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Postmortem is the first installment in best-selling author Patricia Daniels Cornwell’s Scarpetta crime series. Dr. Kay Scarpetta, the series’ bold heroine, is the chief medical examiner in Richmond, Va. She is awakened in the dead of night to the news that a fourth woman has been strangled in the city, most likely by a serial killer. Desperate to prevent further killings, Kay seeks to uncover forensic evidence to help the police catch the perpetrator. So far, they know that the killer sexually assaults women who live alone before murdering them. Kay also knows that the killer always strikes in the early hours of Saturday mornings. She uses these details—and others that only she has the tools to glean through her forensic observations—to solve the case in a thrilling, twist-filled narrative. The quintessential mystery novel, published in 1990, was the first book to secure the Edgar, Creasey, Anthony, and Macavity Awards, in addition to the French Prix du Roman d’Aventures, all in a single year.

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In addition to a number of other literary accolades, Cornwell’s characterization of Kay bagged her the 1999 Sherlock Award for best detective by an American author. The Kay Scarpetta franchise will soon reach new audiences thanks to an upcoming television adaptation starring Nicole Kidman in the titular role, and Jamie Lee Curtis as her sister. —Armani Syed

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