BOOK REVIEW: Unnatural Causes by Dr Richard Shepherd

Meet the forensic pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd. A detective in his own right, he must solve the mystery of sudden and unexplained deaths. He has performed over 23,000 autopsies, including some of the most high-profile cases of recent times; the Hungerford Massacre, the Princess Diana inquiry, and 9/11. He has faced serial killers, natural disaster, 'perfect murders' and freak accidents. His evidence has put killers behind bars, freed the innocent, and turned open-and-shut cases on their heads. Yet all this has come at a huge personal cost. Unnatural Causes tells the story of not only the cases and bodies that have haunted him the most, but also how to live a life steeped in death.
Publisher: Penguin Pages: 445
This book was fascinating and well written. Dr Richard Shepherd is one of Britain’s most respected forensic pathologists and he has performed thousands of autopsies whilst being involved in many well known cases. I have always been interested in this area of medicine and Shepherd provides the reader with a great insight into a world that many will never experience. 
As a pathologist Shepherd has been involved in many well publicised cases such as 9/11, the Hungerford Massacre and the Bali bombings, he recounts his experiences in great detail and we get to see these shocking events from a different perspective. Whilst being respectful to the dead, a pathologist’s job is to discover the truth as to how they died. Shepherd talks you through the many different processes involved, the mistakes that have been made and the lessons learned within his field. His career has spanned decades and he is honest about the problems he encountered and how he has fought to bring about change. He is passionate about using his knowledge and expertise to help people, be that teaching police officers how to restrain people safely; the importance of looking at safe-guarding issues when a child dies or even how to make newly qualified police-officers feel more comfortable in a mortuary environment. He cares deeply about what he does and that shines through in this book. His writing is full of compassion and whilst he is making judgements on the cause of death, he does not pass judgement on those involved, rather he seeks to understand why they behaved as they did.. 
Unnatural Causes is beautifully honest too, I was so impressed with the way Shepherd chose to write about his personal life and the way his career has impacted on that. I am married to a GP and I could completely identify with the ways in which his job have affected his family life. He talks about the inevitability of bringing his work home and being unable to switch off. It was interesting to read the many instances where he was not sure whether to share certain work experiences with his two children. It was reassuring as we have had similar conversations in our house; we try to be honest but you also have a job to shield them from some things while you can. Shepherd did not have to write about this aspect of his life but for me it is what made the book great; you cannot do a job like he did without it spilling over into your home life and he is totally up front about that. 
Unnatural Causes is a fantastic read, I flew through it and can highly recommend. 


shelleyrae @ book'd out said...

I’ve had this on my TBR for ages, must read it soon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

Dot said...

Thank you, hope you enjoy it too!

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