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on 10 August 2001
Anyone with an interest in criminology or forensic pathology will enjoy (if that is a suitable word) this fascinating insight of human nature. The authors do not dwell on the horrors, but use an unique personal insight, case notes, pictures and honest emotions to explain some of the most infamous crimes committed in the UK. Explores the intricate relationships of many specialities eg police, facial reconstruction, scene of crimes in a no waffle manner. An excellent if sometimes distrubing read.
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on 14 August 2004
This book is a selection of cases in which the need for the highly developed technologies of forensic science are used to "tell" more of the story than of that which first appears.
The cases are recalled by Dr. Geoffrey Garrett, previously senior Home Office pathologist for the North West of England. In a career spanning over thirty years Dr. Geoffrey Garrett is the main character, with the first case, on being appointed Home Office pathologist in 1968. Dead bodies and mortuaries, both familiar to Dr. Garrett, as he was already a consultant pathologist at Oldham Royal Infirmary. Working as Home Office pathologist and closely with the police involves looking for evidence and causes when foul play is suspected.
Crimes involving murder, the drugs' world, misfortunes and horrific accidents are considered in this book and the results and findings only science can provide. The Forensic Science Lab deals with cases from three main sections:
BIOLOGY. This section deals with crimes against the person.
CHEMISTRY. This section deals with crimes against property including glass and paint analysis and fires.
TOXICOLOGY. This section deals with poisons, drugs and alcohol.
This book covered all of the areas of the forensic science lab and included the need for subspecialties within the broad area of forensic science that may be called upon when investigating crime and criminals e.g. Odontology ( the study of teeth ).
Anthropology ( the study of human beings ).
Pathology ( the examination of body tissues and fluids ).
In the introduction, the procedure of a post mortem examination is explained, and allows the reader to understand that each case is approached differently and the prime considerations can lead to dismissal or further investigation of foul play. The importance of accurate recording and collection of samples is looked at and explains that it is not only the body that is examined but also the crime scene area is where the forensic pathologist begins the investigation.
There are twenty-seven photographic illustrations depicting crime scenes, grisly remains, murder weapons, personal belongings of victims and a holdall which contained the remains of a seven year old girl. The chapters were short and in plain easy to understand terminology suitable for the lay person. Forensic science has developed rapidly over the last one hundred years and leaves the reader wondering how many innocent people were wrongly imprisoned and at worst, sent to the gallows. The importance of not just accepting what appears to have happened comes across strongly in this book and it also gives a rare insight into the complex subject of forensic pathology.
The chapters of the book did not have any continuity about them and repeatedly I found myself referring to the start of each chapter to verify which decade the case focused on occurred. On a scale of 1 to 5 I rate this book * * * *.The reasons for this being;
1. Plain, simple easy explanations of very complex field of science.
2. Brief background study of each case.
3. A glimpse into all fields of forensic science.
4. Each chapter short and precise.
5. A good selection of photographs relating to each case.
This book is packed with fascinating stories as told by the pathologist Dr. Geoffrey Garrett looking back on a thirty year career of drugs, medicine and mortuaries. I certainly will be making a trip back to the bookshop as I want to read more on Dr. Garretts' work and investigations.
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This book definitely isn't for the squeamish but if you are interested in crime or forensic pathology it is essential reading. As well as providing a brief run-down of what happens at a post mortem the book provides fascinating insights into the part played in criminal investigations by a forensic pathologist. In over thirty years of work the author was involved in some high profile cases such as the Moors Murders but much of his work would not have made the headlines except locally.

I found the less well known cases fascinating reading and I liked the way they were grouped under subject headings - such as those involving fire. But it wasn't just criminal cases which the author was involved in. He gives interesting, if gruesome accounts of his work in connection with fires in an office block and in a department store. There are tragic cases such as fathers killing their children and there are mysterious cases such as the man who was found naked in a wood surrounded by his clothes. The author even found himself having to try and convince the police that one body he examined was actually the victim of murder - they were sure it was an accident or an unexplained death from natural causes.

The author makes it possible for the reader to understand his work and provides information about some interesting cases including those where the victims died of natural causes. I found his thoughts on death and on abortion, both legal and illegal of interest and both those chapters provided me with food for thought. The book has notes on the sources referred to which may provide further reading inspiration for the interested reader.
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on 28 September 2013
This book is written by a Medical Examiner who carried out the Post Mortem on Pauline Reade-one of the Moors' murderers' victims. Many other cases from years ago which were in the headlines are detailed and this proves fascinating reading. Photos are included of findings at each crime scene. Highly recommended.
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on 8 January 2008
Dr. Garrett shares many fascinating stories from his long career as a pathologist. Some of his "patients" were victims of some of Britain's most notorius killers. Others were killed by mobsters, the friendly neighbour, or even their father or husband. The doctor also gives us a glimpse into the working conditions of the mortuaries, which I hope have improved since then! Even if some cases propably were pretty straightforward, the author manages to create a suspense that kept me from putting the book down. There are also a lot of "english understatement" that adds to books over-all quality.
The weakest passages are where the dear doctor moves to fields where he has no expertise, and may I add, not very well funded opinions. It is not surprising that a pathologist form beliefs of right and wrong and how the legal system should work, after all they see the raw consequences of crime. The problem is that he does not add anything of value to this discussion, and I found these chapters boring and outdated. For this reason I rate the book 3 stars. I still think Cause of Death is worth reading as it contains a lot of interesting facts and well written stories.
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on 5 November 2003
Andrew Nott is one of the most entertaining authors around, who's perfected his skill after years of working as a crime reporter. His ability to enthrall and shock at the same time makes this one of the best written factual accounts I've seen in a long time. I would really like to see more from this young man.
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on 14 March 2014
This book embraces, in a very superficial manner, the reminicences of a forescic pathologist who dealt with, over 4 decades, the autipsies of 1638persons during a criminal investigation.
Various chapters deal with means of death- murder rape,accident and strangulation plus the instruments used in the killings eg.guns,knives,bombs,fists,fire, and many other weapons.
All told with good detail (pathology) but there is a bit too much moralising.
Agood and easy read.
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on 30 April 2013
This book reads like an objective macro report of a series of specimens. It is written accurately and professionally. However, the stories behind the deaths seem to have been written as a separate piece of work to the examination of the body. In this way the story's context seems deficient and ropey compared to the descriptions of the body. This is understandable because the writer had a professional role in the procedure and probably less of a role with the perpetrator of the crime. This book is an interesting chronicle of the forensic pathological investigations which took place in Lancashire and Greater Manchester. Both informative and entertaining "Cause of Death" will definitely satisfy your morbid curiosity
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 January 2013
I found the forensic details of post mortems of murder victims interesting but, because the victims are identified by named, I often felt uneasy that their families would be upset by the graphic descriptions of injuries and the details of the pathologists opinion about the length and severity of suffering prior to death or unconsciousness. The book is an odd mix of explicit medical details, at times light-hearted descriptions surrounding a murder and a fair amount of opinion about ethical issues.

If you get queasy at thoughts of blood and guts I'd say don't read the book, otherwise it is informative about the very important role played by pathologists in solving crimes.
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on 4 August 2014
Fascinating to someone interested in forensics but a little 'over graphic' to those unused to such things - would not recommend leaving around if child in house....well written, interesting - not a read for nights alone with trees creaking outside1! Squirrel 59 - m 4.8.14
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