Patricia Carroll Daniels was born 1956 in Miami, Florida. Her father, lawyer Sam Daniels, left the family when Patricia was 5 years old. Several years later, Patricia stayed with friends of the evangelist, Billy Graham, while her mother, Marilyn Daniels, recovered from mental illness.
Patricia Daniels had her own struggles with mental illness as a young woman studying at college in North Carolina. She married Charles Cornwell in 1979.
Patricia Cornwell became interested in criminal behaviour while working first as a journalist for the Charlotte Observer and later for a medical examiner in Richmond, Virginia. She also undertook studies in forensic science, volunteered in the police force, and read endlessly in medical libraries.
Cornwell’s writing career took off when she developed the Dr. Kay Scarpetta character for Postmortem (1990), a self-portrait some say. Prior to that she had written a biography of Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth Bell Graham, and had made a first attempt at writing crime. The Scarpetta series became immensely popular with sales at more than 100 million copies.