THE CAUSE OF DEATH: TRUE STO­RIES OF DEATH AND MUR­DER FROM A NEW ZEALAND PATHOL­O­GIST

North & South - - Photo Essay -

DR CYNRIC TEM­PLE- CAMP (HARPERCOLLINS, $ 39.99)

Peo­ple who work with death are much prized as dinner-party guests. They go reg­u­larly where the rest of us will go but once. And we have lots of ques­tions for them, some of which will be an­swered in this mem­oir. What’s an ex­huma­tion re­ally like? How bad does the smell get? Did Mark Lundy re­ally do it? Well, that one doesn’t come up too of­ten, but it was Tem­ple-camp whose ev­i­dence about blood found on Lundy, taken all the way to the Privy Coun­cil and back, nailed the histri­onic pur­veyor of kitchen sinks.

At home in Rhode­sia, Tem­ple-camp’s work be­fore he set­tled on his spe­cialty was marked by a va­ri­ety of ad­ven­tures – such as a dou­ble am­pu­ta­tion, per­formed on a man whose legs were crushed by an ele­phant at which he threw stones in or­der to make it more ac­tive for his photo. Which half worked.

Para­dox­i­cally, he ended up work­ing with the dead be­cause he found work­ing with the liv­ing too up­set­ting, typ­i­fied by an oc­ca­sion when he made Her­culean ef­forts to safely de­liver a baby that, it was ob­vi­ous from birth, would not sur­vive long.

Pathol­o­gists have a large part of Sher­lock Holmes in their makeup, and watch­ing how this one de­duces of­ten life-chang­ing con­clu­sions from mori­bund clues is a large part of this book’s fas­ci­na­tion.

At other times Edgar Allen Poe pre­sides, as in an ap­par­ent case of grave rob­bing. There’s even a clas­sic locke­d­room mys­tery in which a vic­tim has per­ished with no ap­par­ent or plau­si­ble cause of death. Prospec­tive pur­chasers may be pleased to know that this book, an en­ter­tain­ing me­mento mori, is not il­lus­trated.

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