There are several scenes in Cause of Death that could be considered major. The book is a riveting mystery that is full of suspense.
One of the most significant and intriguing scenes is only a few pages in, when medical examiner Dr. Scarpetta receives a mysterious phone call. A man with a Southern accent calls Dr. Scarpetta to report a death in the Inactive Naval Ship Yard. He explains that the deceased person “might have been looking for Civil War relics.” The caller has a mysterious demeanor and knows personal information about Dr. Mant, the medical examiner that Dr. Scarpetta is filling in for. Dr. Scarpetta asks for this man’s full name, and he says it is “S.T. Young.”
In this brief conversation, Cornwell has already set up an intriguing mystery, prompting the reader to wonder who this man is, how he knows what he knows, why he was looking for relics, and how he died.
The significance of this phone call becomes even more clear a few pages later, when Dr. Scarpetta gets a call from another officer who is reporting the same death. This officer tells her that he is supposedly the first one from the department to contact her. He also says there is no one by the name of Young there. His confusion makes Dr. Scarpetta realize that S. T. Young was not a police officer and might have something to do with the death.