Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Education of a Coroner by John Bateson

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The Education of a Coroner
by John Bateson

ISBN-13: 9781501168222
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Scribner
Released: Aug. 15, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Marin County, California is a study in contradictions. Its natural beauty attracts thousands of visitors every year, yet the county also is home to San Quentin Prison, one of the oldest and largest penitentiaries in the country. Marin ranks in the top one percent of counties nationwide in terms of affluence and overall health, yet it is far above the norm in drug overdoses and alcoholism, and comprises a large percentage of suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ken Holmes worked in the Marin County Coroner’s Office for thirty-six years, starting as a death investigator and ending as the three-term, elected coroner. As he grew into the job—which is different from what is depicted on television—Holmes learned a variety of skills, from finding hidden clues at death scenes, interviewing witnesses effectively, managing bystanders and reporters, preparing testimony for court to notifying families of a death with sensitivity and compassion. He also learned about different kinds of firearms, all types of drugs—prescription and illegal—and about certain unexpected and potentially fatal phenomena such as autoeroticism.

Complete with poignant anecdotes, The Education of a Coroner provides a firsthand and fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a public servant whose work is dark and mysterious yet necessary for society to function.

My Review:
The Education of a Coroner is both a biography and a collection of crime stories. We're given details about how Ken Holmes got into a career as a death investigator (then coroner's assistant and later coroner), the training he received, and how he went about doing his job. We learn about the things Ken Holmes checked when he first came to a death scene, the importance of death certificates, and the difference between cause and manner of death. The author also explained how death notifications were done by the coroner's office, how they dealt with the media, how they interviewed people about the death, and many other aspects of Holmes' job.

We're also told about some of the cases he was involved in, from suicides and accidents to homicides. He talked about some big name cases, unusual or shocking cases, and about the many suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge. The accidents and murders were described with minimal gory detail and were more about the clues found while working the case. He gave more gory details about the suicides, though. I found the book very interesting and would recommend it to people interested in what a death investigator and coroner do and to fans of true crime stories.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Visitor's Guide to Georgian England by Monica Hall

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A Visitor's Guide to Georgian England
by Monica Hall

ISBN-13: 9781473876859
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Released: Oct. 19, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Find yourself immersed in the pivotal world of Georgian England, exciting times to live in as everything was booming; the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the nascent Empire. You will find everything you need to know in order to survive undetected among the ordinary people. What to wear, how to behave yourself in public, earn a living, and find somewhere to live. Very importantly, you will be given advice on how to stay on the right side of the law, and how to avoid getting seriously ill.

Monica Hall creatively awakens this bygone era, filling the pages with all aspects of daily life within the period, calling upon diaries, illustrations, letters, poetry, prose, 18th century laws and archives.

My Review:
A Visitor's Guide to Georgian England describes what life was like in England from 1714 to 1830. It's a brief look at various aspects of life, so we might get details about the routine of getting dressed but more of a survey of the sports played at the time. Most of the information was about the middle and upper class, but it does mention the poorer class.

The author started by providing an overview of the time period and of the attitudes that people generally held. She then looked at clothing and makeup (what they wore, how you put it on, and the makeup they made and used); what location you might choose to live in and what type of job you might take; the diseases and such you might encounter and the treatments that could be offered; fitness and sports you might engage in (with descriptions of how they were different from modern versions). She also looked at the rise of etiquette; unusual (to us) laws, how to bring someone to trial, and possible punishments; what theatre, opera, circus, and pantomime performances were like; how the lottery worked and all the ways people gambled (cards, dice, horses, etc.); what topics children were taught, and some notables from the Enlightenment.

The writing style was lightly humorous and very readable. The book focused more on what was different, so don't expect a complete, detailed look at any subject. However, it was a fun overview of Georgian England with some interesting details thrown in. I'd recommend this book to those interested in how the Georgian's were different (and yet similar) to us.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

999 CSI by Larry Henderson, Kris Hollington

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999 CSI:
Blood, Threats and Fears
by Larry Henderson,
Kris Hollington

ISBN-13: 9781910670804
Paperback: 410 pages
Publisher: Thistle Publishing
Released: Dec. 1, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Machine guns, safe-blowers, sadomasochists, pythons and flesh-eating viruses, all in a day’s work for Scenes of Crime Officer (SOCO) Larry Henderson who, in 999 CSI provides an unforgettable insight into a life dedicated to forensics.

Larry, whose career with London’s Metropolitan Police started in 1971, a time when police officers were more than a little sceptical of science, soon proved his worth and attended every kind of crime scene, from terrorism to rape and from blackmail to murder - before he became the head of the Flying Squad’s forensic team during the busiest and most dangerous period of the legendary outfit’s existence. Soon, Larry was caught up in shoot-outs, pavement ambushes, record-breaking drug deals and tiger kidnappings, confronting some of the UK’s most terrifying villains along the way.

Larry’s groundbreaking work features some of the UK’s most notorious crimes - a key piece of forensic evidence from one of Larry’s murder cases is displayed at Scotland Yard’s infamous Crime Museum. At turns breathtaking, fascinating, hilarious and tragic, 999 CSI opens up a truly astonishing world that most people never get to see, a world filled with cruelty, matched only by the courage of those who work tirelessly for justice.

My Review:
999 CSI is a memoir about Larry Henderson's years working as a Scenes of Crime Officer in London. He worked as a SOCO from 1972 to 1994 in various districts (Sutton, Wimbleton, New Malden, BatterSea, Royal A District) plus the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory and the Flying Squad. He talked about some of the cases he was involved in as a crime scene examiner (grouped by district) as well as the people he worked with and some of how the work affected his home life. He covered a great variety of cases: robbery, burglary, fatalities of various sorts, bomb threats, blackmail, rape, bestiality, drug raids, arson, kidnapping, protests, riots, and more.

For each case, he briefly described what he did at the scene and his interactions with the victim if he thought it was interesting. Since he didn't want to teach criminals how to get away with a crime, he didn't give much detail about the techniques used to catch them. Combine that with most of the cases being robberies and burglaries, and you don't need to worry about gory descriptions (though you get the feeling that it's there). He did detail his grievances with some of his bosses, though. This is the second British policing book that I've read, and both seem to feel that politics within the police/detective/forensics system is preventing that system from working well.

It was interesting to see how the scene examiners worked during those years and what the author contributed to how future generations will do that job. It was also interesting to see how a variety of crimes were handled. However, since we only get the evidence collection aspect of the job for much of the book, it did get a little repetitive. I found the Flying Squad part more interesting because he had to think about the bigger picture as he coordinated multiple people. Plus he was often on the scene when the action happened. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting memoir.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.