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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Real Eye-Opener
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...
Published on 28 Dec 2010 by Dr. H. Kara

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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was dying to read this
Through my work I have actually done a couple of operations on stiffs which was not pleasant really. However I saw this and thought 'that'll be an interesting read' but for me it's just getting to 3 stars, 2.5 really. It certainly is not a five star book.

I am not sure what I thought it would be, to be honest, and it is, on reflection, entirely predictable and...
Published on 1 Dec 2010 by Rob Sawyer


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Real Eye-Opener, 28 Dec 2010
By 
Dr. H. Kara (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician (Paperback)
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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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was dying to read this, 1 Dec 2010
By 
Rob Sawyer (Hampshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician (Paperback)
Through my work I have actually done a couple of operations on stiffs which was not pleasant really. However I saw this and thought 'that'll be an interesting read' but for me it's just getting to 3 stars, 2.5 really. It certainly is not a five star book.

I am not sure what I thought it would be, to be honest, and it is, on reflection, entirely predictable and I suspect completely made up. I don't doubt that the instances reported in the book happened, or do happen, but my cynical view is that Michelle Williams, thought it would be a good idea for a book and dreamt up or canvassed morticians and pathologists' opinions to concoct a load of short sketches in the life of a mortuary technician. You could almost predict the examples - the head in the crash helmet, the baby, the old bloke left alone etc etc. And of course if it was totally true then patient confidentiality would have gone out the window and MW would be in deep trouble. I can't see any reference to 'names have been changed' (which she should do if reprinted) although with a name like Professor Ranulph Twigworth I suspect she might have called JK Rowling for some help with the names - which got worse as the book progressed.

We also have an insight into MW's alcohol and ciggies fuelled private life which isn't particularly interesting other than occasional forays into her superiority complex.

I notice several of the reviewers offering 5*s are first time reviewers, that's always suspicious!

Having said all that I am quite glad I read it - I've read worse and I've read better. Still some credit to MW for getting a book published with, generally, excellent views, sorry it didn't do it for me
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 4 July 2011
This review is from: Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician (Paperback)
Having finished the book, on the whole, I feel a little let down. While the sleeve promises a new insight into life within a mortuary, I think the book depicts exactly what most people would expect, even those who have no prior knowledge of the subject.

I felt that the plot outside the mortuary felt forced, unneccesary and very difficult to believe in parts - also the authors personal opinions of others , if true, should definitely have been omitted as they don't paint her in a particularly favourable light!

The book is enjoyable enough as light reading but is definitely carried by the subject matter rather than the authors writing style which is stilted and, in parts, almost juvenile.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars PASS THE KNIFE AND THE BEER BOTTLE, 8 Sep 2012
This review is from: Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician (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.

Also with a total lack of a sense of irony - she bangs on about how important it was to keep confidences - and here she is writing a book about it all. There is no footnote explaining that she has changed names and place - so on the face of it - the details are correct.

The third story is her utterly boring life - with a really uninteresting and boozy family - dragging in Gramps - mum and dad and boyfriend in at every opportunity -and what a boring bunch they all are - with their only interest being boozing and smoking cigarettes. Then there's the Christmas descriptions of visits to the pub - more booze at home and then yet again more drinking. Yee Gods - what is wrong with this soul-less lot?

Some of the detail is numbingly dull and prosaic: we are treated to a blow by blow account of Michelle taking her exam - how she turned over the page and picked up her pen,peered at each question and then began to write - Oh my Gawd - help me.

What is good however is that is every chapter brings some new revelation and hair raising story about the mortuary - I did enjoy this aspect and thank the stars for it.

Overall - an intersting book spoiled by deadly dull family and booze stuff.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful!, 25 Feb 2012
By 
Lisa (Essex England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician (Paperback)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Down Among The Dull, 29 Jan 2012
I was hoping this would be an interesting read. Sadly, while there ARE interesting stories and information in here, they are buried among dull as ditchwater descriptions of the author's tedious home life and far too much moaning about being on call and the responsibilities of the job. I suppose the author is trying to emphasise the contrast between her normal home life and a job dealing with dead bodies and innards, but it is rather stating the obvious. I had thought that maybe some medical knowledge would be essential to do the work but apparently not - which means that while she can give us descriptions of the corpses and possibly how they died it's all a bit superficial.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Down Among The Dead Men, 16 Jun 2010
By 
Fiona Sands - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician (Paperback)
Fascinating and amusing book, and until you have read it you have no idea how a mortuary operates. The respect which is shown to the dead by the mortuary staff came through this book on every page. Well written and a great read, especially when I found that this was a first book for the author. I never realised what the job of a mortuary technician actually consisted of, now I know and the humanity, humour and concern came alive. The 'end of life' is normally hidden from the reading public and this book will certainly open your eyes. In short, a great read and a book that you will remember for a long time.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I just didn't enjoy this book as much as everyone else did!, 30 Aug 2010
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This review is from: Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician (Paperback)
This is an interesting subject matter; the book sleeve promises that you're about to find out what being a mortuary attendant is really like and "it's nothing like you imagined". Only, that's the problem; it's exactly how you'd imagine it. A group of people going about an, at times, upsetting and gory job, with a professional attitude of respect, in a working environment where the employees maintain a cheerful air of humour and camaraderie.

It's painfully obvious that this is the author's first book. Compare it to Blood, Sweat and Tea: Real Life Adventures in an Inner-city Ambulance by Tom Reynolds, for example (no, I'm not related to him) where the writing style is fluid and entertaining and enjoyable. This book is written in quite a stilted way, as though she's trying to write a novel rather than a factual account. I didn't really care about the minutiae of her private life, or her colleague's difficulties in getting home in a flood. A lot of it seemed like dull, unnecessary, filler material.

I hate giving up on books, so I'm forcing myself to read on, but this book is a chore, rather than a pleasure to read. I'm near the end, but still hoping to find that illusive spark that seems to have made it appeal to so many of the other reviewers on here.

One of the things that most disturbs me, if I'm honest, is the way the author describes other people in the book. Rather than being upfront, it strikes me that she looks down her nose at certain people and, dare I say it, judges them. Referring to other women as "dumpy" or "wearing too much make-up", and these are the ones who're alive, just makes me lose confidence in her impartiality.

I wanted to like this book, I really did, but I just don't.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Curious Piece, 21 July 2012
By 
Andy (Berkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Down Among the Dead Men., 3 Mar 2012
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I was a almost reluctant to buy this book, despite it being only 99p. I thought that it was probably going to be deliberately sensationalist and gory. How wrong I was! Although it does deal with some of the most unpleasant situations that you could imagine, it does so with tact. It never slips over the boundary into bad taste.
Considering that this is an account of her first year in the job, and that she is now the manager of the mortuary, some considerable time must have passed since these events occurred.
I found the book both interesting and reassuring. Also irritating, when rather too much of her family life was included.It seems to me, that a loving family/partner is essential to someone doing this sort of work, but an occasional paragraph would have been sufficient.
Other reviews have remarked on what they see as disrespect in some of the comments in the book. But we often think in a way that we would never speak. When we write, we put our thoughts on to paper. I did not think that the author was disrespectful, just honest and caring.
I enjoyed this book. If you are tempted to buy, then I recommend that you do so.
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Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician
Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician by Michelle Williams (Paperback - 24 Jun 2010)
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