Cover Image: Autopsy


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I was disappointed in this book, I have enjoyed all the previous books but this one seemed so far fetched and unrealistic that I just couldn’t get into it
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Kay Scarpetta has come back to her old job.  She doesn't know most of the employees and she's not fond of the new secretary or her boss.
William Morrow and Net Galley let me read this book for review (thank you).  It has been published and you can get a copy now.

Her first call out is to the railroad where a nude woman with no hands has been killed.  Then she finds out there was another death not far away.  That one was judged as an accident but Scarpetta doesn't think so.

Besides that, there is a space ship that has two dead on it.  The Russian made it home OK, but they have proof he murdered the other two.

As Kay and her husband, Benton, try to solve the railroad deaths, it gets to be very tough to find the killer.

Kay, herself almost died from a glass of wine she started to drink.  Who set her up?

There is plenty going on and Kay is in the middle of it.

She even gets fired...
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ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 
I thought Autopsy was just okay. I have enjoyed some of the other books in this series which I thought were better. Patricia Cornwell is a fantastic storyteller.
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Thank you NetGalley for the advance copy of this book. I have read all the Scarpetta series, and as a fan of these books, I had to read this one! However, I felt this one didn’t live up to the other books. To me, there were so many disjointed chapters that didn’t quite hang together. First of all, the book abruptly informs the readers that Kay and her family have all moved back to Virginia. When they left Kay did not want to ever return, and it wasn’t clear at all why she did. There were several interesting storylines, such as the murders of two different young women, the first murders in space, and Lucy’s life events (no spoilers). Yet none of the plot lines felt fully developed, they were introduced, but not really developed. The ending seemed too abrupt and unsatisfying. Even so, I will continue reading the series and hope the next book is less inchoate.
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Patricia Cornwell’s Kate Scarpetta novels are being relaunched. It’s been five years since Chaos (#24) was published November 2016. Forensic pathologist Kate Scarpetta has a new job, a new neighborhood, and a new murder to investigate. Perhaps not an entirely new job since she held it years earlier. Her husband Benton Wesley has a new job too, as a forensic psychologist with the Secret Service. Kate reflects on her challenging first month one rainy Monday evening, just after Thanksgiving.

I don’t know most people yet, and just as many don’t remember me from what seems another life ago. Millennials in particular weren’t around when I was the first woman chief medical examiner of Virginia. I ran the statewide system more than a decade before moving on. I assumed I’d left for good, never imagining I’d be back, and I hope I haven’t made the biggest mistake of my life.

Kate’s British secretary is no prize, acting as if Kate reports to her rather than the opposite. Maggie Cutbush is opinionated and pushy, like when she informs Kate that August Ryan, the U.S. Park Police investigator, needs to meet with her. That’s not how Kate operates. Why doesn’t August pick up the phone since she gave him her cell number when they were together at a murder scene Friday evening? Maggie sets her boss straight.

“August and I have worked together for years. He was polite enough to check with me first, and will call you when he’s in his car,” she says in her lovely London accent, having zero respect for a woman in charge.

Certainly not a second-generation Italian who grew up poor in Miami.

Then Maggie brings up Kate’s nemesis Elvin Reddy, saying that Doctor Reddy knew how to delegate and was never “at the beck and call of the police.” Hearing Elvin Reddy’s name makes Kate see red. She was told he was leaving government service but “everything changed in the blink of an eye.” Patricia Cornwell keeps it real: Doctor Scarpetta is one of the most gifted forensic pathologists of her generation and yet she must deal with officious secretaries and a skeevy former colleague.

It was too late by the time I discovered that Elvin Reddy wasn’t leaving state government for the private sector as I was promised by him and others high up the chain. Instead, he was appointed the new health commissioner of Virginia, overseeing all departments responsible for the well-being and safety of the public.

That includes the statewide Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). Meaning I answer to him when push comes to shove, a slick political trick if ever I heard one.

No point borrowing trouble because she has a busy night before she can get home to celebrate her niece Lucy’s birthday. A few days earlier, a naked, dismembered woman’s body was discovered by the railroad tracks. Her hands were cut off, presumably to make it more difficult to identify her but the police ascertain she’s Gwen Hainey. Kate visits the body in her cooler lower level before she checks out Gwen’s townhouse.

One doesn’t need to be a forensic pathologist to determine that she died of exsanguination after her carotid arteries were transected by a sharp blade. I don’t know how old she is, possibly in her late twenties or early thirties when someone fractured her skull from behind, cutting her throat down to the spine.

Kate is caught in a nasty rainstorm complete with lightning and strong winds when she leaves. She ducks under police tape to avoid a determined reporter outside Gwen’s townhouse, causing her to be caught on camera looking like a drowned rat. Officer Fruge is assigned to the case and she trails behind as the new medical examiner gives a masterclass in how to methodically work a crime scene. Kate notes suspicious details like unusual paper and ink products “that can be dissolved in water like a magic trick.” Why would Gwen have something so cloak and dagger? Kate and Fruge talk shop for a moment before Kate takes off. Fruge mentions that Doctor Reddy dropped by on Friday night when the body was discovered. That’s so unusual—Kate automatically red flags the info. When Fruge carries Kate’s scene case to the car, she says she’s going to create a scene case for herself because she’s always running out of things, like Purell, Lysol, and Narcan. Narcan is a nasal spray that “reverses the effects of opioids,” and Fruge has had to administer it more than once lately. Kate gives her Narcan supplies to Fruge.

When she gets home, her first instinct is a double Scotch and quick shower but first she drops by Lucy who lives in a small house on Kate’s property. Lucy is still mourning the loss of her partner Janet and adopted son Desi during the pandemic. Janet and Desi were stranded in London when they died. Lucy is uncommonly intelligent: she continues to “communicate” with Janet via a sophisticated artificial intelligence interface. This worries Kate.

Back at her house, wolfing down delicious tidbits from Benton’s cheese tray, Kate decides to up the ante. She will uncork a magical bottle.

I pick out the 1996 premier grand cru Bordeaux I carried home from France last month. The secretary general of Interpol gave it to me, and I have no doubt it will be splendid.

Kate acts as a sommelier, “savoring the full range of the sensuous terroir,” while Lucy and Benton look on, until she sees double. She tells them she feels weird and with a last gasp, says “My scene case…!” Benton saves her but it is a close-run thing. If Kate hadn’t told him when she got home that she had to replenish her scene case, he wouldn’t have immediately grabbed Narcan from their home supply. For whom was the poison intended? Was it Gabriella Honoré, the Interpol secretary general or Kate herself? Kate beats herself up for accepting such a gift because she knows better.

There’s no rest for the weary or the wicked (or the remorseful and recuperating)—Kate and Norton are summoned to the White House. A space catastrophe is unfolding in real time and Kate is asked to perform an autopsy or, at the very least, provide an informed explanation of what might have taken place. It’s almost futuristic: Kate is in the White House, in the presence of POTUS and Madam Vice-President, analyzing a possible murder scene in space.

Autopsy is set in a post-pandemic world. America is roiling under the strain of civil and political discontent and the events of January 6th have not been forgotten. Timeless themes like separation from loved ones, masks, and death, put Patricia Cornwell’s Autopsy on the shelf beside Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, Camus’s The Plague, and Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain and other books written during plague years. Undoubtedly readers will say that Autopsy was worth waiting for!
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Patricia Cornwell is one of my favorite authors. This book didn't disappoint! Kay Scarpetta returns to where it all started as Chief Medical Examiner in Virginia. The book played out like a movie in my head. The setting was current time - pulling in Capitol events from January 6th, living in post-pandemic world. So glad to have the series back after the 5 year hiatus!
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The Kay Scarpetta medical thriller series written by Patricia Cornwell has long been a favorite of mine. I've read all the books in order, and while some weren't fantastic, in general I highly recommend the series. I was slightly disappointed by the last few though so I was nervous to give this a go. 

Scarpetta is back! In this twenty-fifth in the electrifying, landmark #1 bestselling thriller series chief medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta hunts an ingenious killer who has mastered cutting-edge science for the most nefarious ends.

I must admit it was a bit nice to return to the world of Scarpetta because I've known it so long, however the writing still isn't back up to standards remaining from the beginning of the series. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't quite rite and it seemed the ending was rushed.

Overall not a total waste of time if you already know the series and a good time to start at the beginning for those who aren't to experience the best the series has to offer.

Thanks to netgalley for providing an e-copy so I can share my honest opinion
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Kay Scarpetta is back in this, the 25th Scarpetta book. She and the gang are back in Virginia, where she has returned to her roots as the Chief Medical Examiner. Everything is different and everyone has been through so much. When a woman who lives in Marino and Dorothy's neighborhood is found murdered, the whole crew are pulled into the investigation, where they run into dead ends and brick walls at every turn. And what on earth is happening in space?

I read all of the Kay Scarpetta books back in the day and loved them. Then I stopped because I wasn't loving Scarpetta's holier-than-thou and better than everyone else attitude. I received this book from NetGalley and went into it expecting more of the same. But while Kay is still always right and everyone else is still always wrong, I felt like there was less focus on this concept than I remember. I enjoyed this story and was looking forward to seeing how it all tied up. This was better than I'd expected and would continue to read if Scarpetta continues in this track.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This was a suburb return of Kay and the Scarpetta crew. Five stars again!
We all have been anxiously waiting for Kay and their family to return. Patricia has been flexing her writing talents in other directions with her Captain Chase novels, and while they were not her best, they allowed her to regroup and provide us with AUTOPSY
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3.5 Stars

Kay Scarpetta is back in Virginia as Chief Medica Examiner in her old stomping grounds and I like the return to her roots. However, she’s left with a mess of an office with much of the staff still loyal to the previous Chief, Elvin Reddy, a slimy ladder climber, from Kay’s past. The office secretary, Maggie, undermines Kay’s every move, and seems to be plotting against her at every turn. It doesn’t help that Kay re-opens a past case that was categorized as an accidental death when details point to it being connected with a new murder. Adding to an already busy caseload is an investigation into the deaths of two astronauts in an outer space lab.  A lot going on here.

It’s been years since I picked up a Kay Scarpetta novel, but the series was a favorite long before Goodreads, so I was excited to hear there’d be a new Scarpetta novel. I really enjoyed catching up with an old favorite character, seeing her happy with Benton and all the gang back together again. Didn’t know that Marino married Kay’s sister. Not sure if that happened in one of the books I missed, but I was a bit surprised. I foresee a bumpy road there. Lucy’s had some sad blows personally, but professionally she’s doing well. Covid is part of the story as well, not that it’s a central focus, just that the characters are dealing with the pandemic like we all are in real life. 

Got to the end and I thought maybe the story would be continued in another book because so many things were still up in the air. The overall plot threads were wrapped up (mostly) in the epilogue and it felt abrupt. The solution came out of nowhere with no breadcrumbs or foundation, IMO, and I think that’s the part that was most disappointing. I didn’t feel part of the process. Up until then, Autopsy was a solid 4 stars for me. I did feel like it set up for future books and I’m looking forward to Kay bringing the Medical Examiner’s office back into shape, helping bring criminals to justice.
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Wow, I didn't realize how much I missed Kay Scarpetta and company until I began reading Patricia Cornwell's Autopsy. 
   It's just like starting over with Kay in a new job with a new murder. But the old gang is still in for the hunt, along with new characters with ties to the past. 
   Something very strange is going on in outer space. Kay, husband Benton and every important government asset is on high alert at the White House to assess the damage before doom may visit the earth.
   Get set for a wonderful homecoming from Patricia Cornwell. Autopsy brings the mystery and tension her Scarpetta novels are famous for. Another fine addition to the series.
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I picked up Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell due to its intriguing summary.  I had no idea it was the 25th book in a series until after I had already started the novel.  Autopsy stands well on its own, though, and readers have no need to go back to the other 24 books.  That being said, however, I can’t say I enjoyed this one as much as other mysteries I have read.  It is an easy and fast read; I almost started and finished it on a three-hour flight. But this book just had problems which I could not overlook. The characters did not draw me in, and I could not relate to them. I could not have cared less what happened to any of them, though maybe that’s because I stepped into the series with book 25.

Don’t get me wrong; Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell kept me entertained from the first page till the last. But some of the things in the book just seemed forced—additional plot details that the book did not need.  Without going into too many details, a certain character is exposed to a deadly chemical and almost dies. But in the long run, this had nothing to do with the book’s crime.  It is just an opportunity for drama and added nothing to the plot besides “Oh, this character could’ve been killed!”

I also did not like the “two scientists are dead on a top secret outer space laboratory” part of the plot.  That just ended up being really weird for me, and I did not like how any of it was portrayed.  In general, the parallel plotlines that did not coalesce seemed disjointed. Also, some characters were never given names.  In a Doomsday Commission meeting, the decision-makers were “the president,” “NASA,” and “the vice president.”  No names.  This bothered me immensely.  I cannot be sure if this is because I read an ARC and Cornwell planned to add the names later or what, but…ugh, give me names!  And please, I know the pandemic is something real, but I don’t want to read about it.  I read to escape reality, not to hear more about it.

If I am remembering correctly (I’ve read two books since finishing Autopsy, so things are a little blurry), most everything in the novel occurs via dialogue.  Limited descriptions.  Next to know internal thoughts, despite the fact that Autopsy is written in a first-person POV.  While dialogue is important, you cannot base an entire story off it.  I want to visualize things, and you don’t provide descriptions, it all just seems like a bad movie to my imagination.

What bothered me most, though, about Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell: She doesn’t reveal anything about the “bad guy” until the epilogue.  There’s maybe only one brief mention of this individual in the rest of the novel, if that.  The epilogue goes into how the “bad guy” is connected, what the motives are, when they did things and how.  This irked me to no end.  Speaking of the end, the last few chapters of Autopsy seemed rushed—like Cornwell grew tired of writing and just forced everything together so she could be done with the story. 

Overall, there’s nothing about Autopsy that would lead me to read more of Cornwell’s books…especially not 24 others that happened before this one.
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*Thank you to NetGalley, Patricia Cornwell, and William Morrow and Custom House for an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

Previously published at

Sometimes it is difficult coming into a series, especially at book 25. Despite not knowing any information about Kay Scarpetta, I could dive right into this novel.

Kay Scarpetta is a world-renowned forensic pathologist. She and her husband Benton, a psychologist with the US Secret Service, have returned to Virginia. They are based close to the Pentagon in a post-covid divided world. As Kay is wrapping up a long day in the office with plans to head home to Niece’s birthday party, her secretary stops her and tells her she needs to meet with a local investigator. They call Kay to the scene of a dead body that is laying across the railway tracks, with her throat cut to her spine and her hands removed. The dead woman turns out to be a neighbor of her sister and the identity is quickly resolved, but the actual murder is not. 

With Kay’s new position still fragile, Marino, Dorothy’s husband and Kay’s brother-in-law, offers her support, and Kay dubs him her Forensic Operations Specialist, giving him access to case information and the opportunity to investigate once more. It turns out this is not the first murder of its kind, with the first occurring close to Kay Scarpetta’s new home. But she finds out that the original Medical Examiner, whose duties she has taken over, has covered it up. Saddled with his former assistant, Maggie, who is still devoted to him, Kay Scarpetta will find many obstacles to the actual truth.

Almost simultaneously, there are two murders that occur in a top-secret lab in outer space and Kay is called to the White House to help Biden and Harris find out what happened. As she starts the new investigation, an apparent serial killer strikes again, this time dangerously close to home. 

With it being my first book in the series, it hooked me from the first chapter. The author pulls you into her descriptions of a divided America, which feels timely but familiar. All the characters Cornwell has created all have unique personalities. Lucy, Kay’s niece, has lost her partner and adopted daughter to Covid and now talks to her AI sim over the computer. Something that I never knew existed. We also learn what happens when a murder occurs in space with no gravity. The scene is graphic but fascinating. This is a well written read with wonderful characters, and filled with information and facts that are engrossing. The ending may feel abrupt but is also gratifying. This reader can’t wait to go back and read the first 24.
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This thriller reminds me of the Kay Scarpetta I "met" back in 1990 when I was introduced to this character in "Postmortem." After reading that, I fell in love with this genre and continue with my love affair to this day.

It's difficult to review, with any fresh insights, the 25th book in a series. I've read most of them but fell out of love when the whole concept seemed to veer off the rails. There are characters that I like and others I am just done hearing about (*Lucy), so it was quite nice to see everyone behaving quite normally for a change. I enjoyed the fact that the author includes Covid pandemic references as well as the political and social unrest in the narrative.

Of course there's a murder. A woman has been killed and posed at the side of railroad tracks. It seems she has some connection to a top secret space experiment and Kay is brought into the loop as part of her appointment to the classified Doomsday Commission.

As per the typical crime thriller, the author includes the forensic details that I love as well as a mystery to solve. The only strange part about this book, however, was that it comes to a rather abrupt ending with all the big reveals coming in a short epilogue.

Regardless, though I like Kay and have mostly enjoyed this series, I am wondering if perhaps after all this time if she might be ready to retire. I enjoy the author's writing style and would love to read a new series with a fresh cast taking over Scarpetta's rein.

Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow for this e-book ARC to read, review, and recommend.
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I have read this series from the beginning and the last few books have just been ok. Cornwell is back to her old self in this new novel
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Autopsy is number 25 in the Kay Scarpetta series, the first forensic thrillers ever to see print. This series began in 1990, and I have read every single one, but this is the first time I’ve scored a review copy. My thanks go to William Morrow and Net Galley.

When the series began, Scarpetta was the chief medical examiner in Virginia. When last we saw her, she was working in Massachusetts, but now she’s come full circle, brought back to her old position in order to root out corruption and restore the office to the integrity it held when last Scarpetta was in charge. She didn’t expect it to be easy, and it surely isn’t. 

There are long running characters that have been so well developed over the years that I almost feel as if I would know them on the street. Her husband, Benton Wesley, holds a sensitive position within the FBI, and the necessary secrecy and sudden need to pack a bag and go somewhere has led to marital tension over the course of the series, but not so much this time. Kay’s niece, Lucy, is more like a daughter; she has been estranged from her mother at times, a high-strung, self-absorbed woman that looks out for number one every minute of every day. The mother—Dorothy—is now married to Pete Marino, with whom Scarpetta has worked closely for the length of the series, and they live nearby. 

At this juncture, new or inconstant readers may wonder if there’s any point to jumping into a book this far into the series. I read it with that question in mind, and whereas you won’t have the background and depth of context that faithful fans possess, you can understand everything that happens here; Cornwell doesn’t burden the reader with assumed knowledge.  And if you are a new reader, likely as not, you’ll find yourself headed to the library or bookstore to pick up others from this series. It’s that addictive. 

The only background information that might make a difference is that from the outset, Kay’s whole family (except Dorothy, of course) fears for her well-being. A murder occurs in the area, and the victim is a neighbor of Pete and Dorothy’s. Immediately, there’s this sense of urgency, and it’s more than one would ordinarily expect. A neighbor has been killed; the circumstances are weird, and we don’t know whodunit; everyone is edgy about personal security, and again—especially regarding Kay’s safety. So let me help you out, if you’re new: over several of the most recent episodes, someone has attempted to kill Kay, nearly succeeding more than once, and though the occasional thug has been caught, the schemer behind the attempts is still out there somewhere. The narrative makes no specific references to any of this, which I appreciate. It’s obnoxious when a book costs as much as new books do these days, for the author to insert what amount to advertisements to buy her other books. But for those not in the know: If the beginning seems a little overwrought, that’s why. 

Add to this that the old guard is still entrenched in Kay’s workplace, with people whispering behind her back, and her secretary clearly plotting against her. She’s just arrived, but she is on the back foot, trying to find out what’s going on and who can be trusted, and trying to establish her own authority without making enemies unnecessarily. As I read, I find myself urging her to assert herself. Because to me, Scarpetta isn’t a fictional character at all. I believe in this character, and I believe in Benton, Lucy, and Marino, too. I’ve known them longer than a lot of people I see in real life, after all. 

Those of us that read a lot of mysteries, thrillers, and so forth become accustomed to timeworn plot devices. I have a little list of things I hate to find in books of this genre, and Cornwell avoids them all. There is no alcoholic protagonist that just wants a drink, a drink, a drink. There’s no kidnapping of the protagonist and stuffing her in the trunk (or backseat, or whatever,) nor does this happen to any of her loved ones. Scarpetta is not being framed for a murder she didn’t commit, nor is anyone she loves. 

Instead, we get an autopsy in outer space, supervised remotely by Scarpetta. How cool is that? 

One other aspect of this book, and this series, that I love, is that there is just enough interesting information included about forensic investigation without the story turning into some tedious science lecture, as I have found in books scribed by Cornwall’s imitators. 

The pacing is swift, the dialogue crackles, and a new character, Officer Fruge, is introduced. Hers is the last word in the book, and for some reason, it made me laugh out loud, a first for this series. 

Welcome home, Scarpetta.
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I am so glad that Patricia Cornwell has decided to revisit Kay Scarpetta and company.  Autopsy is the 25th novel in the series, I have read all of them, and have to say that the author does her research.  I have missed this character.

Kay is back on familiar territory in this installment, Virginia, as Chief Medical Examiner.  Benton Wesley, her husband, is working for the Secret Service as a forensic psychologist.  Not everyone is happy to have Dr. Scarpetta back, some do not know her and some just don't like her, for example, her secretary.  The author brings COVID-19 into the story with regard to Lucy, Kay's tech genius niece.  Kay's Investigator, Marino is on hand and he is married now to Dorothy, Kay's sister, Lucy's mother.

Her first case is that of a woman's body on the train tracks.  This is the jumping point and we move on to a secret White House meeting regarding a death in space.  It all connects and that is all I will say.

I loved working the cases with Kay and company.  Cornwell is a master at describing the forensics, I especially enjoyed the autopsy that was performed remotely.   I highly recommend this book, you will not want to put it down.  I hope that Autopsy is a new beginning for this series.

I want to thank the publisher, William Morrow, and NetGalley for an ARC of this novel.  The review is my own.
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“Autopsy,” by Patricia Cornwell, WIlliam Morrow, 416 pages, Nov. 30, 2021.

Forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta returns to Virginia as the chief medical examiner, the state where she launched her career. She has been away for years. 

Her new secretary, Maggie Cutbush, is hostile because she is friends with the former chief medical examiner. Scarpetta’s predecessor left her a legacy of neglect and potential corruption. She hopes she hasn’t made a mistake by returning.

Scarpetta and her husband Benton Wesley, now a forensic psychologist with the U.S. Secret Service, have relocated to Old Town Alexandria. Her headquarters are five miles from the Pentagon.

Only weeks on the job, she’s called to a scene by railroad tracks where a woman’s body has been found. Her throat was cut down and her hands were removed.

August Ryan, a U.S. Park Police investigator, says a missing woman may be the murder victim. She lived in Scarpetta’s neighborhood near investigator Pete Marino, who is married to Scarpetta’s sister, Dorothy.

Scarpetta is also a member of the National Emergency Contingency Coalition, a classified group known as the Doomsday Commission. Then Scarpetta and Wesley are called to the White House. A catastrophe occurred in a top-secret laboratory in outer space, endangering three scientists aboard. Scarpetta is tasked with finding out exactly what happened. But even as she remotely works the first potential crime scene in space, an apparent serial killer strikes again close to home. 

“Autopsy” is very fast-moving and compelling. The characters are believable, witty and intelligent. Patricia Cornwell has a keen ear for dialogue and her knowledge of science is impressive. The plots are complex. The only negative thing about  “Autopsy”  is that the killer seemed to come out of nowhere and the case was solved in a few pages.

This is the 25th in the series. You don’t have to read the others to enjoy this one.

In accordance with FTC guidelines, the advance reader's edition of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review.
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Autopsy by Patricia Cornwall 
A special thanks to William Marrow and NetGalley for the ARC of this book. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 
This is the 25th book in the Scarpetta series. Kay is a forensic pathologist who has retuned to her beginning as the chief medical examiner in Virginia. She got a lot of work to do to get her office back up to par. Her predecessor did a fabulous job of running it into the ground.
Kay and her husband Benton Weasley (who works for the secret service) are settling back in to life in Virginia. 
Lucy, Kay’s niece is living in the guest house. Lucy is a tech genius. 
Kay’s  sister Dorothy and her husband Pete are living right near them too. Pete has been a long time friend and work partner are back together. But after A month on the job she feels unwelcome by her secretary who is loyal to her predecessor. 
The first major case is a young woman who is missing both of her hands who turns out to have been involved in some kind of espionage. But while investigating this case she finds another death in a near by area that was marked as an accident by her predecessor and she believes it’s wrong. 
We are led into a world of corruption, big Pharma, the White House and even outer space. 

I really enjoyed this one! I felt like  Cornwell was getting back to her roots from early books in the series. I’m looking forward to more.
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Dr. Kay Scarpetta returns as the Chief Medical Officer in Virginia.  She has returned to an office that lacked supervision and a secretary with an attitude whose loyalty belongs to her former boss.  Before she even settles in a body is discovered by the railroad tracks with no ID.  A tech company reports a missing employee who fits the description of the Jane Doe.  Gwen Haines lived in a gated community just a few doors down from Kay’s sister.  Gwen was new to the area, but a search of her house provides more questions than answers.  Marino, her sister’s husband, was a police detective who worked with Kay in the past.  He is someone she can trust and she needs him on her team once again.

Kay is also a member of the Doomsday Commission that reviews security threats.  She is called to the White House when communication is lost with a secret lab that is orbiting Earth.  Astronauts arrive from the ISS and discover the bodies of two scientists.  The third scientist had reported damage and departed in an evacuation vehicle that has landed in Russian territory.  Kay remotely performs an autopsy to discover the cause of death, talking the astronauts through the procedure.  A review of communications also reveals a link between the escaped scientist and Gwen, leading to the possibility of industrial espionage.  Kay discovers a previous death that had been labeled accidental, but there were a number of similarities to Gwen’s death.  With staff problems and a reporter who is spreading panic through claiming a serial killer, Kay is under pressure to find answers before she is forced to resign.

This is a welcome return for Patricia Cornwell’s character and she is accompanied by a number of familiar faces.  Beside Marino, she also receives support from her husband Benton and her niece Lucy, who is mourning the loss of her partner and their daughter to COVID.  While the pandemic is acknowledged through the additional precautions taken, it is Lucy’s loss that reminds us of those who have fallen to the disease.  Familiar faces and an excellent mystery make this a must read.  I would like to thank NetGalley and William Morrow/Custom House Publishing for providing this book for my review.
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