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Cause of Death

(Kay Scarpetta #7)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  42,742 ratings  ·  833 reviews
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 repo ...more
Paperback, 356 pages
Published January 2nd 2007 by Berkley Books (first published August 1st 1996)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  42,742 ratings  ·  833 reviews

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Jan 07, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
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 s
Apr 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 favouri ...more
Dec 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
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 scen ...more
May 21, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
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 ...more
Baz MW
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it
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 Corn
Aug 09, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 (a ...more
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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 remembe
Sherri F.
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 muc
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 w
Jun 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: sullen lesbians
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Dame Edna
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 ...more
Sep 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
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 i ...more
Lisa  Carlson
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fiction readers
Recommended to Lisa by: reading series in order written
Shelves: fiction
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 ...more
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 o
AC Squared Book Blog
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
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, s
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
:' - i
Bookish Enchantment (Katherine Quirke)
I love Kay Scarpetta, so independent and seemingly fearless yet human and intelligent. Not as racy as some of the others in the series I still found the book incredibly enjoyable and fast paced.
Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta novels were something of a guilty pleasure for me during the '90s. Enjoyable and addictive page-turner crime thrillers with a generous helping of pathology and forensic science detail, which appealed to my otherwise dormant inner science geek.

But by this stage in the series - Cause of Death is the 7th Kay Scarpetta novel - Cornwell had well and truly lost the plot, both figuratively and literally.

At her best, Cornwell had always written rather plodding, uninventive
Nov 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
I give up! I picked up about 50 books on a sale a couple of weeks ago and this was the first book I chose to read and it proved to be a bad start. I simply don't care about Kay Scarpetta, her colleagues, the murderers or the victims.

The book is full of technical stuff, sometimes purposely inserted. Does the ordinary public even care about the make of guns or what the occipital bone is or how exactly a naval boat operates? I found myself skipping these parts and soon enough got hopelessly lost b
Susan Robby
Apr 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 pr ...more
Brent Soderstrum
Aug 26, 2017 rated it liked it
This is the 7th book of Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series.

Things and characters don't seem to change from the previous books. Kay is still messing around with a married Wesley. Marino is still very needy and Lucy is a gifted messed up young lady. Oh, and Cornwell doesn't know how to end a story. Once again the story starts out strong and by the end we are left shaking our heads. It goes from a murder of an investigative reporter to hostages being taken at a nuclear facility and Virginia being thr
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
I thought this book started out really well. It got me hooked and reminded me how much I used to love reading this series. And then it just went downhill. For starters, I’m over her niece Lucy and her tortured, genius soul. Maybe if Kay would stop treating her like she’s five years old and trying to control her every move she could put her big girl panties on and get over it.

My other issue is how involved do medical examiners usually get in their cases? She was basically in the Situation Room gi
Feb 22, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
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.
Apr 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
It seems churlish to give this a 2 since it opened so well. The first 80 pages were excellent.


I have read a lot of mysteries with female protagonists. I enjoyed reading about their solo independent professional lives. i started reading these when i was about 10-15 years younger than the characters and now i am 10-15 years older. Luckily I feel like i have accomplished some measure of the same in that time! yikes! this one was different in that it gave or showed very little of that lif
Jul 31, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Here we go again...

I bought the whole series for a cheap deal (although it didn't end there since she writes a Scarpetta book per year!) and I intend to finish the series. I really do and I am not comfortable with my stupid ambition, because this is going nowhere.

The book itself might worth 2-stars, but in the series it was the weakest one so far. I like detective stories even though I'm not an eager follower, and I really like the forensic details in this series. Yet the very perfect Scarpetta
Aug 27, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 05, 2012 rated it liked it
In Cause of Death, Cornwell immediately dives into her heroine's latest case and mystery. And, yes, that is a pun, because the first victim is found submerged in a river, and Kay joins the diving team in recovering the body. While everyone wants to rule the death a drowning, the tell-tale scent of arsenic informs Kay that the case is anything but an accident; rather, it's a murder. And that's just the start of a mystery which ends up touching close to home for Virginia's Chief Medical Examiner a ...more
Cornwell, Patricia

An investigative reporter is found dead in Virginia's icy waters ... New Year's Eve and the final murder scene of Virginia's bloodiest year takes Scarpetta thirty feet below the Elizabeth River's icy surface. A diver, Ted Eddings, is dead, an investigative reporter who was a favourite at the Medical Examiner's office. Was Eddings probing the frigid depths of the Inactive Shipyard for a story, or simply diving for sunken trinkets? And why did Scarpetta recei
aPriL does feral sometimes
I have never imagined a Medical Examiner as a heroic partner with James Bond! So, Patricia Cornwell has filled in this startling gap of literary imagination by writing 'Cause of Death!', using her most famous and beloved female character as a mentor to us fans!

'Cause of Death' is a well-written spy mystery (what a shock!) and I thought it a little strange for Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Virginia ME, normally a superb murder-mystery maven, to be involved in a possible international case of terrorism. She
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
It was an ok afternoon read, but lacked cohesive style. Her intro discusses her fear of scuba diving, but the one scene in the book about scuba diving was bland and unimpressive. She goes a little overboard with the descriptions of food and cooking in the first couple of chapters and then abandons the topic. I don’t know how much of the relationship stuff is part of the series so that part may have been fine, but I felt just a touch lost – especially some of the stuff with her niece. I felt the ...more
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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,

Other books in the series

Kay Scarpetta (1 - 10 of 25 books)
  • Postmortem (Kay Scarpetta, #1)
  • Body of Evidence (Kay Scarpetta, #2)
  • All That Remains (Kay Scarpetta, #3)
  • Cruel & Unusual (Kay Scarpetta, #4)
  • The Body Farm (Kay Scarpetta, #5)
  • From Potter's Field (Kay Scarpetta, #6)
  • Unnatural Exposure (Kay Scarpetta, #8)
  • Point of Origin (Kay Scarpetta, #9)
  • Black Notice (Kay Scarpetta, #10)
  • The Last Precinct (Kay Scarpetta, #11)

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