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Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician

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Michelle Williams is young and attractive, with close family ties, a busy social life . . . and an unusual occupation. When she impulsively applies to be a mortuary technician and is offered the position, she has no idea that her decision to accept will be one of the most momentous of her life. “What I didn’t realize then,” she writes, “was that I was about to start one of Michelle Williams is young and attractive, with close family ties, a busy social life . . . and an unusual occupation. When she impulsively applies to be a mortuary technician and is offered the position, she has no idea that her decision to accept will be one of the most momentous of her life. “What I didn’t realize then,” she writes, “was that I was about to start one of the most amazing jobs you can do.” To Williams, life in the mortuary is neither grim nor frightening. She introduces readers to a host of unique characters: pathologists (many eccentric, some utterly crazy), undertakers, and the man from the coroner’s office who sings to her every morning. No two days are alike, and while Williams’s sensitivity to the dead never wavers, her tales from the crypt range from mischievous to downright shocking. Readers won’t forget the fitness fanatic run over while doing nighttime push-ups on the road, the man so large he had to be carted in via refrigerated truck, or the guide dog who led his owner onto railway tracks—and left him there. The indomitable Williams never bats an eye, even as she is confronted—daily—with situations that would leave the rest of us speechless.


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Michelle Williams is young and attractive, with close family ties, a busy social life . . . and an unusual occupation. When she impulsively applies to be a mortuary technician and is offered the position, she has no idea that her decision to accept will be one of the most momentous of her life. “What I didn’t realize then,” she writes, “was that I was about to start one of Michelle Williams is young and attractive, with close family ties, a busy social life . . . and an unusual occupation. When she impulsively applies to be a mortuary technician and is offered the position, she has no idea that her decision to accept will be one of the most momentous of her life. “What I didn’t realize then,” she writes, “was that I was about to start one of the most amazing jobs you can do.” To Williams, life in the mortuary is neither grim nor frightening. She introduces readers to a host of unique characters: pathologists (many eccentric, some utterly crazy), undertakers, and the man from the coroner’s office who sings to her every morning. No two days are alike, and while Williams’s sensitivity to the dead never wavers, her tales from the crypt range from mischievous to downright shocking. Readers won’t forget the fitness fanatic run over while doing nighttime push-ups on the road, the man so large he had to be carted in via refrigerated truck, or the guide dog who led his owner onto railway tracks—and left him there. The indomitable Williams never bats an eye, even as she is confronted—daily—with situations that would leave the rest of us speechless.

30 review for Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra-masx

    If if you've ever been fascinated by the Forensic Files, be prepared to be really surprised, a post mortem is absolutely nothing like they show on the tv. For starters its not even performed by the pathologist, and its very, very gruesome. I read this book through the night. Not because it was so gripping but because the first chapter plunged me immediately into the gory world of cutting dead people open and putting their innards in bowls and I kept hoping it would kind of chill so I could go to If if you've ever been fascinated by the Forensic Files, be prepared to be really surprised, a post mortem is absolutely nothing like they show on the tv. For starters its not even performed by the pathologist, and its very, very gruesome. I read this book through the night. Not because it was so gripping but because the first chapter plunged me immediately into the gory world of cutting dead people open and putting their innards in bowls and I kept hoping it would kind of chill so I could go to sleep without the potential of nightmares. It never did. Each chapter revealed another aspect of the nastiness we so quickly become once we are dead. Livid flesh, purpling bruises, green slime and everything else we quickly cover up before it disgusts us. The style is also quite fascinating. Its as if it were told by someone you used to know in school who wasn't really one of the academic girls, and who left early to go and work in a shop. Someone you met years later and had lunch with and they told what they been doing since and how they'd just started work in a mortuary. The lunch date became a regular event and each weeek your friend would tell you about the new trade she was learning. And then perhaps you left the town but she would still email you about the bodies that week and her progress towards becoming a qualified Mortuary Technician, and eventually running her own mortuary. Its absolutely fascinating, a story so far out of my experience and so well told. Its not deep, there's no philosophising, but the author's co-workers are interesting, although she makes no bones about complaining about some of the pathologists and there are plenty of anecdotes that keep the book rolling along. The author is a born raconteur and if we were friends, it probably wouldn't be tales over lunch as much as an evening out getting pissed on more than a bevy or two down at her local.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    A fascinating subject & a pretty interesting story, although there was too much about the author and I took a star off for that. I didn't want to know nearly as much as she told me about her personal life, pub crawls, or even her dogs. I like dogs & find them interesting, but they weren't germane to this story. She's British and I hadn't realized that. It didn't make a lot of difference, but does make me wonder how our system differs from theirs. I certainly have a different view of a pathology l A fascinating subject & a pretty interesting story, although there was too much about the author and I took a star off for that. I didn't want to know nearly as much as she told me about her personal life, pub crawls, or even her dogs. I like dogs & find them interesting, but they weren't germane to this story. She's British and I hadn't realized that. It didn't make a lot of difference, but does make me wonder how our system differs from theirs. I certainly have a different view of a pathology lab now. The idea of Ducky (NCIS) doing an autopsy, possibly assisted by one person, with Gibbs occasionally popping in wouldn't work at all there & I doubt it does here. Barely trained, Williams was gutting corpses and laying them out before the doctor even walked into the room. Then he'd slice & dice a bit, leave, & she'd sew everything back up for the preliminary viewing. In cases where the victim was murdered, the place sounded like a circus. Toxic or large patients were worked on by a team. I never thought of some of the problems they posed. She describes them well, sometimes a bit too well since I read most of this book during my lunch breaks. Reading about corpses that were weeks decomposed was bad, but I actually found her descriptions of those that were going ripe or had bad sores to be worse. The bed & other sores that old patients had from the bad nursing home in the area was one of the toughest parts to take. The lack of outrage was completely unbelievable. If it had been me, I would have been taking photos or inviting reporters in. (No, I wouldn't have been employed long, but some things just can't be born.) It's not as if she didn't share her feelings often enough. A young child accidentally killed or her own grandfather's death about brought her to her knees, but seeing a bedsore the size of her palm on an old lady didn't seem to phase her much. One theme that ran through the book was how her job showed her a snapshot of the person's life. A procedure caused a death, so did anyone get in trouble? What was the actual cause of death? She'd put in hours dishing up bits of the puzzle, but never seemed to learn what the pieces meant. That would have driven me mad. I don't recall seeing that names had been changed to protect the innocent, but I sure hope they were. Her opinions & stories were quite frank, to the point where some thought she was harsh. I didn't & thought they were a breath of fresh air in these PC times. She gets kudos for them. Hell, we all think that way. She just had the guts to put them honestly on paper. All in all, it wasn't a bad book, well worth the time to read. It could have been done better. Some editing to remove some of the personal bits would have helped & I would have liked a bit more detail or examples in some areas. Still, I'm glad I took the time. If you liked Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach or Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales by William M. Bass, you'll probably like this. It's not as good (I think I rated both with 5 stars.) but is another point of view. Not as authoritative, but a bit more every-man, if that makes sense.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    I wanted to love this book and as I started reading it I did. How fascinating to read about a young woman learning about life as a Mortuary technician. However, what with her pretty dull social life --going to the bar, dinner with family, hanging out with her boyfriend and dogs (probably the publisher said--you've got to put some more stuff in here and not just talk about all your experiences with the dead!) I started skimming to get back to her job. The nitty gritty of autopsies, prepping bodie I wanted to love this book and as I started reading it I did. How fascinating to read about a young woman learning about life as a Mortuary technician. However, what with her pretty dull social life --going to the bar, dinner with family, hanging out with her boyfriend and dogs (probably the publisher said--you've got to put some more stuff in here and not just talk about all your experiences with the dead!) I started skimming to get back to her job. The nitty gritty of autopsies, prepping bodies for the postmortem and looking for forensic evidence of non-natural causes of death were terrific. Her descriptions of people she didn't like were offensive (I sure hope she wasn't using real names) and her voice began to grate. In addition, the book -originally published in the UK, needed an editor. Not a copy editor but an editor to cut repetition, cut unnecessary phrases and tighten the whole thing up. With some better writing I could see the book as a long article in The New Yorker. But there's not enough meat for a book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Esme

    When this author stuck to the morgue her book was enjoyable. What I wanted to read about was her learning the ropes of her new job. The bodies, the problems, the anxieties etc. However, when she meandered off into talking about her boyfriend, their dogs, and her family's holidays, I got very bored. I also noticed two different typos in the book. Editor! Also if I had to hear this woman say "we worked like beavers" or "he had hands like shovels" again, I was going to scream. I didn't realize when When this author stuck to the morgue her book was enjoyable. What I wanted to read about was her learning the ropes of her new job. The bodies, the problems, the anxieties etc. However, when she meandered off into talking about her boyfriend, their dogs, and her family's holidays, I got very bored. I also noticed two different typos in the book. Editor! Also if I had to hear this woman say "we worked like beavers" or "he had hands like shovels" again, I was going to scream. I didn't realize when I got it that this book is about the English system, so included along with the gore were many asides about pubs and tea. (Yawn.) I'd say, let this one pass you by.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    The parts dealing with the mortuary career were so interesting, but the book suffered from a lack of introspective depth. Williams described her actual work with verve, but the intellectual and emotional insights, or even just reflections, were few and far between. The book was frustratingly shallow. And some of those few insights that were there just rubbed me the wrong way. In a throw-away sentence, Williams mused about whether family members were embarrassed that a fat relative's body required The parts dealing with the mortuary career were so interesting, but the book suffered from a lack of introspective depth. Williams described her actual work with verve, but the intellectual and emotional insights, or even just reflections, were few and far between. The book was frustratingly shallow. And some of those few insights that were there just rubbed me the wrong way. In a throw-away sentence, Williams mused about whether family members were embarrassed that a fat relative's body required additional effort and manpower to remove in the hour after his death, and I just scowled at the book. I'm really not supportive of inflicting shame on people for their bodies--or the bodies of their loved ones, for Pete's sake!--and Williams wondering whether embarrassment was the dominant feeling of the relatives seems pretty shallow and cruel, and it made Williams come across as really unsympathetic to me. It was such an unnecessary show of being belittling. The intrusions of unnecessary descriptions of Williams's personal life brought the book down because, so often, all the chatter about her life outside the morgue was not relevant, or only barely relevant, and yet passages were devoted to lengthy descriptions of things like choosing a place to eat dinner. The times when Williams' personal life did intersect with her work, those passages were memorable and moving. But like with the introspection, these times were infrequent. The quick anecdotes, the lack of connection between said anecdotes, and the chatty-but-shallow tone left me thinking that the book would have been better suited in the format of a blog.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amina

    wow, it really was a year with Michelle, Clive, Graham, Ed and Maddie, through the pages of that book, you travel in a world kept secret in every hospital, the morgue, an incridible journey with the dead!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Megan Hex

    The good: - I didn't realize it, but this book was written in England, and therefore gave me a slightly different view of mortuary work than I've seen in US books. - The book didn't shy away from details, even if they were gory or painful. The bad: - Basically any parts not in the mortuary were quite boring. - There's some weird judginess on the part of the author about fat corpses that was a real turnoff; much of the book talks about respect for the dead, which I guess doesn't count for anyone who d The good: - I didn't realize it, but this book was written in England, and therefore gave me a slightly different view of mortuary work than I've seen in US books. - The book didn't shy away from details, even if they were gory or painful. The bad: - Basically any parts not in the mortuary were quite boring. - There's some weird judginess on the part of the author about fat corpses that was a real turnoff; much of the book talks about respect for the dead, which I guess doesn't count for anyone who died fat. Overall an interesting read, but I'd recommend Caitlin Doughty's first book over this for a better look at deathcare.

  8. 4 out of 5

    JennaL

    Not really certain how this writer got her book deal, short of some rude options involving either personal favors or perhaps she helped cover a death for a publisher. Because... wow. This is really dreadful. The concept could have made for a fascinating book but it would have been more entertaining to sit and listen to someone read the phone book in a monotone. Wonderful to suddenly decide to take a new direction in you life, but if the goal was to demystify the last moments of existence before b Not really certain how this writer got her book deal, short of some rude options involving either personal favors or perhaps she helped cover a death for a publisher. Because... wow. This is really dreadful. The concept could have made for a fascinating book but it would have been more entertaining to sit and listen to someone read the phone book in a monotone. Wonderful to suddenly decide to take a new direction in you life, but if the goal was to demystify the last moments of existence before burial, this is a failure. Not because it doesn't accurately explain what occurs during an autopsy - but because it is just so unrelentingly and blandly told. Any job can be fascinating, any career can spark off interest in the right hands. But the author approaches both her job as a mortuary tech AND a writer with the exact same blank tone one takes reading off the directions on how to use a self-check out scanner at the grocery. Bland grey disconnected 'and this happened, while we listed to the radio and waited for the paperwork to come through' nonsense. I'm a fast read, but I still feel like I should be given the hour back I spent reading this. Technical manuals are put together with more style. And I'm terribly sorry, but simply being able to string a grammatically correct statement together doesn't make you a write, if that's all that is required, Siri on my iPhone would be up for a Pulitzer. This might have been written to pull back some of the mystery, but if it was, please pull that sheet RIGHT back over the dead body of this book! If 'due to paperwork snags' an obese corpse is allowed to mold, mildew, rot, leak and generally ooze for nearly a week in an unrefrigerated space - the mortuary the author wrote for should either be filing criminal charges against the ineffectual idiot who kept 'forgetting' to send the proper paperwork, or her bosses should be tried for criminal laziness for refusing to even TRY to move the process forward. She rambles on and on about preserving the final dignities of a body, how she won't gossip about what happens to a person (she won't talk details to family, but is fine writing a book and giving blow by blow descriptions of a body to the world? Talk about a seriously weird world view) but this book is just... bad. Badly written, badly conceived, badly assembled and badly/barely thought out. There are dozens of writers who cover this type of material who do an amazing job - both in the fiction and factual worlds. It's not the gore that disgusts me, it's the utterly thrilled to be mediocre in all things - job/writing/life of the author. Find something else to read. Really. Anything. Looked at in the right light, reading that phonebook I mentioned above would at least leave you in the end with a bit of information lodged and a grasp of your local area codes. The only thing I came away with after reading this is a serious irritation I stuck with it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gayle

    I found this book delightful, despite (or perhaps due to?) the less than beautiful descriptions of dead bodies in various stages of decay and abuse. The things we see and read today get so sanitized and “prettied up” that it is truly a treat to be exposed to real, real life—not the made up, doctored and produced crap we are fed on “reality” T.V. Michelle Williams simply relates the story of her new job as a mortuary technician with Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), giving us a complete de I found this book delightful, despite (or perhaps due to?) the less than beautiful descriptions of dead bodies in various stages of decay and abuse. The things we see and read today get so sanitized and “prettied up” that it is truly a treat to be exposed to real, real life—not the made up, doctored and produced crap we are fed on “reality” T.V. Michelle Williams simply relates the story of her new job as a mortuary technician with Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), giving us a complete description of her and her coworkers’ duties, dedication (or not) to the job, and personalities. She also includes what they do during their off time, just in case we believe that working in a mortuary somehow makes you anything other than just a human. I enjoyed the humor—yes there is humor—probably because my dad loved death humor so I was exposed early and often! For example, my dad’s favorite joke of all time involved the road construction worker who was run over by one of those huge road roller machines that flattens out newly laid asphalt. It was a weekend and the funeral home was closed, so they just slipped him under the door. (I swear, my dad was not weird! He was just really, really funny.) I also recognized the people because I grew up in a very tiny town where everyone knew everyone else, and all stories were public. I went to school with the children of the local undertaker/funeral home owner. He had a fine collection of classic cars, lent a couple to the makers of the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde, and was rewarded by first having to harass them into returning his cars, and then by getting them back with “bullet” holes in them! Believe me when I tell you that this was the event of the decade in that town! If you are not put off by real life descriptions of things you don’t usually see or even want to see personally, and would like some laughs, then I highly recommend this book. It’s a fun, quick, and easy read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Reading this book was like meeting an ordinary person on the bus and chatting about her day at work. Except in this case she works, not as an office office assistant or shop clerk, but as a mortuary technician. There was no grand story arc, just 51 short chapters, each about the events of one day. I must admit I finished the book wondering how she came to write it. The Michelle Williams portrayed here gives no hint of being interested in writing. What happened next in her life that lead to her w Reading this book was like meeting an ordinary person on the bus and chatting about her day at work. Except in this case she works, not as an office office assistant or shop clerk, but as a mortuary technician. There was no grand story arc, just 51 short chapters, each about the events of one day. I must admit I finished the book wondering how she came to write it. The Michelle Williams portrayed here gives no hint of being interested in writing. What happened next in her life that lead to her writing a memoir?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andi M.

    In the grand tradition of me loving morbid books, this one is a winner. Michelle Williams is an Everywoman who happens to get a job in the mortuary. It's gross and sweet, all wrapped up in one book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chandré Louw

    I might as well start off with the good , since there isn't much for me in this one (Sorry Michelle). I really did like that I could relate to the writers anxiousness within a new job. The trials and trivialization that come with diving in head-first. That's about it. Here's a list of things I really didn't like: We get it, you go the pub often. How can someone working in a mortuary technicians position not want to further their education? In connection with that, how can someone with help from a f I might as well start off with the good , since there isn't much for me in this one (Sorry Michelle). I really did like that I could relate to the writers anxiousness within a new job. The trials and trivialization that come with diving in head-first. That's about it. Here's a list of things I really didn't like: We get it, you go the pub often. How can someone working in a mortuary technicians position not want to further their education? In connection with that, how can someone with help from a forensic pathologist and constant experience on her side barely scrape through a mortuary technicians exam? To not know what the coronary circulatory system is after so much first hand experience is honestly just beyond me. Michelle just seems a lot like Graham, just wanting to get the job done without advancing much and likes the idea of it and telling people what she does more than anything else. As an aspiring mortuary technician it saddens me to see so much of the routine, work and terminology go over the authors head. Something about this book and the reason for writing it just doesn't make much sense to me. At least it was an easy read and there was some educational and fairly entertaining content. My impression is that the author definitely did make an impression on her colleagues and must be a likeable person, but I doubt this is her passion.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bunny

    Worst book EVER to read during my lunch break from work. WORST EVER. OH MY GOD. But other than THAT. I do love memoirs about people's work life. This falls neatly into the good pile. Detailed, without being too detailed. Not too much medical jargon, but you really understand what it is she does for a living (did for a living? Not sure if she still does it), what training was required, the hardships she faced. And hey, I actually know what eviscerated means now. Which means I am going to use it en Worst book EVER to read during my lunch break from work. WORST EVER. OH MY GOD. But other than THAT. I do love memoirs about people's work life. This falls neatly into the good pile. Detailed, without being too detailed. Not too much medical jargon, but you really understand what it is she does for a living (did for a living? Not sure if she still does it), what training was required, the hardships she faced. And hey, I actually know what eviscerated means now. Which means I am going to use it endlessly. Especially the tongue part. Seriously, this book is so neat. Don't read it while eating. Especially soup.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessie Drew

    Highly recommend this straight and simple but not boring memoir. It’s just as much about taking the challenge to change your own life story, as it is about the ins and outs of working in a mortuary. Her writing is sensitive and clear and I care about her without judgment. Also, it’s always fun, IMO, to read about the everyday life of a person who lives in another country. The slang, euphemisms & procedure of customs fascinate me. The book definitely satisfies the morbid curiosity that drew me to th Highly recommend this straight and simple but not boring memoir. It’s just as much about taking the challenge to change your own life story, as it is about the ins and outs of working in a mortuary. Her writing is sensitive and clear and I care about her without judgment. Also, it’s always fun, IMO, to read about the everyday life of a person who lives in another country. The slang, euphemisms & procedure of customs fascinate me. The book definitely satisfies the morbid curiosity that drew me to the book to begin with.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was interesting but I'm not sure that I'd recommend it to people who enjoy the subject. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to people who don't enjoy the subject. There were times where her turn of casual phrase caused me to stop and wonder who her editor was (I had to look at the pub year a few times). The writing was also definitely not the strongest point. She had did have a few interesting stories and tidbits but on the whole I'd go with some more modern memoirs such as Caitlin Doughty's This was interesting but I'm not sure that I'd recommend it to people who enjoy the subject. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to people who don't enjoy the subject. There were times where her turn of casual phrase caused me to stop and wonder who her editor was (I had to look at the pub year a few times). The writing was also definitely not the strongest point. She had did have a few interesting stories and tidbits but on the whole I'd go with some more modern memoirs such as Caitlin Doughty's if you're looking into this.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    2.5 I'm a big fan of anything to do with working in the death industry. I enjoyed Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner and I adored Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory last year, so I was hoping to love this one as well. However, this one was a little too tame for me. Not only were the descriptions of the ins and outs of her job quite mundane, but there were entire chapters about completely irrelevant happenings of her out of work lif 2.5 I'm a big fan of anything to do with working in the death industry. I enjoyed Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner and I adored Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory last year, so I was hoping to love this one as well. However, this one was a little too tame for me. Not only were the descriptions of the ins and outs of her job quite mundane, but there were entire chapters about completely irrelevant happenings of her out of work life. I don't need to know what it was like to go see a rugby game - what on earth does this have to do with your job? There didn't seem to be any overarching theme to the book either, like there has been in other books I've read of this nature. Towards the end there's her exams to be able to run a mortuary, but the book ends with her getting her results and it's a bit anticlimactic. There were times were I just had to put this book down because I couldn't concentrate. I had a flight home without in-flight entertainment that was five hours long and I still couldn't focus on the book it was that dull to read. Would I recommend it to people? Maybe. It wouldn't be my first choice.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    Read this book in two sittings. Not for the squeamish for sure but a fascinating read. Enjoyed the British expressions and how close knit her family was. Could have been written better but that did not affect my enjoyment of the book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    It's very interesting to see what goes on in a hospital mortuary, and to see how the author grew into the job. I was less interested in the constant trips to pubs with family and co-workers, and all the hangovers that resulted. Aside from the job, she seems relentlessly average. She talks a lot about how respectful she and her co-workers are to the dead and their families. But she was blatantly disrespectful and contemptuous of a man who died while cross-dressed in women's clothing. That pretty It's very interesting to see what goes on in a hospital mortuary, and to see how the author grew into the job. I was less interested in the constant trips to pubs with family and co-workers, and all the hangovers that resulted. Aside from the job, she seems relentlessly average. She talks a lot about how respectful she and her co-workers are to the dead and their families. But she was blatantly disrespectful and contemptuous of a man who died while cross-dressed in women's clothing. That pretty much ruined the book for me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    This is a look at a worker in a mortuary under the NHS in Great Britain. Williams explains how she decided to take the job and what her training was. Some of the people who came through her mortuary were there due to accidents, the worst being the tiny girl who was accidentally run over by a grandparent. What the routine was when they had to help investigate murder victims, which seemed very different from what we see on American forensic shows. Of course, there are those that came through her b This is a look at a worker in a mortuary under the NHS in Great Britain. Williams explains how she decided to take the job and what her training was. Some of the people who came through her mortuary were there due to accidents, the worst being the tiny girl who was accidentally run over by a grandparent. What the routine was when they had to help investigate murder victims, which seemed very different from what we see on American forensic shows. Of course, there are those that came through her building that had medical science could not help. The book doesn't pull any punches, she tells how hard some cases are. She also looks at the morbid humor that many in law enforcement and the medical field use as a coping mechanism. I especially liked the book because it looked into how deaths are handled in a different country. I enjoyed seeing how different many of things that happened were, but the similarities were fascinating as well.

  20. 5 out of 5

    John Paxton

    While not as well written as Dr Melenick's book Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner but it's quite a different process one takes to be tech vs a pathologist. The book is set in the UK, I'm from there,there's no concessions when it comes to using idioms or referencing the culture,so while it didn't bother me it may be puzzling at times if American-English is your thing.Still we're here to learn What can you expect? More like a series of blog posts,the only n While not as well written as Dr Melenick's book Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner but it's quite a different process one takes to be tech vs a pathologist. The book is set in the UK, I'm from there,there's no concessions when it comes to using idioms or referencing the culture,so while it didn't bother me it may be puzzling at times if American-English is your thing.Still we're here to learn What can you expect? More like a series of blog posts,the only narrative really is that of time moving forward,gaining experience and from the point of view of falling into the job vs education first,you can do this ass backwards in the UK ( though not during reconstruction please) Her descriptions of the job,people and the various interesting states the dead arrive in are always interesting, non-repetitive and visceral and easily make four stars. I would like to blame the editor, more than the author,for the pacing and while there's a lot of the personal that can be left in where it intersects with the job most of it is out of place,as I said reads like a blog over the years,a really good blog. Crime is a minor occurrence so for the most part it's natural and accidental death with the odd,there's at least one odd suicide and a few cases of misadventure that are probably best read prior to lunch.While criminal cases feature, and you get an insight how another country deals with the same issues, it's not the main focus and for that alone it's worth a read. Review edited to fix a few glaring typos

  21. 4 out of 5

    Claude

    At first I thought this book was poorly edited as some sentences don't make sense. But after reading the whole thing I realised that the author actually writes sentences as she probably says them, in some sort of hideous English accent, using slang sentence structures that she are used amongst the people she knows. It is always disappointing hearing the ENglish speak as it sounds so ugly, and this (unfortunately) can sometimes translate to text. I am being harsh, the book was kind of interesting At first I thought this book was poorly edited as some sentences don't make sense. But after reading the whole thing I realised that the author actually writes sentences as she probably says them, in some sort of hideous English accent, using slang sentence structures that she are used amongst the people she knows. It is always disappointing hearing the ENglish speak as it sounds so ugly, and this (unfortunately) can sometimes translate to text. I am being harsh, the book was kind of interesting, it's just a shame that a person from England wrote it, I am assuming she isn't very literary minded nor intelligent. Maybe it's just my mood today but I really dislike the English, and feel this book would have been better written by someone not so middle class. I never thought I would say that, but this girl aka the author, I imagine is the type of person that caused the French to hate the bourgeoisie. She appears to only see what is directly in front of her! Perhaps I am being vastly critical of an author I know little else about but her profession, but I do believe you can surmise a lot from the words she has written. She is a meat-eater and that alone tells me she is a fucked up selfish person that lives for her own gratitude. She is old enough to know that such eating habits need to be reconsidered, or else people like me shall just deem her as a selfish materialistic cunt, meat-eating indicates that my criticism is not unfounded and that it is indeed accurate. I never insult the innocent.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Blanchard

    Some years ago, I assisted pathologists with autopsies, nothing special and just assisting. Found the whole thing fascinating and learned to sew. A lot of stories from that time. This book is Michelle William's story of her time during the course of one year working in the Mortuary area of a hospital. An obvious read for me. The post mortem (PM) is one of those necessary facts of life that determines cause of death. An area most people shy away from. Whether you agree to the cutting open of the h Some years ago, I assisted pathologists with autopsies, nothing special and just assisting. Found the whole thing fascinating and learned to sew. A lot of stories from that time. This book is Michelle William's story of her time during the course of one year working in the Mortuary area of a hospital. An obvious read for me. The post mortem (PM) is one of those necessary facts of life that determines cause of death. An area most people shy away from. Whether you agree to the cutting open of the human body does not matter in some cases as the law dictates it must be done. There are procedures, regulations, and safety concerns. And then, there are the people who live it everyday, surrounded by death, and it is their job. This book besides being what Michelle experienced takes in the events in her life and the relationships with her colleagues. Make no mistake, this is not an indepth true crime best seller. This is one young woman's experiences with the work at hand and her daily dealings with those around who also deal with death. Working in an area where most people find ooky cements close connections and affects your life outside. Some of the reviews you might encounter need to understand this. Some of the writing may come off as gross but only because you haven't dealt with it. This is a book subjective in some ways while releasing the facts in other ways.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This was not the best book and was full of a few mistakes. One of the most confusing was on the back cover. It mentioned a guide dog leading his owner onto the railway track and leaving him there. There is only one store that really matches but it did not involve railroad tracks. The spelling mistakes were a bit easier to deal with but when it appeared a word was missing it was a bit harder. The way she writes and the people talk is a bit confusing though I understand they are from the United Ki This was not the best book and was full of a few mistakes. One of the most confusing was on the back cover. It mentioned a guide dog leading his owner onto the railway track and leaving him there. There is only one store that really matches but it did not involve railroad tracks. The spelling mistakes were a bit easier to deal with but when it appeared a word was missing it was a bit harder. The way she writes and the people talk is a bit confusing though I understand they are from the United Kingdom. Taking place in the UK the way things are done are a bit different though the author never really went into details on anything. I could not really believe though that they just let anybody get a job at the morgue without any real training or experience. If it was me or my family I hope the person cutting me up know what they are doing. Still not an really bad book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    This is an intriguing, entertaining and honest account of life as a mortuary technician written during Williams' first year in the job following a change in career and a good bit of luck. She is open and honest throughout the book and through her stories and those of her colleagues shows the work she and other technicians like her in a clear light, not shying away from anything (including the joys of the decomposing dead). The writing isn't spectacular but as Williams is not a natural writer thi This is an intriguing, entertaining and honest account of life as a mortuary technician written during Williams' first year in the job following a change in career and a good bit of luck. She is open and honest throughout the book and through her stories and those of her colleagues shows the work she and other technicians like her in a clear light, not shying away from anything (including the joys of the decomposing dead). The writing isn't spectacular but as Williams is not a natural writer this is expected and she does write as herself without trying to be something she's not, which is a pleasant change from some biographies out there. Overall this is a really interesting read that gives a warts and all look into mortuary life and the characters that come through their doors.

  25. 4 out of 5

    John

    I'm giving this one four stars for holding my attention so well. The author's not a professional writer, nor does she claim to be; I'm fairly picky about writing quality, and was able to deal with the fact that she was relating anecdotes from her early days on the job, not penning an oeuvre. Things do get a tad grisly in places, though my squeamish self managed those okay. I didn't mind details of her personal life, and those of her colleagues, at all - they added to the story as to who would ta I'm giving this one four stars for holding my attention so well. The author's not a professional writer, nor does she claim to be; I'm fairly picky about writing quality, and was able to deal with the fact that she was relating anecdotes from her early days on the job, not penning an oeuvre. Things do get a tad grisly in places, though my squeamish self managed those okay. I didn't mind details of her personal life, and those of her colleagues, at all - they added to the story as to who would take this job. Definitely recommended, except for the very squeamish - I skipped the actual details of the fellow run over by the combine!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christiane

    I am endlessly fascinated by jobs I would never, ever want under any circumstances. Michelle applies for a job as a mortuary technician almost on a whim, and ends up literally cutting up and eviscerating dead bodies, and finding she is actually rather good at it. This isn't the best written book in the world, and I admit I sometimes became a little impatient with how immature the author seems in some places, but the subject matter keeps you reading. It's also set in England so I kept imagining t I am endlessly fascinated by jobs I would never, ever want under any circumstances. Michelle applies for a job as a mortuary technician almost on a whim, and ends up literally cutting up and eviscerating dead bodies, and finding she is actually rather good at it. This isn't the best written book in the world, and I admit I sometimes became a little impatient with how immature the author seems in some places, but the subject matter keeps you reading. It's also set in England so I kept imagining their proper British accents as they were putting the kettle on after an autopsy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kerri (Book Hoarder)

    I kept reading this mostly for the stories about the various deaths and how they're dealt with, to be honest. Morbid, but it's a job that people do and this gives insight into what their job entails. The insight into the author's life, though... Not so interesting, except her relationship with her grandfather. Sometimes I felt as though the jump back and forth was too acute - it's like random insights strung together and some writers can carry that off, but others can't, like here.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jen Michalski

    Although I'm usually a big fan of Soft Skull's offerings, I actually couldn't finish this. Chapters were crafted poorly, and Williams is not a writer. An editor should have stepped up and made this book more readable and compelling.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Redfox5

    I wouldn't mind being a Mortuary Technician. Very interesting. Michelle tells her story well. With a mix of her work and personal life and how one affects the other. I shed a few tears for Gramps. Chuckled at some of the banter they have going. Good read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Xanthi

    This book was disappointing. It was not well written, had lots of waffling, and the author was not the least bit likeable for various reasons. The potential was there, thanks to the subject matter, but the writing skills and talent were absent.

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