Richard Shepherd’s first book, Unnatural Causes, was a brilliant read. The follow-up book is just as good, maybe even better. The subtitle is A Forensic Pathologist’s Journey Through Life.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s famous ‘seven ages of man’ monologue from As You Like It, the book is divided into chapters about the forensic cases of people who died in different stages of life. Whenever the police have doubted that a death was natural, they called Dr Shepherd to investigate. He shows that you can’t make assumptions and that sometimes suspicious deaths are accidents or vice versa. He also discusses the risk factors and how they relate to ageing. There are some high profile cases discussed, some of which have their details altered for privacy reasons.
My favourite thing about this book is the writing style. It’s clear, beautifully expressed, alternately humble and proud, darkly humorous at times and full of wonder at the marvels of the human body. There is a memoir element woven throughout the book which enhances its emotional impact on the reader.
If you’re looking for a fascinating book and are not easily upset or triggered by descriptions of dissections, suicide, murder, etc, then this is a must-read.
First published in 2021.
4 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Seven Ages of Death’ by Richard Shepherd”
Great review! I read this recently. I enjoyed the cases but found the lengthly biology lessons quite boring, I found myself skimming those parts. I appreciated his candidness in relation to his alcohol addiction though, it made the book far more relatable.
Thanks! I’m glad you had an overall good experience with the book. I quite liked the biology, it has always been the science I understand better than the others (not that I’m very scientific) but you’re right it’s not as compelling as the case investigations. Yes the memoir element really added a personal resonance.
This does sound like an engrossing read. it reminds me of “Dead Men Do Tell Tales” by a forensic anthropologist. I read it years ago & thought would be too gruesome, but the writing was clear and educational.
Thanks – as soon as I saw this one at the library, I had to reserve it, as his first book was so good. I’ve never read any gratuitously gory forensics books, a sophisticated author will only give the details necessary to understand the case and the biology involved.