mud room

Kay Scarpetta

Kay Scarpetta is a fictional character and protagonist in a series of crime novels written by Patricia Cornwell. The series is noted for the use of recent forensic technology in Scarpetta's investigations.

Fictional character biography

Dr. Kay Scarpetta was born in Miami, Florida. She is of Italian descent on both sides of her family, with the Scarpettas emigrating from Verona, Italy. She is blonde, and a sharp dresser, although always professional. As a young girl, she watched her father die slowly from leukemia, and the experience remained with her ever since, translating into her everyday work life, where she is surrounded by death. She is a perfectionist, an incredibly hard worker, completely immersed in her work. Scarpetta loves to cook, particularly Italian food. She makes everything from scratch, including pasta and bread, and has a beautiful, custom-built restaurant kitchen in her home. She was married once, to Tony Benedetti; they divorced about 6 years before the beginning of the first novel Postmortem. Since then she had a serious relationship with Mark James, who dies in a bombing on the London tube station (in the novel Cruel and Unusual) and later Benton Wesley, who is apparently killed in Point of Origin but later reappears. In 2007's The Book of the Dead, Scarpetta and Wesley become engaged.

In addition to a large custom-built house that includes a restaurant kitchen, a great room, and a mud room, Scarpetta also drives a new Mercedes, which she replaces often: in one case, after Lucy wrecks it; in another, because a morgue assistant Scarpetta had worked with had been shot dead near it—not in it—while on a mission for Scarpetta. She can't bear to drive it after his death.

In the early novels Scarpetta is the Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Virginia, and works in Richmond. She resigns after the events of The Last Precinct and relocates to Florida to become a private forensic consultant. Scarpetta returns to Virginia in Trace at the request of her replacement, Dr. Joel Marcus. In Predator, Scarpetta becomes the head of the National Forensic Academy in Hollywood, Florida, a private institution founded by her wealthy niece Lucy. In the most recent novel, The Book of the Dead, Scarpetta has relocated as a freelance forensic examiner/expert to Charleston, South Carolina.

Recurring characters in the series

Lucy Farinelli

Lucy is first introduced in Postmortem as a precocious 10 year old, the only child of Kay's flighty, irresponsible, narcissistic sister. She has a natural aptitude for computers and easily learns UNIX, which will be useful later (at the FBI). She looks to Kay for stability and understanding, and although is frequently sulky in her adolescence, shapes herself into a very strong woman with Kay's model to follow. She enters the FBI at 18, but is not well accepted. She is brilliant and a lesbian, two things which set her apart from most people in her life. Lucy has had a few long-term relationships, but also a number of imprudent one-night stands—even a few with men. She also engages in other risky behavior, with firearms and various high-speed vehicles. (At one point, she gets drunk and wrecks Aunt Kay's new Mercedes-Benz. She also gets into a firefight between two helicopters, using handheld firearms.)

Early in her FBI career, Lucy is seduced by Carrie Grethen, who is also brilliant but is totally sociopathic and is in cahoots with Temple Gault, another sociopath who had crossed Kay's path a few years before. Lucy makes her first several million by the time she is 25, building and selling search engines (This was before Google, or it might have been her first billion). She spends her money starting her own training center—the National Forensic Academy, in Hollywood, Florida, which employs her Aunt Kay and Pete Marino—and buying expensive machines, like helicopters, Ferraris, and motorcycles. She also buys a business jet for her private purposes, for which she earns a Private Pilot License. Most of the time, though, she doesn't fly herself but has a cadre of professional pilots doing this, who like Lucy, are physically fit and trained in martial arts.

According to the timeline presented below, her chronological age doesn't correspond with the time between the publication of each book.

Book Year Age
Postmortem 1989 10 years old
All That Remains 1992 16
Cruel & Unusual 1993 17
The Body Farm 1994 21
Cause of Death 1996 23
The Last Precinct 2000 28

In the last few books, Lucy has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, although she appears to have responded well to treatment. In 2007's The Book of the Dead she almost kills Pete Marino when she discovers he has attacked and almost raped her Aunt Kay.

Pete Marino

In the earlier books of the series, Pete Marino worked as a homicide detective for the Richmond police department, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. Physically, Pete is big (to the point of corpulence) and balding. His high blood pressure, heavy smoking, and borderline alcoholism trouble Dr. Scarpetta, who worries about his long-term health. Marino is an excellent detective and has worked well for many years with Dr. Scarpetta, eventually joining her at the National Forensic Academy after retiring from the police force in Predator. Marino seems to have problems with woman through the whole Scarpetta series stemming from a prior marriage which resulted in a son who dabbles in criminal activity. Throughout the series Marino plays a great part in the upbringing of Lucy, although it seems that he has issues with her sexuality.

In Book of the Dead, Marino's not so secret crush on Scarpetta comes to a head. He reacts badly to news of Scarpetta's engagement to Benton Wesley, and after getting drunk and under the influence of a testosterone drug, he attacks Kay and almost rapes her. His actions lead to a confrontation with Lucy and her almost shooting him, after which Marino disappears. It is unknown if he has killed himself or just runs away as the book ends.

Benton Wesley

Benton is an FBI profiler. He and Scarpetta work together on many different cases, at first on a strictly professional level. As their relationship progresses, they end up having an affair, which goes on for years. However, once Benton is no longer with his wife, he and Kay have problems because they are both too independent. In Point of Origin Benton disappears; his body is found at the scene of a fire, badly burned and showing signs of having been tortured extensively. Kay identifies the body by the Breitling watch she had given Benton years before. In Blow Fly it is later revealed that he is not dead, but had been hiding for years in order to trap a cunning serial killer: another body, suitably damaged, had been planted at the scene. Kay is shaken to her core, and is terribly angry at Wesley for having let her think he was dead for so long. In Book of the Dead, Kay and Benton make progress in overcoming their independent streaks and finally become engaged.

Novels

External links

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