Patricia Cornwell is the author of 26 Kay Scarpetta mysteries as well as 12 other works of fiction and non-fiction. This said, I would not use Unnatural Death to introduce a new reader to this character or author. Unnatural Death is flawed and most certainly requires great familiarity with who`s who and the medical examiner`s previous history and adventures.

Unnatural Death by Patricia Cornwell opens with the murder of 2 campers in a remote part of Virginia. Cornwell insists very heavily on the fact the site where the murders took place is very isolated and “not to mention whatever might be living in forestland that’s been mostly undisturbed for the past two centuries”. She also has Scarpetta hear lots of strange and inexplicable noises while she is on site. There is even the footprint of a Sasquatch. At the same time, the nearby town near where the victims were living has a Dollar General so how isolated can this crime site be?

Cornwell spends a third of Unnatural Death getting the bodies out of the forest and that certainly tested this reader’s patience. The reader then (finally) learns the victims were being watched by the Secret Service, that they may have had ties to a domestic terrorist group which has ties to Russia and consequently a plot twist whose revelation would be a spoiler.

I really got the feeling Patricia Cornwell was milking situations as if she had a page count to respect. This would explain the lengthy and not particularly useful dialogues once Scarpetta finally gets to her lab and a few other things.

The finale is the shortest section of this mystery novel and pretty much a letdown. The showdown between the baddie and Scarpetta is taken care of in three paragraphs and a baseball bat before Patricia Cornwell cuts to eight days later and a small family gathering.

Unnatural Deaths
Patricia Cornwell
A Kay Scarpetta mystery
Grand Central Publishing 2023
418 pages

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