(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Patricia Cornwell’s first work of detective fiction, Postmortem (1990), is the only novel to win five prestigious awards in the same year: the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America, the John Creasey Award from the Crime Writers’ Association, the Anthony Award sponsored by Bouchercon, World Mystery Convention, and the Macavity Award from Mystery Readers International, all for best debut crime novel, and the French Prix du Roman d’Aventure. The book stood out because of its protagonist as well as its approach of using forensics to solve a crime. Dr. Kay Scarpetta is a tough yet vulnerable female medical examiner. In 1999, the character of Scarpetta won the Sherlock Award for the best fictional detective created by an American author. Although Scarpetta comes into contact with suspects more often and more closely than real-life medical examiners actually do, crimes are solved in Scarpetta’s mind and on her autopsy table. As she examines the victims’ bodies, she gathers clues to help identify the killers. This approach was noteworthy because of Cornwell’s precise descriptions of actual forensic methods, descriptions that unfold with textbook accuracy and length, before such approaches were popularized by television crime dramas such as CSI, which began in 2000. Her fourth Scarpetta mystery, Cruel and Unusual (1993), won the Golden Dagger Award of the Crime Writers’ Association.