Cause of Death is a 1996 fictional crime novel written by American writer Patricia Cornwell. It is actually the seventh part of her thriller and mystery series featuring Dr. Key Scarpetta as the main protagonist of the novels. In Cause of Death, Chief Medical Examiner Key Scarpetta—alongside her niece, Lucy Farinelli (an FBI agent), and police captain Pete Marino—goes on to investigate the mysterious murder of journalist Ted Eddings. Soon, the trio realize that Ted's murder is connected to a much bigger threat involving cults and terrorism.
Cornwell never truly reveals to the readers who exactly killed Ted Eddings, however she alludes to the fact that the culprit might've been a member of a local religious, fanatical group known as the New Zionists. The cult's main goal is to control the US and, ultimately, the world as well, which is why they decide to help the Libyans get plutonium and other nuclear materials to build nuclear weapons. According to the evidence, Eddings was involved with the cult, which ultimately got him killed. In fact, a few instances suggest that the killer might actually be Joel Hand—the leader of the New Zionists, who accidentally dies by falling into a decontamination tank filled with radioactive water, located in the nuclear power plant which the cultists take over.