Patricia Cornwell discusses Unnatural Death

Article | Issue: Nov 2023

A new novel in the Kay Scarpetta series is hitting the shelves. Good Reading caught up with Patricia Cornwell to find out what inspired Unnatural Death and how she stays up to date with the latest advancements in the field of forensic science.



Unnatural Death by Patricia CornwellTwo mauled bodies in the woods. Top-secret autopsies. The most chilling case of Scarpetta’s career . . .

In this thrilling new instalment of the #1 bestselling series, chief medical examiner Dr Kay Scarpetta finds herself in a Northern Virginia wilderness. She must examine 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 the most frightening body retrievals of her career, Scarpetta must discover who would commit murders this savage, and why.




Unnatural Death is the 27th novel in your Kay Scarpetta series. What inspired you to continue Scarpetta’s story in this latest instalment?

I always stay with something I wonder about. In this case, what if a huge footprint was found near a violent death scene inside an uninhabited forest? What would Scarpetta do?


Your novels look at the forensic science behind criminal cases – how do you stay up to date with the latest advancements in this field?

Research. In a nutshell, I’ve always lived in the world I write about to an extent. I go to locations whether it’s a spaceport or a creepy cavern. I spend time with the people who do the work such as Secret Service agents, scientists and others who are experts in unusual fields.

And I learn what I can whether it’s flying a helicopter, scuba diving, riding a motorcycle … whatever it might be and no matter how scary (within reason), I try to learn.


How does Scarpetta evolve in your latest novel and what challenges will she face?

She has to come up with a different way of handling the cases because she can’t be sure what she’s dealing with. Most of all, she must stay open-minded, listening to what people tell her instead of deciding what she thinks the answer should be.  A very big challenge will be when she realizes an old enemy has resurfaced – perhaps the worst one of all.


In what ways have your personal experiences shaped the forensic elements in your novels?

Every aspect of my writing is filtered through what I’ve learned and am constantly learning. The novels of today include technologies that Scarpetta couldn’t have dreamed of when I was first getting started. If I don’t keep up with what is actually going on outside my door, I would run out of stories. So, I’m constantly learning.


Can you share any of your writing habits or routines that help with your creative process?

Follow your curiosity. Go out and look for a story until it finds you. And work hard, always trying to be better. I’m at my desk virtually every day of the year. I start early and finish around dinner time, breaking up the day to exercise and do other things to recharge my battery.


Can you share any insights into what might be next for Kay Scarpetta and if there’s another novel in the works?

I’m currently looking into UAPs (UFOs) …




Patricia Cornwell authorPatricia Cornwell has sold over 100 million books. She sold her first novel, Postmortem, 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.

The transition to literary superstar was not easy. At her first signing, held during a lunch break from the morgue, Patricia sold no copies of Postmortem. She fielded exactly one question – an elderly woman asked her where she could find the cookbooks.

Postmortem would go on to win the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity awards as well as the French Prix du Roman d’Aventure prize. The first book ever to claim all these distinctions in a single year. To date, Cornwell’s books have sold some 100 million copies in thirty-six languages in over 120 countries. She’s authored 29 New York Times bestsellers.

Patricia’s novels center primarily on medical examiner Kay Scarpetta along with her tech-savvy niece Lucy and fellow investigator Pete Marino. Celebrating 25 years, these characters have grown into an international phenomenon. Winning Cornwell the Sherlock Award for best detective created by an American author, the Gold Dagger Award, the RBA Thriller Award, and the Medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters for her contributions to literary and artistic development.

After earning her degree in English from Davidson College in 1979, she began working at the Charlotte Observer. Taking whatever stories came her way and rapidly advancing from listing television programs to covering the police beat. From the Charlotte Observer, Cornwell moved to a job with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia. A post she would later bestow upon the fictional Kay Scarpetta. 

Cornwell now lives in Boston. She was born in Miami and grew up in Montreat, North Carolina. Cornwell received widespread attention and praise for her series of articles on prostitution and crime in downtown Charlotte. It was during these years that Patricia penned Postmortem and began submitting it to major publishing houses in New York, without initial success.

She’s helped fund the ICU at Cornell’s Animal Hospital, the scientific study of a Confederate submarine, the archaeological excavation of Jamestown, and a variety of law enforcement charities. Patricia is also committed to funding scholarships and literacy programs. Her advice to aspiring authors: ‘Start writing. And don’t take no for an answer.’

Visit Patricia Cornwell’s website

Author: Patricia Cornwell

Category: Fiction & related items

Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: Sphere

ISBN: 9781408728666

RRP: $32.99

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