Patricia Cornwell (born Patricia Daniels on June 9, 1956) is the author of a popular series of crime novels featuring the fictional heroine Dr.
Kay Scarpetta", a medical examiner.
She was born in Miami, Florida. Her ex-husband is Charles Cornwell. She is a descendant of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Cornwell has made several notable charitable acts, including funding scholarships to the University of Tennessee's National Forensics Academy and donating her collection of Walter Sickert paintings to Harvard University.
Eugene Bennett, a former FBI agent, attempted to murder his wife, Marguerite, in 1996 because he thought that she had had an affair four years earlier with Cornwell.
The Scarpetta novels include a great deal of detail on forensics. The solution to the mystery usually is found in the forensic investigation of the murder victim's corpse, although Scarpetta does considerably more field investigation and confrontation with suspects than real-life medical examiners. The novels are considered to have influenced the development of popular TV series on forensics, both fictional, such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and documentaries, such as Cold Case Squad.
Procedural details are part of the allure of her novels. Cornwell herself worked at a crime lab in Virginia as a technical writer and computer analyst but not in any official medical or forensics capacity. Her attempts to portray herself as an expert in those fields have caused some bad feelings from those who have actual training and licensing, including Kathy Reichs, who is both a board-certified forensic anthropologist and a crime novelist.
Other significant themes in the Scarpetta novels include health in general; individual safety and security; food; and family. Although scenes from the novels take place in a variety of locations around the U.S. and (less commonly) internationally, the city of Richmond, Virginia features prominently.
Besides the Scarpetta novels, Cornwell has written three more light-hearted police fictions featuring Andy Brazil, as well as a number of works of non-fiction.
Jack the Ripper
Cornwell has been involved in a continuing, self-financed search for evidence to support her theory that painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper. She published Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed in 2002 to much controversy, especially within the British art world, where Sickert's work is admired, and also among Ripperologists, who criticize her methods and conclusions. See Portrait Of a Killer for further information. However, Cornwell denies a Jack the Ripper obsession in full-page ads in two British newspapers.
Litigation surrounding The Last Precinct
Dr. Leslie Sachs, author of The Last Precinct. In 2000 he sent letters to Cornwell's publisher, started a page on the World Wide Web, and placed stickers on his novel in order to claim that Cornwell was committing plagiarism. Cornwell successfully obtained a preliminary injunction against Sachs. The court ruled that his claims were baseless, and he was prevented from placing the stickers on his book. The court also required that booksellers remove the stickers that were already there and shut his website down for false advertising.