Cause of Death by Patricia Cornwall

a diver is just visible in murky water
Visibility is limited here.

Although her earlier novels met with critical acclaim and built her an audience, Cause of Death is the first of Patricia Cornwell’s mysteries about forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta to make the bestseller list.

Scarpetta is middle-aged, smart—she has a low law degree as well as medical credentials—feisty, compassionate, and a great cook.

In Cause, on New Year’s Eve a caller who gives the local weather station as his contact number calls Scarpetta to investigate the scuba-diving death of reporter Ted Eddings in the Elizabeth River at the Inactive Ship Yard.

Scarpetta knew Eddings, who was a favorite with people in her office. She finds the cause of death readily enough. The question is why Eddings was diving in that place at that time.

She has barely started her investigation when another suspicious death is reported. This corpse is Danny Webster, found shot to death in a wooded area of Richmond. Danny worked for Scarpetta and was using her car that evening.

Cornwell crafts a tense, complex mystery around very believable, human characters. Readers may not find the answers to life’s perplexing questions in a Cornwell novel, but they’ll certainly get a better understanding of the questions and why they matter.

Cause of Death by Patricia Cornwell
G. P. Putnam. ©1996. 348 p.
1996 bestseller #9; my grade: B+

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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