Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death” as Want to Read:
Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  729 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
When detectives come upon a murder victim, there's one thing they want to know above all else: When did the victim die? The answer can narrow a group of suspects, make or break an alibi, even assign a name to an unidentified body. But outside the fictional world of murder mysteries, time-of-death determinations have remained infamously elusive, bedeviling criminal investig ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 17th 2002 by Basic Books (first published 2001)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Corpse, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Corpse

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Dec 04, 2008 Catten rated it it was amazing
If talk of maggots and decay turns your stomach, stop here. You probably won't enjoy this book.

But if you're a forensics junkie, run out and get Corpse right away. It's not only packed with interesting cases and people; it's the best book I've come across, in terms of clear writing and good research.

Jessica Snyder Sachs, a former editor of Science Digest, is a freelance science and health writer. She has a knack for making the gruesome fascinating and the mundane intriguing. And it all revolves
Jan 27, 2008 daysgoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Astounding and interesting, although I bogged down a bit in the classifying bug section, which took up most of the middle of the book.
Rebecca Martin
Apr 11, 2012 Rebecca Martin rated it really liked it
I glanced through this book and thought, "Hmm, this looks like too much science for me," but then I sat down and read the first 70 pages without looking up. This book is really a history of how researchers in different periods, from the early Greeks and the Chinese, have thought about and defined the moment of death. This history is told through stories and is definitely geared to the lay reader. The last third of the book enters the modern era (20th c. into the 21st) and so anyone who watches C ...more

Description: When detectives come upon a murder victim, there's one thing they want to know above all else: When did the victim die? The answer can narrow a group of suspects, make or break an alibi, even assign a name to an unidentified body. But outside the fictional world of murder mysteries, time-of-death determinations have remained infamously elusive, bedeviling criminal investigators throughout history. Armed with an array of high-tech devices and tests, the world's best forensic patholog
Clare Fitzgerald
Apr 11, 2015 Clare Fitzgerald rated it really liked it
Those who know me know I read some pretty morbid stuff, both fiction and nonfiction. This is why one of my friends saw fit to lend me her copy of Jessica Snyder Sachs' Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death.

I fear my reputation may be more hardcore than I actually am, though, for I definitely had to stop eating at several points during this book, and I love to eat when I read.

This book presents a short but, as far as I can tell, fairly comprehensive overview of
Mar 27, 2015 Sydney rated it really liked it
Go ahead: Ask me anything about blow flies and maggots. I know all about them now—which is not exactly what I was expecting from this book. But interesting stuff nonetheless.
Melissa Dally
Jun 01, 2014 Melissa Dally rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
Covers the forensic aspects of death in a few new and unusual ways. Can sometimes get dry and you start thinking "bugs AGAIN" but overall was a very interesting read.
Oct 05, 2007 Jeremy rated it really liked it
i need to re-read this book. very good.
Nov 15, 2015 John rated it it was amazing
As an avid murder mystery fan who reads Jefferson Bass, Patricia Cornwell, and other experts in death, I have enjoyed the perspective of the whys behind time of death reconstruction. The tools continue to develop and emerge with new science techniques. This book brings that research up to date for the reader.

If you are looking for something gruesome or simply based on detailed case studies, this is probably not the book for you. Although Sachs gives several examples of the application of systems
Mar 23, 2015 KatieDMD rated it it was amazing
When I was in high school, I briefly considered forensics, but discarded that career path because there was too much chemistry involved. Now I am a dentist and studying pathology. Life comes around, full circle, doesn't it? It's only natural that I pick this book up and consume it like a blowfly maggot on a freshly dead body.

What a great, excellent discussion on the quandary that pathologists, coroners and forensics are faced, with determining time of death. It literally could mean saving the li
Apr 14, 2010 Angela rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, work
The Quote for the first chapter - traditional medical maxim..."The psychiatrist knows nothing and does nothing, the surgeon knows nothing and does everything, The pathologist knows everything...but is always a day too late."

and the Quote from the last chapter - Andre Gide (1869-1951)..."Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it."

I finished this book just now, a few minutes after midnight on the 16th. I am loving this book. I won't say the whole book was engrossing, or that
Kristin Snow
I grew up watching CSI, wanting to be a forensic lab tech up until high school, where all of our science classes were all about classifying animals and I lost interest. I only bring up the CSI franchise because they medical examiners always know exactly what time the victim had died, and could point a sure finger to the killer-- all within a 40 minute allotment of time (not including the commercials).From the first chapter up until the very last page, this book shows you why the real-life medica ...more
Mar 18, 2008 Tracey rated it liked it
I found myself comparing this book to Mary Roach's Stiff, which isn't quite fair. Unlike Roach, whose book was as much a personal essay as an exploration of the topic of what happens to our bodies once we're done with them, Sachs takes a workmanlike approach to the somewhat related topic of forensics and determining when a given death occurred.

The book started out kind of slow, with a historical look at time of death, using the body itself as a determiner. Algor mortis (body temperature change
Jul 30, 2007 Renee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-forensics
Corpse – Nature, Forensics and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death, by Jessica Snyder Sachs, explains the various methods – some of which are brand new and still developing – by which one can ascertain time of death. The methods involve a variety of fields – from entomology to botany and Ms. Sachs gives us a fascinating look not only at the processes by which each field contributes this knowledge, but also those individuals who first developed – and in some cases, continue to refine - those p ...more
Jul 01, 2009 J.M. rated it really liked it
This book was very interesting. It goes through the natural processes that occur to the body after death (before reading it, I didn't realize there were different types of "mortis" ~ rigor, livor, algor, and pallor). While the book isn't exactly graphic, it does talk about death in clinical ways, mentioning forensic entomology (insects and how they grow on the body after death) and specific experiments scientists undertake to study the effects of decomposition on remains.

I found the prose easy t
Jun 10, 2014 LadyGrey23 rated it really liked it
What an unusual book! I enjoyed it, but was repulsed and fascinated all the the same time. Halfway through I discovered I was reading and eating....not recommended.

I found the extensive study of flies in the middle a little too long, but maggots aren't something I'm comfortable with (slight phobia). I liked the explanation of the stages of death, decomposition, and colours....crime shows have it all wrong.
Oct 01, 2015 Mary rated it really liked it
This is a scholarly book that is accessible for the layperson. I really enjoyed reading about the history of determining time of death based on scientific evidence. Bonus points for having a chapter entitled: The Witness Was a Maggot. Don't read this book while you are eating and it's all good. :-)
Karen Long
Feb 08, 2014 Karen Long rated it it was amazing
I loved it! As a crime fiction author I depend upon writers who present the facts clearly. This study is absolutely fascinating. Anything involving entomology, decomposition and crime scene forensics has me hooked. I will be downloading more of her work.
Jul 09, 2009 Sarai rated it it was amazing
From an review: Examining a dozen case studies that touch on the contents of Nicole Brown Simpson's stomach, a felled Confederate soldier's skull, the methods of an English serial killer, and the contribution of an Indiana-based student of maggots to the forensic ecology of human remains, Sachs explores the means by which pathologists measure the interval between death and a body's discovery--a determination with often profound implications. Sachs's book is a lucid, oddly fascinating ...more
Mar 21, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for research purposes. I feel like one can't really be a good writer/editor/reviewer without knowing and understanding the smallest details. This book was incredibly informative. Anyone who might come across a dead body in their writing should read this book.
Aug 03, 2014 David rated it liked it
Shelves: medicine, science, history
This is a book about the history of medical examination. It was written in 2001, which tempers my criticism that the book largely focuses on older sciences - entomology and botany - versus the newer techniques of gas chromatography or DNA identification to establish time of death. The history aspect was mildly interesting, the bit on flies was not, and the last chapter on new techniques was the most interesting, being the reason why I picked up the book in the first place. That being said, I wou ...more
Sep 24, 2014 Annmbray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bugs, bones and botany are the new markers for time of death, even to the point of having DNA run on the bugs and leaves. Fascinating discussion of the continuing work being done to have the ability to precisely pinpoint Time of Death!
Sep 17, 2007 TC rated it liked it
Found the "uncorrected page proofs" for this book in a free-box from the local public radio station at a renewable energy fair of all places. The more you get into it, the more engrossing it gets. Some of the anecdotes seem thrown in for gross-out effect, the descriptions of the entomologists and anthropologists maybe pulling a bit too hard, but overall a great view into this actually rather fascinating arena. Text also serves as great fodder for book art / collage projects. Especially the juicy ...more
Susan Reed
Aug 07, 2014 Susan Reed rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
really good! very well written. very interesting.
Sep 27, 2009 Shannan rated it really liked it
If only the publisher had included a bibliography, I would have given this book five stars. It's obviously exhaustively researched, as well as entertaining and informative. That said, I follow up on bibliographies, and the lack of one in this book is a tragedy, as I flagged several points throughout that I would have liked to read more about.

I particularly recommend this book to fans of the TV show Bones, as it traces the history of the various fields of study showcased in that fictional Smithso
Apr 09, 2013 Antoinette rated it really liked it
Sachs delves into the history of the forensic sciences that contribute to the determination of time of death. I was trained as a biological anthropologist and many of my colleagues are featured in the book. Even without that, my love of a good mystery would have led me to finish it. I came away with a new appreciation for the many possible sources of data that can be used to determine time of death. I recommend it to any mystery reader who is not too squeamish.
Jun 30, 2015 Leah rated it liked it
This was a very well written, easy to read, overview of what happens to our bodies when we die and how the different branches of forensics science have developed over time. The book was an easy read and had a lot of information, but I didn't feel like I was back in school. Instead I was just having a chat with a friend who knows a LOT about something I find interesting. Ok maybe several lunches over a week...but definitely a worthwhile read.
Mar 17, 2013 Alexis rated it really liked it
Shelves: forensics, science
As a forensic junkie, I found this book thoroughly engrossing and fascinating. This work of nonfiction is definitely geared for the layperson. Scientific terms and concepts are clearly explained and demonstrated with examples. The historical perspective was fascinating too. I highly recommend this book for any forensic junke who isn't grossed out by maggots and other descriptions related to death.
Jan 12, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
One of the BEST books I have ever read. PERIOD. I've used it for countless papers in school, as well. It is interesting, thought provoking, and above all, human. It treats a potentially disturbing topic with grace and does not read like a textbook. If you have any interest in forensics, this is the book for you. I recommend this to fans of Mary Roach's "Stiff".
Feb 24, 2011 Roberta rated it liked it
Good of it's kind. Extremely well written with a lot of detail, but not a dry read. Covers the history of forensics and milestones at various times in its history. Everything you ever wanted to know about maggots. A little gross but anyone who can watch CSI will want to read this. No notes/bibliography but nice little "Further Reading" page in the back. Indexed.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Bodies We've Buried: Inside the National Forensic Academy, the World's Top CSI Training School
  • Teasing Secrets from the Dead: My Investigations at America's Most Infamous Crime Scenes
  • Postmortem: How Medical Examiners Explain Suspicious Deaths
  • Coroner's Journal: Stalking Death in Louisiana
  • Unnatural Death: Confessions of a Medical Examiner
  • The Casebook of Forensic Detection: How Science Solved 100 of the World's Most Baffling Crimes
  • Never Suck A Dead Man's Hand: And Other Life (and Death) Lessons from the Front Lines of Forensics
  • Bones: A Forensic Detective's Casebook
  • Dead Center: Behind the Scenes at the World's Largest Medical Examiner's Office
  • Hidden Evidence: 40 True Crimes and How Forensic Science Helped Solve Them
  • What the Corpse Revealed
  • No Bone Unturned: The Adventures of a Top Smithsonian Forensic Scientist and the Legal Battle for America's Oldest Skeletons
  • Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die
  • Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home
  • Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist
  • Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Dectection and the Murder Case That Launched Forensic Science
  • Maggots, Murder, and Men: Memories and Reflections of a Forensic Entomologist
  • Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear
Jessica Snyder Sachs is a contributing editor to Popular Science and writes regularly for Discover, National Wildlife, Health, Parenting, and other national publications. Prior to becoming a full-time freelance writer in 1991, she was the managing editor of Science Digest.

As an adjunct professor, Jessica teaches feature writing and writing for magazines, most recently at Seton Hall University. Sh
More about Jessica Snyder Sachs...

Share This Book