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