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Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician Paperback – 10 Jun 2010


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Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician + Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers + Cause of Death: Memoirs of a Home Office Pathologist
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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (10 Jun. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849010293
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849010290
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.8 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

What is it like to work in a mortuary? Nothing like you'd expect, actually . . .

About the Author

Michelle Williams started working for the NHS over 15 years ago where she worked as a senior health care assistant. She has since worked as an anatomical pathology technician and is now a mortuary manager. She lives in Cheltenham.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rocke Harder on 8 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
There are three stories in this book and only one is interesting.

The interesting one is what goes on in a mortuary - this was fascinating. I very much enjoyed reading about the routines in the mortuary - the individual cases and the interaction between the staff - the bereaved families and undertakers. This was very insightful and a real eye opener. Michelle Williams writes all of this in a very mumsy and irritating style but she gets the story out - which was important. These folks are dedicated to their jobs and work hard - and this was very impressive. Okay - so she writes like a teenager - but it's the story that counts.

Michelle is also impressive - in that she gets on with this work - and even passes an exam - she also had the balls to write a book about it (with help) - so good on her; she seems to have drive - which is excellent.

The second story is about the booze - and how much she drinks - which was a hell of a lot. In this book there are so many lines similar to the following: "That night, I dived into the Merlot as soon as I could" - and there are many other such lines - about her and her boyfriend and family spending half of their lives drinking alcohol and getting over hangovers. It was if I had entered a nether world of drunkards. What was amusing was Michelle's lack of awareness about her over indulgence and there is a story of two alcoholics dying and having their livers cut up and examined and Michelle describes how yellow and fatty they looked - and without any sense of irony she carries on her booze cruise stories and fails to realise that her liver will probably resemble these ones....eventually.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dr. H. Kara on 28 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book for my new Kindle on the morning of Boxing Day, and finished it just two days later because it was so interesting. In places I had to keep my mind's eye shut because there were some gruesome scenes that I didn't want to imagine too clearly. But that didn't put me off.

Michelle Williams, by her own admission, was delighted to leave school straight after her GCSEs, and only scraped a pass on her first professional exam 15 years later. Therefore it is particularly impressive that she has managed to write a credible and readable book (which is nowhere near as easy as some people think). Her account came across as straightforward and honest, both about her personal and her professional life, which she intertwines as usual in a work-based memoir.

This book has definitely filled a gap in my knowledge of what happens between someone dying and their body reaching the funeral director's office. Of course not everyone's body goes through a hospital mortuary, but many do, and in my work as a humanist funeral celebrant it's useful to know about all aspects of the 'death industry'. And knowing more about what mortuary staff deal with in their work has increased my respect for them and for their profession. I have never been to a mortuary, and the thought of maybe having to identify a body one day has always filled me with dread. Now I've read this book, I wouldn't be so scared.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lisa on 25 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have no doubt that the life of a mortuary technician is an interesting and varied one, albeit one that most of us would find distasteful. But to make a book on any subject interesting and worth reading, the author has to be able to write, and clearly It is a skill that Michelle Williams does no possess. I must admit I almost gave up while reading the prologue but persevered for a further two chapters before giving up to read something written by a real writer. Reading this book was like wading through a badly written GCSE essay. They say we all have a book inside of us but sometimes that's where it should stay. Of course this is just my opinion and if you like simple essays rather than real literature then read on. Thank goodness I only paid 99p during Kindle Daily Deal!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andy on 21 July 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Coming to this with no pre-conceptions, I did find it curiously attractive. It's not a great piece of writing, but because it addresses such a left-field subject, it kept me reading. Normally this kind of anecdotal material ends up in a blog, and chapters were often very short, usually concerning just one body. We often don't find out the end of the story - what happened at the inquest, and so on - which is a bit of a shame, but then the book was more about the effect of the case on the author rather than the case itself.

A few odd things: the blurb seems to refer to a different revision of the text than the one I read. I don't recall the author saying she is "attractive"; her social life seems quite circumscribed for a 30-year old; and did I really miss the guide-dog story?

Also, there's the issue of discretion. The Gloucestershire death business can't be a large arena, and these are anecdotes from recent times. Even with "names changed", people will surely know who and what is meant. I would imagine the author's phone burned red hot in the weeks after publication.

Then there's the author herself, who comes across as just the kind of person who doesn't normally take on the arduous task of writing a book and getting it published. She's apparently got no education beyond 16 and little confidence in her own academic abilities. I didn't see any mention of a journalist friend or anyone else who would have helped.

No matter, the finished work is worth an extended browse, maybe even buying a copy.
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