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Updated: Oct 26, 2012 05:34 PM EDT
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bone bed

Patricia Cornwell has sold more than 100 million copies of her crime novels worldwide.
(Photo : Good Reads)

Patricia Cornwell's crime series starring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta has done it again. "The Bone Bed," by Cornwell, the 20th book in the series, snagged the No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list in its debut week, beating out perennial chart-topper, E.L. James' ode to BDSM, "Fifty Shades of Grey."

The 12th Kay Scarpetta novel to land at No. 1.on the list, "the Bone Bed" concerns Scarpetta pursuing a serial killer with little help from the FBI, while searching for a paleontologist who goes missing while working on a dig site in the Canadian wilderness.

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Cornwell is no stranger to getting her hands dirty for her work. She once worked for Virginia's chief medical examiner. Cornwell's attendance at thousands of autopsies and her expertise in law enforcement are credited with giving her books their authenticity. Many credit the author with starting the whole CSI pop cultural craze which spurred numerous books, movies and TV shows, by making forensic science and medicine accessible to the masses.

Cornwell worked as a police reporter for The Charlotte Observer and as a computer analyst in the chief medical examiner's office in Virginia. During this period of her life, she observed hundreds of autopsies.

"Most of these crime scene shows... are what I call 'Harry Potter' policing," she said in a candid, heated interview. "They're absolutely fantasy. And the problem is the general public watches these, 60 million people a week or whatever, and they think what they're seeing is true."

For "The Bone Bed," Cornwell once again put herself in her character's shoes. In the name of research, Cornwell went on a dig of her own, in an area of northwestern Alberta known as "the River of Death," and unearthed a tooth fossil from 70 million years ago.

Cornwell researched other aspects of her book by spending time with the Marine Unit of the Boston Fire Department, embedding herself with the Marine Rescue unit of the New England Aquarium and learning computer-based lip-reading technology.

"It is important to me to live in the world I write about," the author of 19 No. 1 New York Times bestsellers says. "If I want a character to do or know something, I want to do or know the same thing."

Cornwell has sold more than 100 million copies of her crime novels worldwide.

The author admits that sometimes the authenticity of her work hits a little too close to home. Cornwell says she has received several "thank you" notes from prisoners who claim they have learned priceless information from her books that might help them cover their tracks while committing future crimes.

"The Bone Bed" is available now.

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