Friday, 4 May 2018

All That Remains: A Life in Death by Sue Black

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.

Sue Black first came to my attention when I saw her on television. She presents as an exciting person to watch and  listen to so when I saw this book I had no hesitation about reading it despite its potentially macabre and depressing topic. 

However, nothing could be further from the truth. For those of you who have not seen her on television she is a red-headed Scot who is full of enthusiasm for her subject and who brings the subject of forensic anthropology to life in her own unique way. As an anatomist she has much to say on the subject of death. However, her very down to earth manner ensures that this book is uplifting and positive to read. I was absolutely gripped by her writing and finished this book within a couple of days.

It is true that there are some difficult subjects to consider in this book. The author has worked in areas of mass fatalities such as Kosovo, Thailand following the tsunami in 2004 and also London following the bombings on the 7th July 2005. All horrendous situations but she talks about her work with compassion, sensitivity and knowledge.

Sprinkled amongst all this is evidence of Sue's infectious humour. However, I do not in any way want to suggest that she is light hearted about death, identification of the dead or those who bequeath their bodies to science. Rather she demonstrates tremendous respect for the dead and those left behind but she writes about this in a way that enables the reader to understand the science, medicine and challenges behind what she does in a way that makes it fascinating to read about.

I highly recommend this book. It will appeal to anyone who is interested in science as well as those who enjoy crime fiction. The author works closely with Val McDermid and other crime writers and her influence on books of this genre can be seen in this book. 

Do let me know your thoughts on this fascinating book when you read it.

ISBN: 9780857524928

Publisher: Random House UK

About the Author:

Sue Black is Professor of Anatomy and Anthropology at the University of Dundee. She graduated from the University of Aberdeen and later studied for her PhD there. 

She was awarded an OBE in 2001 for her services to forensic anthropology in Kosovo. In 2016 she was listed in the Queen's Birthday Honors for her continued services to forensic anthropology.

She lives in Scotland with her husband and three daughters.

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