Cornwell, Patricia: Cause of Death
(researched by Virginia Danieley)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Patricia Daniels Cornwell. Cause of Death. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1996. Patricia Daniels Cornwell holds the sole copyright for this book. There was a simultaneous first edition released in Canada and a Large Print first edition by Chivers Press, Thorndike, Me. USA Bath, Avon, England: GK Hall.

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

The first American edition is published in trade cloth binding.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

176 leaves, pp.[10] 1-340 [2]

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

There is a series advertisement for the author on the 2nd leaf of the book on the third unnumbered page. Transcription: Also by Patricia Cornwell|A Time for Remembering|PostMortem|Body of Evidence|All that Remains|Cruel and Unusual|The Body Farm|From Potter's Field

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The general physical appearance of the book is very, very good. This may be attributed to the fact that it has been preserved in Special Collections. However, there are no visible signs of wear on this particular copy. One leaf measures 23cm. or 230mm. in length and 16cm or 160mm. in width. Twenty lines of text measures at 107R with 22mm margins. The type on the pages is in immaculate condition and very easy to read. The font is Lingwood style and formal.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper used for this first edition is an evenly woven paper. The paper quality is very good. The paper is sturdy and not showing any signs of tearing or breaking. The paper is white Lenox trade paper. The paper is acid free.

11 Description of binding(s)

The binding is made of cloth with a criss-cross grain pattern. It is a dark burnt orange/brown with print of a metallic dark yellowish orange. The endpapers are of a heavy paper quality than the rest of the book and are a dark purplish red. The front cover: PC | [double headed arrow underneath] The spine: Cause|Of|Death|[double-headed arrow]|Patricia|Cornwell

12 Transcription of title page

Recto: PATRICIA | CORNWELL | CAUSE | OF | DEATH | G.P. Putnam's Sons | New York Verson: G.P. Putnam's Sons | Publishers Since 1838 | 200 Madison Avenue | New York, NY 10016 | Copyright 1996 by Patricia Daniels Cornwell | All rights reserved. This book, or parts therof, | may not be reproduced in any form without permission. | Published simultaneously in Canada | Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data | Cornwell, Patricia Daniels. | Cause of Death/Patricia Cornwell. | p. cm. | ISBN 0-399-14146-4 | ISBN 0-399-14170-7 (limited edition) | 1. Scarpetta, Kay (Fictitious Character)- Fiction. 2. Medical Examiners (Law)- | Virginia- Fiction. 3. Women detectives- Virginia- Fiction. I.Title.| PS 3553.0692c38 1996 95-40298 CIP | 813'.54- dc20 | Book design by Julie Duquet | Printed in United States of America | 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 1 | This book is printed on acid-free paper. [infinity symbol within a circle]

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

Patricia Cornwell possesses the original manuscript of Cause of Death.

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

This copy includes a dedication on the 7th unnumbered page. To Susanne Kirk- | visionary editor and friend. There is also a quote included on the 9th unnumbered page. "And he said unto them the | third time, why, what evil | hath he done? I have found | no cause of death in him:| Luke 23:22. There is a dust jacket included with this edition. It is primarily metallic orange, yellow, and red. There is a silhouette picture of a scuba diver in the upper right-hand corner of the front cover. The front cover reads: PATRICIA | CORNWELL | CAUSE OF | DEATH. There is a photograph of the author on the back cover taken by John Earle in 1995. The jacket was designed by M. G. Guidon, Bell Vision Productions, Inc. There is a Putnam advertisement in the inner fold of the back of the jacket. It reads: Cause of Death is featured | on the Putnam Berkley World Wide Web site | at There is also a brief synopsis included in the inner folds of the dust jacket. This particular copy is a signed edition for the Special Collections library.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A


2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

One million printings of the first edition

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Large Print edition, September 1996, 1998, McMilliam Reference USA British First edition, 1996, Little, Brown English edition, 2000, 1997, 1996, Warner Books English edition, 1997, Berkley Books English edition, 1998, Smithmark Publishers, Inc.,

6 Last date in print?

As of October 15, 2002 This book is still in print.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)


8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)


9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)


10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion


12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

Audio books- 1996, Random House Audiobooks, Read by: Blair Brown, 4 cassettes (4 hours) 1996, B-O-T Books on Tape, Read by: Kate Reading, 7 cassettes (7 1/2 hours) 1997, Random House Audio Books, Read by: Kate Reading, 12 cassettes (11 hours) 1999, Highsmith, Inc., Read by: Kate Reading, 12 cassettes (12 hours)

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

French- "Morts en eaux troubles (Livre de Poche)" Calman-Levvy, 1997, 342p., trans. by Helene Narbonre Finnish- "Riika Hannele Mononen" or "Ansaittu Kuolema" Kustannusosakeyhtio Otava,1997 320p. Korean- "Ak Ui Kyongjon" Ch'op'an, 1997 414p. Spanish- "Causa de Muerta" Atlantida, 1997 311p. Hebrew- "Sibat ha-maret" Tsilah El'azar, 1997, 270p. German- "Trube Wasser Sind Kalt: roman" Goldmann, 1999, 1997, 351p., trans. by: Klaus Pemsel Polish- "Coz Zlego Uczynil" Proszynski i s-ka, 1999, 325p. Italian- "Causa di Morte" Mondadori, 1998, 347p. Japanese- "Shiin" Kodansha, 1996, 486p., trans. by: Mariko Aihara

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A

Prequels- Postmortem, Body of Evidence, All that Remains, Cruel and Unusual, The Body Farm, From Potter's Field Sequels-Unnatural Exposure, Point of Origin, Black Notice, The Last Precinct

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Patricia Cornwell has made no attempt to conceal the fact that she bases her novels on real-life experiences: "It is important to me to live in the world I write about. If I want a character to do or know something, I want to do or know the same thing." Cornwell has gone so far as to investigate subway stations in New York City with the police and take helicopter-flying lessons in order to better articulate her point in her novels. Her writing is well known for being extremely detailed and truthful. Cornwell's six years of work in the Medical Examiner's Office in Richmond, Virginia has contributed to her ability to write about what she knows. "I have said goodbye in the morgue to a homicide detective who was my friend, and stared stunned at the small hole in his chest. In these ways I have come to understand Pete Marino, the homicide detective in my books. I know he would not speak to me had I not lived in his world and done my best to learn its language." Many of the killers in her novels are based on actual events and people. Temple Gault is a character that has appeared in two of Cornwell's books and is loosely based on serial killer, John Joseph Joubert, IV. However, there is no evidence that the events in Cause of Death were based on truth. It is no stretch of the imagination, though, to see Patricia Cornwell the author in her star fictional character, Kay Scarpetta. They were both born in Miami, Florida within ten years of each other. They both have issues with their parents. Scarpetta's father dies early on in her life. Cornwell's parents had a very rocky relationship that ended in divorce. Cornwell and her siblings lived with their mother until she suffered from a nervous breakdown. Patricia lived with Reverend Billy Graham and wife, Ruth, in what she describes as her surrogate family. She actually knew one of the murder victims that inspired her book Postmortem. She now insists on being guarded heavily by bodyguards as well as carrying a gun. She owns a .357 Colt Python, a .380 Walther Semiautomatic, and a .38 Smith & Wesson. This differs from her lead character Scarpetta in that she carries a Glock 9 millimeter. Cornwell's life has been surrounded by controversy and scandal. In June 1996, one month before the release of Cause of Death, her name once again emerged within a scandal. An ex-FBI agent, Eugene Bennett, had claimed that his ex-wife was a lesbian who had a relationship with Cornwell in 1992. Cornwell and Bennett's wife worked together in Quantico, Virginia. Bennett was so obsessed with his accusations that he took his wife's minister hostage on June 23, 1996 and planted bombs at his ex-wife's job at Northern Virginia Community College. He was found guilty of attempted murder and was sentenced to twenty-three years in prison. Kay Scarpetta's fictional niece, Lucy, could be seen as a link to the accusation of homosexuality. In the novels, Lucy rejects men as a result of Kay and her mom's neglect of her because of men. She has a steady girlfriend who is in fact an FBI agent.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Almost unanimous, reviewers agree that Patricia Cornwell's seventh Kay Scarpetta novel, Cause of Death is not what they have come to expect from this bestseller writer. A review in the Booklist Review described the novel as nothing more than "mushy, vague, and unsatisfying." There is a general consensus of reviewers that this novel is definitely lacking something. Disappointing, contrived, whiny, and unbelievable are the common type of words used to describe Miss Cornwell's novel. In comparison to early novels, this one is found to be the least appealing. However, most reviewers believed that the sale of the book would not be hurt by its lack of charm. Because Cornwell has been such a successful writer in the past, she has come to form a loyal following that will support her in this endeavor as well. Although most reviews are negative, there were a few silver linings to this dark cloud. The New York Times Book Review gave Cornwell credit for her commanding style and ability to incorporate stunning detail in regard to technical skills. Kirkus Review was the only enthusiastic supporter of Cause of Death. "Full marks, as always, for the gripping forensic detail and beleaguered Scarpetta's legendary toughness." However, both of these positive reviews had the same criticism of Cornwell's novel: its villains are unbelievable and contrived. The New York Times Book Review went so far as to say that they "wouldn't give you two cents for the silly villains in this piece." All in all, the reception of this book was not a good one.

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Cause of Death was published in 1996. I could find no subsequent reviews since 2001, as of November 11, 2002.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

The success of Patricia Cornwell's novel Cause of Death as a bestseller can be attributed to many different reasons. Cornwell's talent as a writer may be one of these reasons, but for the most part Cause of Death's success is due to a formulaic assembly of the book as a whole. This novel teaches the audience of contemporary writing that bestsellers can be contrived and manufactured. The novel's definitive location within time and space, place as a "follow-on" bestseller and the classic characterizations used by Cornwell all conspire to form the contemporary bestseller. The believability of time and space by the reader is important to the success of the novel. This is especially true for books like Cause of Death that belong to the genre of suspense and mystery. The "hook" of suspense thrillers is that their details must be believable in order to captivate the reader. Cornwell achieves this effect by creating descr9iptions of space that submerges the reader into the setting of the story. The descriptions of location are so detailed and true to life that a reader could almost map out the entire novel. Cornwell chooses to set this novel and many others in an area that she is very familiar with. She has made Virginia, Richmond in particular, her home for the majority of her life and career. Cornwell's descriptions cover the streets of downtown Richmond, the Medical College of Virginia campus, the Tidewater area, and the University of Virginia. Because she still resides in this area, it was not difficult for her to research the setting of Cause of Death. As we follow the heroine, Kay Scarpetta, throughout her travels first in Hampton to discover the mysterious drowning death of Ted Eddings to the grounds at UVA, we find that Cornwell's descriptions are so incredibly detailed that they can be traced. "We drove east along Monument Avenue into the district known as the Fan, where gracious mansions lined historic avenues and college students crowded old homes. At the statue of Robert E. Lee, he cut over to Grace Street" (95). The realism of Cornwell's descriptions blurs the line between the real and the unreal. The reader forgets that Kay Scarpetta as well as her home and life are fictional because Cornwell's description of her neighborhood, Windsor Farms, is so real. Cornwell's descriptions are not only incredibly detailed, but historically correct, also. "'The biggest battle on or near water in your area was between the Merrimac and the Monitor. And that was miles away in Hampton Roads. I have never heard of any battles in or near the part of the Elizabeth River where the Shipyard is located'" (140). In this scene, Scarpetta is challenging the idea that Eddings' death was accidental and he was simply diving for Civil War relics in the Navy Shipyard. The historical context in which Cornwell presents the story adds to the realism of her location choices and descriptions. As far as Cornwell's choice of time period and time descriptions, the novel acts as a log of all the events of the story. Cause of Death not only occupies a particular place in time and namely New Year's Eve, 1996 and the following month or so after it, but also follows a realistic timeline in regards to time of day, travel time, and the like, that can be sketched out. There are constant references to the time of day, day or night, and precise times as in A.M. or P.M. "Danny's case number was ME-3096, which meant he was the thirtieth case of the new year in the central district of Virginia" (177). Cornwell uses simple clues like this to indicate the present year. Cornwell also uses simple clues to indicate a more general time period in which the action of the novel is taking place. She references the United States Attorney General, Gradecki, in one instance and the movie, Shadowlands, with Anthony Hopkins in another (73 & 229). These are vague indications of a wide time period in which the novel is set. In the same way that the mixture of real and fictitious locations acts as a means of making every aspect of the story seem real, mixing historical times and events with fictitious times and events creates the same effect. Another crucial element to the success of Cause of Death as a bestseller is its place within the Kay Scarpetta series. As a "follow-on" bestseller, readers who have been introduced to this series before have come to know and love (or hate) its characters. Although this is a series of sequels and prequels, there is not a continuing main plot that follows throughout the series. Instead, secondary plots between characters and events are carried throughout. Kay Scarpetta's affair and relationship with FBI agent Benton Wesley is one of these sustaining plots. "'I know how I feel about you, ' Wesley was saying. 'I have known that for a long time.' 'You have no right,' I said. 'You have never had a right.' 'And what about you? Did you have a right to do what you did, Kay? Or was I the only one in the room?'" This is a reference to the ongoing sexual relationship between Scarpetta and Wesley. One might think that they are talking about an event that has occurred in this novel, but this is only the second instance of them speaking in this particular story. Following the romantic life of Scarpetta gives the series some consistency. Kay's niece Lucy is another recurring character that Cornwell's readership has formed a relationship with. Not only do Kay and Lucy have a dynamic familial and professional relationship, but also Lucy's sexuality is reckoned with in each novel. "I never knew quite what to do when we had these conversations. They were all new to me, and in some ways scary" (61). Cornwell's readers are able empathize with Scarpetta as she struggles to understand Lucy's homosexuality. Lucy's bout with alcoholism is another resurfacing theme. In Cause of Death, Lucy goes on a several-day binge while she is fighting with her girlfriend, Janet. "She did not answer and I was grateful that our cars had not arrived. I was afraid she was about to repeat every terrible mistake she had ever made" (145). This is one of several references to a car accident that Lucy was involved in a while ago that involved alcohol. These references would help rekindle the old, good feelings readers had had about past Cornwell novels. Scarpetta's past work experiences also find a way of resurfacing within this novel. As Chief Medical Examiner of the State of Virginia, Scarpetta's job can be on the unpleasant side sometimes. "This was not the first time I had autopsied people I knew, and most police and even the other doctors did not always understand" (176). Nearly all the Scarpetta books involve a case in which someone she knows is killed. In this book, Danny her temporary assistant and Ted Eddings, a reporter she had come to know, both are killed by unnatural causes. This brings Kay's humanity into light. She is able to be both professional while still mourning the loss of those people in her life. Cornwell's characterization choices with Kay Scarpetta are perhaps the most compelling reason for the success of the bestseller. Scarpetta contains the key elements of a heroine that would make her a success with the majority of readers. Strong, intelligent, savvy, but also emotionally vulnerable, Scarpetta is a multi-faceted woman. In fact, she retains both masculine and feminine traits that make her a perfect heroine for either sex. Scarpetta balances a challenging career as a medical examiner with legal credentials while maintaining a complicated romantic relationship with a married man. She is strong in the face of death, but the first person of the novel lets the reader see and hear the fears of Scarpetta. She is an archetype of the contemporary heroine. Scarpetta's battle against male dominance is one factor that causes her to succeed as a key character with contemporary women. "You don't even know what discrimination is until you're one of only three women in your medical school class. Or in law school, the men won't share their notes if you're sick and miss class" (147). Kay's interactions with Detective Roche and Captain Greene in Hampton were classic examples of her hassles as a female in an all male industry. Scarpetta's character is also a relatable character because she is dealing with many personal struggles. The concept of "getting old" is a major theme with Kay in this novel. She begins to notice just how young and fit her niece is. Lucy seems to be an extension of Kay and to see such a difference between them is unsettling to Kay. Although Kay worries that Lucy is overdoing it, she still shows signs of envy in her younger, healthier counterpart. Cornwell devotes an entire chapter to Scarpetta's reevaluation of faith and religion. The subject of faith, especially Christianity, has mass appeal as far as readership empathy. "It had been a while since I had stopped at church on my way home, for I thought to do this only when life had pushed me as far as I could go" (142). This subject also relates to both male and female readers of all ages. This characterization, along with Cause of Death's place as a "follow-on" bestseller and definitive time and location all add up to equal the winning formula for the modern mystery bestseller. Even if one is not dazzled by Cornwell's talent, it is hard to argue with a recipe that has been used by many different authors to much success. That is not to take away from a writer's talents, but the genre of the bestseller is simply one that can be carefully engineered.

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