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You don’t need to be a cop to fight crime, ask Kay Scarpetta!
What is the Kay Scarpetta series about?
Kay Scarpetta is the protagonist in a series of crime novels written by Patricia Cornwell.
At the beginning, Scarpetta was the Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia and works in Richmond. She eventually resigned before relocating to Florida … before another career change.
The important thing is that she works at stopping killers since the ’90s now. Yes, she was into forensic science before CSI.
How to read the Kay Scarpetta Books in Order?
Every book in the Kay Scarpetta series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- Postmortem – Under cover of night in Richmond, Virginia, a monster strikes, leaving a gruesome trail of stranglings that has paralyzed the city. Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta suspects the worst: a deliberate campaign by a brilliant serial killer whose signature offers precious few clues.
- Body of Evidence – A reclusive author, Beryl Madison finds no safe haven from months of menacing phone calls—or the tormented feeling that her every move is being watched. When the writer is found slain in her own home, Kay Scarpetta pieces together the intricate forensic evidence.
- All That Remains – In Richmond, Virginia, young lovers are dying. So far, four couples in the area have disappeared, only to be found months later as mutilated corpses. When the daughter of the president’s newest drug czar vanishes along with her boyfriend, Dr. Kay Scarpetta knows time is short.
- Cruel and Unusual – “Killing me won’t kill the beast” are the last words of rapist-murderer Ronnie Joe Waddell, written four days before his execution. But they can’t explain how medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta finds Waddell’s fingerprints on another crime scene—after she’d performed his autopsy…
- The Body Farm – When an eleven-year-old girl is found murdered, Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, gets another chance at stopping one of the most heartless and horrifying serial killers of her career: the demented Temple Gault.
- From Potter’s Field – Upon examining a dead woman found in snowbound Central Park, Scarpetta immediately recognizes the grisly work of Temple Brooks Gault. She soon realizes that Gault’s murders are but a violent chain leading up to one ultimate kill—Scarpetta herself.
- Cause of Death – Dr. Kay Scarpetta plunges into the murky depths of a ship graveyard to recover the very human remains of Ted Eddings, an investigative reporter. Together with her niece Lucy and police captain Pete Marino, Scarpetta will follow the scents of death and violence to the heart of sinister darkness.
- Unnatural Exposure – A psychopath with an intimate knowledge of death has an even more intimate knowledge of Kay Scarpetta-and many different plans to kill her.
- Point of Origin – The devastating fire tore through the horse farm, destroying everything it touched. Picking through the wreckage, Dr. Kay Scarpetta uncovers human remains—the work of an audacious and wily killer who uses fire to mask his brutal murders. And when Scarpetta learns that her old nemesis, Carrie Grethen, has escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is somehow involved, the investigation becomes personal.
- Scarpetta’s Winter Table – Dr. Kay Scarpetta and her friends and family come together for the holidays to cook and celebrate in a special novella for the author’s many fans that includes Christmas recipes and photographs.
- Black Notice – The decomposed remains of a stowaway lead Dr. Kay Scarpetta on an international search to Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon, France—and on a mission that will pull her in two opposite directions: toward protecting her career or toward the truth.
- The Last Precinct – Thwarting an attack by a suspected serial killer puts Kay Scarpetta in the harsh glare of the spotlight. As her personal and professional lives come under suspicion, she discovers that the so-called Werewolf murders may have extended to New York City and into the darkest corners of her past.
- Blow Fly – Settling into her new life as a private forensic consultant, Kay Scarpetta agrees to investigate a cold case in Louisiana—the baffling eight-year-old murder of a woman with a history of blackouts and violent outbursts. Then she receives news that chills her to the core: Jean-Baptiste Chandonne—the vicious and unrepentant Wolfman who pursued her to her very doorstep—has asked to see her.
- Trace – Dr. Kay Scarpetta returns to the city that turned its back on her five years ago. Richmond, Virginia’s recently appointed chief medical examiner claims that he needs Scarpetta’s help to solve a perplexing crime.
- Predator – Investigating the disappearance of two sisters in Florida, Dr. Kay Scarpetta follows clues that twist and turn, leading her into the psychopathic depths of a jailed serial killer’s mind.
- Book of the Dead – Scarpetta has dealt with many brutal and unusual crimes before, but never has she seen a string of death like what she’s facing now. Before she is through, that book of the dead will contain many names—and the pen may be poised to write her own…
- Scarpetta – Kay Scarpetta accepts an assignment in New York City, where the NYPD has asked her to examine an injured man on Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric prison ward. The handcuffed and chained patient, Oscar Bane, has specifically asked for her, and when she literally has her gloved hands on him, he begins to talk—and the story he has to tell turns out to be one of the most bizarre she has ever heard.
- The Scarpetta Factor – Kay Scarpetta is surrounded by familiar faces, yet traveling down the unfamiliar road of fame. A CNN producer wants her to launch a TV show called The Scarpetta Factor. But the glare of the spotlight could make Kay a target for the very killers she would put behind bars…
- Port Mortuary – Kay Scarpetta’s secret military ties have drawn her to Dover Air Force Base, where she has been immersed in a training fellowship to master the art of CT-assisted virtual autopsy–a procedure the White House has mandated that she introduced in the private sector.
- Red Mist – On her quest to find out exactly what happened to her former deputy chief, Jack Fielding, murdered six months before, Scarpetta drives to the Georgia Prison for Women to meet a convicted sex offender and the mother of a vicious and diabolically brilliant killer. Against the advice of her FBI criminal intelligence agent husband, Scarpetta is determined to hear this woman out.
- The Bone Bed – A woman has vanished while digging a dinosaur bone bed in the remote wilderness of Canada. Somehow, the only evidence has made its way to the inbox of Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta, over two thousand miles away in Boston. She has no idea why.
- Dust – A body has just been discovered inside the sheltered gates of MIT, and it’s suspected the identity is that of computer engineering grad student, last seen the night before at a trendy Cambridge bar. It appears she’s been murdered, mere weeks before the trial in her $100 million lawsuit against her former financial manager, and Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta doubts it’s a coincidence.
- Flesh and Blood – It’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s birthday, and she’s about to head to Miami for a vacation with her husband, when she notices seven pennies on a wall behind their house. Is this a kids’ game? If so, why are all of the coins dated 1981 and so shiny they could be newly minted? Her cellphone rings, and Detective Pete Marino tells her there’s been a homicide five minutes away.
- Depraved Heart – Dr. Kay Scarpetta is working a suspicious death scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts when an emergency alert sounds on her phone. A video link lands in her text messages and seems to be from her computer genius niece Lucy. But how can it be? It’s clearly a surveillance film of Lucy taken almost twenty years ago.
- Chaos – In the quiet of twilight, on an early autumn day, twenty-six-year-old Elisa Vandersteel is killed while riding her bicycle along the Charles River. It appears she was struck by lightning—except the weather is perfectly clear with not a cloud in sight. Dr. Kay Scarpetta decides at the scene that this is no accidental Act of God.
- Autopsy – Forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta and her husband Benton Wesley, now a forensic psychologist with the U.S. Secret Service, have relocated to Old Town Alexandria where she’s headquartered five miles from the Pentagon in a post-pandemic world that’s been torn by civil and political unrest. Just weeks on the job, she’s called to a scene by railroad tracks where a woman’s body has been shockingly displayed, her throat cut down to the spine, and as Scarpetta begins to follow the trail, it leads unnervingly close to her own historic neighborhood.
- Livid – Kay Scarpetta is the reluctant star witness in a sensational murder trial when she receives shocking news. The judge’s sister has been found dead. At first glance, it appears to be a home invasion, but then why was nothing stolen, and why is the garden strewn with dead plants and insects?
- Unnatural Death – Chief medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta finds herself in a Northern Virginia wilderness examining the remains of two campers wanted by federal law enforcement. The victims have been savaged beyond recognition, and other evidence is terrifying and baffling, including a larger-than-life footprint. After one of the most frightening body retrievals of her career, Scarpetta must discover who would commit murders this savage, and why.
If you like our article about reading the Kay Scarpetta books in order, don’t forget to bookmark it! You may also be interested in Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, Mo Hayder, Ruth Ware…This article was last updated on June 2, 2023.