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Kay Scarpetta

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Kay Scarpetta
First appearancePostmortem
Created byPatricia Cornwell
In-universe information
OccupationMedical Examiner

Kay Scarpetta is a fictional character inspired by former Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Marcella Farinelli Fierro MD (retired).[1] She is the protagonist in a series of crime novels written by Patricia Cornwell noted for its use of recent forensic technology in Scarpetta's investigations.

The name Scarpetta is a diminutive, meaning Little Shoe, as revealed in the 2009 novel The Scarpetta Factor, which points out that the underlying pun is similar to Caligula, which means Little Boot in Latin. The novel features a website named Caligula, which is involved indirectly in the murder of a young woman.

Fictional character biography


Family background: Miami, Florida, 1954, of Italian descent on both sides of her family (the Scarpettas emigrated from Verona, Italy). As a young girl she watched her father die from leukemia.

Education: Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, and Georgetown Law School. She has certificates, including from Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University.

Employment: In the early novels Scarpetta works in Richmond as the Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia and as a member of faculty at Virginian Medical Center (VMC). She resigns after the events of The Last Precinct, moving to Florida to become a private forensic consultant. Scarpetta returns to Virginia in Trace, convincing herself that she was fired from her position 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 Book of the Dead Scarpetta has relocated as a freelance forensic examiner/expert to Charleston, South Carolina. In Scarpetta (2008) she has moved to Massachusetts, where she is an M.E., but she and Benton also share an apartment in New York City. In The Scarpetta Factor (2009) she is working full-time and Wesley is working part-time in New York.

Appearance: Blonde and a sharp dresser, with a wardrobe of designer suits.

Character: A perfectionist and workaholic. She loves to cook, particularly Italian food, and makes everything from scratch, including pasta and bread. She has a beautiful home built to her specifications, including a restaurant kitchen. She drives a Mercedes, which she replaces often.

Relationships: Married to Tony Benedetti while at law school. Divorced about 6 years before the beginning of the first novel, set in 1986, Postmortem. Subsequent on-again, off-again relationship with Mark James, who dies in a bombing in a London Tube station (in the novel Cruel and Unusual). Third relationship with Benton Wesley, who is supposedly killed in Point of Origin but later reappears. In 2007's The Book of the Dead, Scarpetta and Wesley become engaged, and they are married by the opening of 2008's Scarpetta.

Recurring characters in the series


Lucy Farinelli


Lucy is the only child of Kay's flighty sister, Dorothy. She first appears at age 10 in Postmortem. Lucy has a natural aptitude for computers. Although frequently sulky in her adolescence, she shapes herself into a very strong woman with Kay's model to follow. She enters the FBI at 18 but is not well accepted owing to her sexual orientation and her genius IQ. Lucy has several relationships (with women) in the course of the series. She also has several one-night stands—even a few with men—and engages in other risky behavior with firearms and high-speed vehicles. At one point she gets drunk and wrecks 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, a sociopathic coworker who is in cahoots with Temple Gault, a cold-blooded murderer who had crossed Kay's path a few years before. The relationship haunts Lucy and those who are close to her in several books. Lucy becomes a self-made millionaire by the age of 25 by building and selling internet search engines—years before Google. She invests some of her earnings in her own private investigating firm, The Last Precinct, located in NYC, and later in a forensic training center, The National Forensic Academy, in Hollywood, Florida, which employs her Aunt Kay and Pete Marino. She has a penchant for buying expensive machines like helicopters, Ferraris, and motorcycles. She also purchases a private jet, for which she earns a private pilot license.

In Predator, Lucy is diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that alters her physical appearance and seems also to modify her personality. In The Book of the Dead she is undergoing treatment; in later books the disease is not mentioned. 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. In the latest two novels, Scarpetta and The Scarpetta Factor, Lucy is back in New York running her own company again and is in a relationship with the New York DA Jaime Berger.

In Blow Fly, Lucy helps murder Rocco Caggiano, Pete Marino's renegade son, in a Polish hotel.

Over the course of the series, the characters do not age consistently, e.g. Kay Scarpetta is around age 40 at the beginning of the series, meaning she is 30 years older than Lucy. However, by the time of the novel Blow Fly, Lucy is almost 30, while Scarpetta is still only 46. The table below shows how Lucy ages.

Book Year Age
Postmortem 1990 10
All That Remains 1992 16
Cruel & Unusual 1993 17
The Body Farm 1994 21
From Potter's Field 1995 21
Cause of Death 1996 23
The Last Precinct 2000 28
Blow Fly 2003 30

Pete Marino


Pete Marino grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey. He started his police career in New York City. In the early books, he is a homicide detective for the Richmond police department, eventually rising to the rank of captain. He is an excellent detective and works for many years with Dr. Scarpetta, with whom he is secretly in love. He eventually joins her at the National Forensic Academy after retiring from the police force in Predator. Marino seems to have problems with women through the whole Scarpetta series, stemming from a prior marriage which resulted in a son who becomes a lawyer for a drug cartel. Throughout the series Marino plays a great part in the upbringing of Lucy, although he has issues with her sexuality.

In Book of the Dead, Marino 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. Marino reappears in Scarpetta.

Benton Wesley


Benton is an FBI profiler.

"He was FBI right down to his Florsheim shoes, a sharp-featured man with prematurely silver hair suggesting a mellow disposition that wasn't there."[2]

He and Scarpetta work together on many cases. They have an affair for several years. Once Benton is no longer with his wife he wishes to marry Kay, but she resists because she is too independent. In Point of Origin Benton disappears; a body is found at the scene of a fire, tortured and badly burned. Kay identifies the body as Benton's by the Breitling watch she had given him. In Blow Fly it is revealed that he is not dead, but hiding in a witness protection program. In Book of the Dead Kay and Benton become engaged; they are married by the beginning of Scarpetta.

In the early books Benton is described as the unit chief of the FBI profilers with a master's degree in psychology, working out of Quantico. In Point of Origin he has supposedly retired from the FBI and is working as a private consultant, though in The Scarpetta Factor it is implied that he was still under the FBI's control and was forced into the witness program, then into a retirement that he still resents. In Book of the Dead and the books following his return, he is a forensic psychologist on staff at McLean in Massachusetts, then also at Bellevue in NYC, while still consulting for the FBI.

Dorothy Farinelli


Dorothy is Kay's sister and mother of Lucy. Kay says of her that, "my sister should never have been a mother. My sister should never have been Italian." When she was 18 married Armando, an old man who was very rich.


  1. Postmortem (1990)
  2. Body of Evidence (1991)
  3. All That Remains (1992)
  4. Cruel and Unusual (1993)
  5. The Body Farm (1994)
  6. From Potter's Field (1995)
  7. Cause of Death (1996)
  8. Unnatural Exposure (1997)
  9. Point of Origin (1998)
  10. Black Notice (1999)
  11. The Last Precinct (2000)
  12. Blow Fly (2003)
  13. Trace (2004)
  14. Predator (2005)
  15. Book of the Dead (2007)
  16. Scarpetta (2008)
  17. The Scarpetta Factor (2009)
  18. Port Mortuary (2010)
  19. Red Mist (2011)
  20. The Bone Bed (2012)
  21. Dust (2013)
  22. Flesh and Blood (2014)
  23. Depraved Heart (2015)
  24. Chaos (2016)
  25. Autopsy (2021)
  26. Livid (2022)
  27. Unnatural Death (2023)

Television adaptation


In June 2021, it was reported that a television series adaptation of novel series is in development from Comet Pictures, a production company owned by Jamie Lee Curtis and Blumhouse Television.[3]

In February 2023, Nicole Kidman was cast in the series in the titular role Kay Scarpetta, alongside Jamie Lee Curtis playing Kay's sister Dorothy. Both Kidman and Curtis also joined the show in the capacity of executive producers.[4]

See also



  1. ^ MSN.com
  2. ^ Cornwell, Patricia (1990). Postmortem (1st ed.). Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-7434-7715-4.
  3. ^ White, Peter (June 3, 2021). "Jamie Lee Curtis' Comet Pictures & Blumhouse Adapting Patricia Cornwell's 'Kay Scarpetta' Novels For TV". Deadline Hollywood.
  4. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 8, 2023). "Nicole Kidman & Jamie Lee Curtis To Star In & EP Patricia Cornwell's 'Kay Scarpetta' TV Series At Amazon From Liz Sarnoff & Blumhouse". Deadline Hollywood.