Thursday 26 April 2018

Book Review: All That Remains - A Life in Death by Sue Black

Title: All That Remains: A Life in Death
Sue Black
Transworld Digital

Publication Date: 19 April 2018
eBook - PDF
ARC via NetGalley


Sue Black confronts death every day. As Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology, she focuses on mortal remains in her lab, at burial sites, at scenes of violence, murder and criminal dismemberment, and when investigating mass fatalities due to war, accident or natural disaster. In All That Remains she reveals the many faces of death she has come to know, using key cases to explore how forensic science has developed, and what her work has taught her.

Do we expect a book about death to be sad? Macabre? Sue’s book is neither. There is tragedy, but there is also humour in stories as gripping as the best crime novel. Our own death will remain a great unknown. But as an expert witness from the final frontier, Sue Black is the wisest, most reassuring, most compelling of guides.

All That Remains was a truly fascinating read. Death is something that is always on my mind. Coupled with old age, it terrifies me, which is probably why I love vampires so much; I'd jump at the chance to stay young and live forever. Anyhow, that preoccupation with death is what made me request Sue Black's book from NetGalley, and I found it intriguing. Professor Black has certainly had an interesting working life, and I was captivated by her tales from her student days and from her more recent work in places like Kosovo. Black offers readers an interesting reflection on death, alongside wonderful descriptions of the work of both anatomists and forensic anthropologists. For instance, I had no idea you could still bequeath your body to anatomy schools.

All That Remains will certainly appeal to general readers looking for something different in non-fiction. However, I believe it holds even more value for authors. I am a writer myself, and my current WIP involves murder scenes (albeit of a supernatural nature). It occurred to me that Black's detailed descriptions of things such as the DVI process and the various stages of decomposition would be of use to crime writers seeking to ensure their scenes feel authentic.

I am glad I gave this book a read. It certainly got me thinking, in more ways than one, and it's one I would now considering purchasing, if only for the research value it would offer me as a writer. I did skim through a couple of chapters, which didn't full capture my attention. However, overall, it was an enjoyable work, so I am giving it 4 stars.

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