedly discovers the uncooperative officers are linked to the bad guys. Belatedly because by this time the cult's terrorists have taken over a nuclear power plant and threaten to irradiate half of Virginia unless, guess who, Kay can save the day. The book ends with a bang leaving enough loose ends to manufacture a mop.
Profile Image for Chris.
757 reviews108 followers
September 30, 2022
9/22 I recently picked this up at the used bookstore, thinking that I had not read it. I wasn't far into it when I realized that I had. I don't remember the story, but I remember being irked that Cornwell had not researched the tidewater area well as just in the first 2 chapters she had some things ALL wrong! The community of Sandbridge does not sit between the Naval Amphibious Base and the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It sits between Back Bay and the Dam Neck base on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean; which at the time of the writing of this novel was identified as the Fleet Combat Training Center. The Naval Amphibious Base (Little Creek) sits on the Chesapeake Bay.
Additionally, the Inactive Naval Shipyard is not in Chesapeake, VA; it located in Portsmouth, VA.

Alright, I'm done with my rant, and I do enjoy these novels overall.
Profile Image for Angie Harvey.
720 reviews5 followers
March 5, 2019
This book was just missing an ending. We had this huge long lead up that was AMAZING. It ended just so abruptly that I felt jipped. This story was so unique and had so many different layers that it made it so addicting! I truly think this could have been a 5+ star book if it had a more finished end.

Kay really put herself out there at a completely different level in this one. It was really exhilarating!! I loved seeing so much more of Lucy and Janet too. Their part in Kay’s life is so crucial, so I love that Lucy is in this book more. I also loved seeing this more vulnerable side of Marino too, it was interesting to see!
Profile Image for Lisa  Carlson.
610 reviews13 followers
January 3, 2013
The thing to remember when reading fiction; latitude is a given. The more flawed a character is the more threads of a storyline are available. Dr. Scarpetta is a thriving type A personality who works in a man's world. Her impressions are going to be different and thankfully she is emotional. I have said and continue to think she's an extension of what Patricia Cornwell is like and I find that continually compelling. She gets involved in multiple things in this book just like the novels that have preceded it; The introduction of Lucy's personal life and her sexuality is wonderful. Everyone seems to think she would never be allowed to be an FBI agent but I'm not so sure; there are plenty of CIA/FBI agents who have a very messy private life. Genre fiction is supposed to introduce a pattern and may have a surprise twist at the end. A side note; if you read the introduction Cornwell states how uncomfortable she was with diving and never fully embraced it. Let's give Cornwell some credit in her 7th novel as she uses the gift fiction writers are known for; imagination.
Profile Image for Susan Robby.
10 reviews
April 6, 2008
I couldn't help but get immersed in this book. Literally, a diver gets killed and the action takes place in Norfolk Va, my old stomping grounds! It moves around VA... Chesapeake, Richmond, Back Bay and of course the US Navy is involved. I am an old Navy brat! I live on the opposite side of the country, now. So, I have to admit that some of my enjoyment of this book had to do with personal nostalgia. However,the female medical examiner/detective named Scarpetta was really well portrayed as the protagonist that does not give up. This book led me to read another Scarpetta detective novel, "Predator." Equally as good but takes place in Florida.
110 reviews
July 11, 2011
This was my first Patricia Cornwell novel, and having worked in forensics for a few years, I was excited to finally delve into one of her novels. Apparently, I chose the wrong book.

I found the plot moderately interesting, but the writing style habitually annoyed me. And I didn’t particularly love the main character. Maybe if it was written in the third person, I would have liked her better. But instead I found her a little arrogant. While I enjoy a strong female lead, KS’s self-confidence came off as too much to me. Finally, I found the ending anti-climactic and abrupt.

I may try again with an earlier KS novel, because millions of readers can’t possibly be all wrong.
Profile Image for ♤Nora.
428 reviews26 followers
April 14, 2022
Me encantó la historia, los casos de la Dra. Kay siguen sorprendiéndome y eso que soy fan de Mentes Criminales que casi es lo mismo que esta saga de libros.

Lucy la sobrina de Kay sigue sorprendiéndome pero para mal por la actitud de niña berinchuda que tiene a veces.

Causa de muerte es un libro que no podrás dejar de leer, hasta saber que es lo que está pasando con los personajes y sobretodo descubrir quién es el verdadero asesino.
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