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Unnatural Causes

As the UK's top forensic pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd has spent a lifetime uncovering the secrets of the dead When death is sudden or unexplained it falls to Shepherd to establish the cause Each post mortem is a detective story in its own right and Shepherd has performed over 23000 of them Through his skill dedication and insight Dr Shephe Because of the blurb and publicity I expected a book about Dr Richard Shepherd s career as the leading forensic pathologist in the UK So naturally when I get lyrical passages about soaring in a Cesna over Hungerfood I m thinking this book isn t for me When the author writes in detail about his childhood and the women in his father s life I m thinking I didn t sign up for this but it s an easy read and the writing improves after the initial overly descriptive prose Then just like that everything makes sense why the Cesna why the family so I m really into it I ve never had a book take so long to explain itself beforeThe book is an autobiography with a dual concentration of the author s home life and his professional life In both real life and the book he devotes far too much time and energy to his professional life He gets told so too but he can t get a grip on that I think a lot of men are like that and it s the women that hold the marriage and family together until eventually the children leave home and it all falls apart Dr Shepherd s case file as a forensic pathologist is very interesting Sometimes though he gets a bee in his bonnet as in a court case and it s a he said she said for many many pages it s a bit tedious but like everything else in the book you wait a while and you see why he s written it like that It s a very unusual way to put a book togetherI was most interested in his work after the Al aeda terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center He went to New York and worked there He said that one of the prime motivations to identify all the bodiesparts was that even though it would have been easier to have a mass grave they knew that the families of the victims could not bear the idea of these loved ones being buried along with the terrorists who d murdered them He flew out to Bali for the night club massacre also funded by Al aeda and the difference between the uiet dignity of the US with the bodies in refrigerated trucks neatly lined up the US flag and flowers at the entrance and Bali a single refrigerated truck and all the bodies bundled into bags and laid in the shade with ice from the supermarkets keeping them coolHe also wrote about Princess Diana s death I didn t know she didn t look very badly injured and was talking until she passed out and later died from a very very small rip in a vein in a lung that bled out inside her So it was interesting And when he got PTSD from the massacres from being accused himself of not being diligent over a baby s death he had been charges that hung over him for a long time before being dismissed I could see how his mental issues went right back to his childhoodSo all in all it the sum of its parts is 3 stars But taken as a whole it is an enjoyable and enlightening 5 star read and Dick Shepherd is a really nice guy and those who have him as a friend are really luckyTea why the book cannot be Americanised view spoiler Every discussion with the detectives or lawyers starts off with them all sitting down for a cup of tea If there is a break they have tea And afterwards they either have another cup of tea or go down to the pub for a pint You couldn t swap tea for coffee for a US market as they d all be buzzing on caffeine so much did they drink hide spoiler

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E the most perplexing intriguing and even bizarre In or out of the public eye his evidence has put killers behind bars freed the innocent and turned open and shut cases on their headsBut a life in death bearing witness to some of humanity's darkest corners exacts a price and Shepherd doesn't flinch from counting the cost to him and his family My PTSD is not caused by any particular one of the 23000 bodies on which I have performed post mortems And it is not caused by all of them It is not caused by any particular disaster I have been involved in clearing up And it is not caused by all of them It is caused in its entirety by a lifetime of bearing first hand witness to on behalf of everyone courts relatives public society man s inhumanity to man Will review later

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Rd solves the puzzle to answer our most pressing uestion how did this person dieFrom serial killer to natural disaster 'perfect murder' to freak accident Shepherd takes nothing for granted in pursuit of truth And while he's been involved in some of the most high profile cases of recent times it's often the less well known encounters that prov This is a brilliant memoir from the UK s leading forensic pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd seamslessly weaving together case studies from his work and details of his life storyDr Shepherd has worked on some of the most high profile cases during the course of his career in the UK and internationally including The Hungerford Massacre 1987 his first unsupervised major case and the one that left the first scar on his psyche The death of Princess Diana 1997 The Clapham Rail Disaster 1998 9 11 2001 Bali bombing 2002 77 London bombings 2005His writing is both clinical and warm he shows his humanity in the face of the horrors he confronts in his work He discusses candidly the PTSD that threatened to consume him Having worked in vet medicine there are cases that haunt me I still dream about the third animal I ever euthanized out of hundreds and am obsessive about always checking the bodies of animals hit by cars in case they are still alive and suffering I cannot imagine the impact of years of dealing with cases on the scale Dr Shepherd has Honestly I would be worried if it did not impact him He discusses the reality of his profession being unlike TV where the forensic teams sweep in to find the critical evidence and save the day Dr Shepherd describes police who sometimes view forensics with annoyance particularly when the evidence does not fit their narrative Dr Shepherd also covers his experiences as an expert witnessI enjoyed reading the medical bits I laughed at some paragraphs about the beauty of the internal organs and structures of bodies I feel the same but always felt slightly Jeffrey Dahmer esue trying to explain to friends the beauty of smooth pearly cartilage or the iridescent shimmer of the inside of an eyeball Dr Shepherd writes But I still had time to experience that sense of wonder at the body its intricate systems its colours and yes its beauty For blood is not just red it is bright red The gallbladder is not just green it is the green of jungle foliage The brain is white and grey and that is not the grey of a November sky it is the silver grey of darting fish The liver is not a dull school uniform brown it is the sharp red brown of a freshly ploughed fieldp48In detailing the putrefaction of bodies he describes the extraordinary and beautiful fern like patterns of the veins closest to the surface as bacteria spreads through the blood vesselsp101 If you are currently feeling ueasy this is where you should stop reading because the book also contains some interesting facts A person can die of bruising alone rarely but he describes the case of a 19 year old male sex worker who sustained 105 bruises and died of the resulting disseminated intravascular coagulation Adipose is the third stage of decomposition wherein the body s saturated fat undergoes a chemical change turning it into a waxy soap like substance preserving that part of the body like a waxwork As the process progresses it will turn grey and firm and it can sometimes reveal the cause of death by preserving a bullet hole A drowned body will develop opaue wrinkly skin often called washerwoman s hands After a few days left in the water the macerated skin will separate and peel off a process known as de glovingDr Shepherd notes This is no David Attenborough documentary He is not kidding But it is fascinating and brilliant


10 thoughts on “Unnatural Causes

  1. says:

    Because of the blurb and publicity I expected a book about Dr Richard Shepherd's career as the leading forensic pathologist in the

  2. says:

    Dr Richard Shepherd writes a fascinating and riveting blend of autobiography and memoir about his time as a top forensic pathologist in Britain He has been involved in too many to count headlining criminal cases disasters and terrorist incidents in recent British history He has carried out almost 25000 post mortems a head spinning number in his search to determine the truth of how a person died The nature of tr

  3. says:

    Dr Richard Shepherd wrote a most honest book about his profession and his personal life I am truly touched by his honesty but first a

  4. says:

    This is a brilliant memoir from the UK's leading forensic pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd seamslessly weaving together case studies from his work and details of his life storyDr Shepherd has worked on some of the  most high profile cases during the course of his career in the UK and internationally including• The Hungerford Massacre 1987

  5. says:

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review When I saw this on Netgalley I was intrigued I was already reading a

  6. says:

    This book was so fascinating Part autobiography part memoir Unnatural causes is about Dr Shepard’s life and his work including high profile criminal cases and mass disasters The writing was excellent Dr Shepard describes everything in detail in a way that everyone can understand and not just in medical jargon ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀I loved this book I’ll admit I didn’t really much about what forensic patholo

  7. says:

    “My PTSD is not caused by any particular one of the 23000 bodies on which I have performed post mortems And it is not caused by all of them It is not caused by any particular disaster I have been involved in clearing up And it is not caused by all of them It is caused in its entirety by a lifetime of bearing first hand witness to on behalf of everyone–courts relatives public society–man’s inhumanity to man”Will review

  8. says:

    Reading about Dr Richard Shepard UK Pathologist was not banal Truly adored his utterly vivid description of the 911Twin Towers trailers filled with body parts and his flair for recognizing the distinct smell of burned bodies His cases are told to us rather void of emotion and in a style lacking melancholic variation in tone During his career

  9. says:

    There's something indescribably fascinating about what comes after death And I don't mean the whole heavenhell scenario but what happens during the inevitable breakdown of our bodies the processed falling apart of that place we inhabit before some event some failure or some person takes it from us As a forensic

  10. says:

    I left the room with relief making a mental note to avoid the bereaved at all costs and stick to the safe world inhabited by the dead

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