Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Education of a Coroner by John Bateson

book cover
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.

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