I was worried that this book would be too far out of my comfort zone. It’s mainly about post mortems and there’s a scalpel on the front cover. Luckily, I pushed through my initial fear of the contents and I can now strongly recommend this as a fascinating, engaging read.
Dr Richard Shepherd writes clearly and confidently about his career in forensic pathology. This was an area I previously knew little of, so I’m pleased that Dr Shepherd was my guide to a subject that many people find uncomfortable or even abhorrent. He shows that there’s a beauty to the human body, even a deceased one, and that uncovering its layers to determine the cause of death is actually an art. In a case where a crime has allegedly been committed, discovering the truth is even more important.
Several high-profile cases are featured in the book, some of which are internationally notorious. They make compelling and unforgettable reading. Although there are many details of injury, murder scenes and bodies throughout the book, these are necessary for the subject. To the author’s credit, this is never gratuitous.
The book is very personal. The early loss of his mother, the strained relationship with his father, the trials of his marriage (also to a doctor), the joy of flying lessons, PTSD, grillings in court, the problematic way he applies his professional detachment to other aspects of his life. In common with other medical memoirs I’ve read lately, writing this book has been a kind of therapy for the author while taking a break from the daily stresses of the profession.
First published by Penguin in 2018.