Postmortem Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 46 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Postmortem.
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Postmortem Summary & Study Guide Description

Postmortem Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Post Mortem by Patricia Daniels Cornwell is a novel that follows the life and career of Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a forensic pathologist and the Chief Medical Examiner of Richmond, Virginia.

Kay Scarpetta is a full-blooded Italian, petite blonde, divorced professional who lives in the west end of Richmond. Throughout the course of the book, Kay shares her home with her ten year old niece, Lucy. Lucy is a genius, precocious, and troubled by the upbringing she receives from her mother, a writer who is more interested in men and creating fictional characters than she is Lucy. Kay attempts to fill some of Lucy's needs although it difficult since Lucy and her mother live in Miami.

Post Mortem involves the brutal rapes and slayings of five women throughout the Richmond area. Each woman is stalked, strangled, raped, and asphyxiated. There seems to be no discernible pattern in the killings, no common thread between the victims. As Chief Medical Examiner, it is Dr. Scarpetta's job to learn as much as possible from the victims' remains in hopes of catching the killer.

Dr. Scarpetta is forced to work with Sergeant Pete Marino, who heads the police investigation into the murders. Marino is a career cop originally from New Jersey, loud, crass, and vulgar. Scarpetta does not like Marino. The other half of Marino's team is Benton Wesley, a psychological profiler with the FBI. Wesley has worked with Marino in the past and makes a vain attempt to convince Scarpetta that the cop will do a good job.

During the investigation into the gruesome murders, Scarpetta must deal with the wrath of her official boss, the Dr. Alvin Amburgey, who serves as the Commissioner of Health and Human Services. It is apparent that Amburgey despises Scarpetta and everything the Chief Medical Examiner represents. Both doctors are new to their respective jobs and already Kay can tell that the tenure under Amburgey, who she refers to as a jealous doctor, will not be pleasant.

The story begins with the third victim in a series of brutal murders. Marino and Scarpetta arrive on the scene and from the beginning Scarpetta worries that Marino's opinions on the case threaten to stall the investigation. While Marino is convinced that the husband murdered his wife, Scarpetta remains open to other possibilities.

The murders begin to escalate as their frequency increases. Amburgey blames this on Scarpetta, saying that the Chief Medical Examiner's office must be leaking sensitive information to the press. As evidence mounts against Scarpetta, the doctor begins to doubt her own abilities and suspects that Amburgey is going to make sure she is fired.

All signs continue to point toward Scarpetta as the information leak. Bill Boltz, the Commonwealth's attorney and Scarpetta's beau, begins to appear as if he may be responsible, at least in part, for the murders. In any case, Boltz is hiding something.

Kay becomes completely immersed in the case and struggles to spend time with Lucy. Lucy acts irrationally and has frequent outbursts, which Kay knows are related to her lacking home life in Miami and the fact that her mother has eloped once more. Lucy wants nothing more than to live with "Auntie Kay".

The case progresses with clues beginning to tie together. Kay is shocked to find out that Bill was responsible for date rape involving a local reporter but is relieved that he is not the murderer.

Kay and her team crack the final clue and are ready when the killer breaks into her house. During an attempt on Scarpetta's life, Marino shoots and kills the rapist, a young man who chose his victims through calls made to the 911 emergency dispatcher.

One of the Scarpetta's technicians uncovers sabotage enacted by Amburgey in an attempt to have Scarpetta fired. Reporter Abby Turnbull who threatens to reveal his illegal activities eventually confronts Amburgey.

Kay is ready for a much deserved vacation and decides to take Lucy back to Miami.

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