With much critical acclaim, Cornwell introduced her series protagonist Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the chief medical examiner for Virginia, in the multiple award-winning Postmortem. Cornwell was one of the first to highlight the role forensic scientific investigation plays in murder cases. By letting Dr. Scarpetta encounter the worst life has to offer, the author gives the victims a voice.
The earlier novels focused on individual cases before a serial killer took a dominant role. In recent titles, elements of international thrillers detracted from character development, but with Unnatural Exposure she is returning to form. Recurring characters in the Scarpetta series include an irascible policeman and Kay's niece, an FBI agent. Other titles include Point of Origin and Hornet's Nest.
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