“It was raining in Richmond on Friday, June 6.” (p. 5)
These words begin Patricia Cornwell’s long-running and award-winning series about Kay Scarpetta, chief medical examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In The Scarpetta Collection Volume I: Postmortem and Body of Evidence (Kay Scarpetta), Cornwell introduces readers to the first two books in the series, Postmortem and Body of Evidence. We meet Kay and her friends and family, but more importantly, we experience a rollercoaster ride through a world of mystery, murder and the madness of serial killers.
In Postmortem, Kay arrives at the scene of a gruesome murder with Sergeant Pete Marino just as her ten-year-old niece, Lucy, comes to visit her. This rape and murder is the latest in a two-month long string of brutal attacks on young women living alone, and little trace evidence has been left after the torture of the victims. Scarpetta has to rely on rudimentary blood and fingerprint evidence and her instincts. She enlists the help of Benton Wesley, an FBI profiler of serial killers. When the sister of investigative journalist Abby Turnbull becomes a victim of the serial killer, Kay befriends her in a desperate attempt to solve the crimes. Will this investigation cost Kay her career – and will the killer come after her?
In Body of Evidence, reclusive historical fiction author Beryl Madison is brutally murdered. For months prior, she had reported threatening phone calls to the police. Scarpetta suspects that Beryl’s relationship with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cary Harper had something to do with her death, since Beryl was reportedly writing an exposé of her life with Harper and his sister. When Harper himself turns up brutally murdered, Kay becomes the focus of an investigation into the mysterious disappearance of Beryl’s manuscript. Suddenly, Mark James, her former lover, reappears in her life. Why is he back in her life? Is Scarpetta in moral danger again?
These first two Scarpetta novels provide readers with the basis for the eighteen novels in the series to date. In Postmortem, Kay tells readers, “The dead have never bothered me. It is the living I fear.”(p. 29) The complicated relationships in Scarpetta’s life are introduced: her niece Lucy is a confused but brilliant ten-year old who loves to dabble in technology. Kay works with Pete Marino, who appears to hate women but grows to admire and respect her as they work closely together to solve incredibly complex cases. Benton Wesley, the patrician FBI profiler, starts to become a factor in her professional life. Dedicated fans who enjoy Cornwell’s amazing prose will read this volume and remember why they fell in love with the Kay Scarpetta series. New readers will be fascinated and ask themselves how they could have missed reading Patricia Cornwell’s fascinating novels until now.