Corpse: Nature, Forensics, And The Struggle To Pinpoint Time Of Death
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Corpse: Nature, Forensics, And The Struggle To Pinpoint Time Of Death

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  442 ratings  ·  45 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)
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Catten
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...more
Rebecca Martin
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
daysgoby
Astounding and interesting, although I bogged down a bit in the classifying bug section, which took up most of the middle of the book.
Jeremy
i need to re-read this book. very good.
Angela
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...more
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
Tracey
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...more
Renee
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
J.M.
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...more
Karen Long
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.
Sarai
From an Amazon.com 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
TC
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
Shannan
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...more
Antoinette
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.
Alexis
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.
Elizabeth
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".
Roberta
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.
Shea Mastison
This is an excellent book! Every once in awhile, it's good to take the time to ponder one's own mortality; and nothing helps me do that more thoroughly than science. This is a charming book that tells you all about the various fauna that will inhabit your body upon your demise; and the people who study such phenomena. Read this if you have a morbid streak!
Mesa
So much better than "Stiff" for me, focusing on the history of forensic science, and the questions it attempts to answer, but not neglecting the no less interesting social stigmas and mis-notions that go hand in hand. It doesn't talk down to the reader, which might be a bit less fun if decomposition doesn't interest you, but I thoguht it was fascinating.
Miranda
I found this book fascinating, not on the same level as Stiff by Mary Roach, but still interesting.
Makes me look at forensic pathology a whole different way and more appreciative of how difficult it is, despite our technology these days, to determine time of death among everything else to do with murder most foul.
Sarah
I read this book for a class and it was really interesting. It was more serious than Mary Roach's 'Stiff' (which also deals with a bit of forensic anthropology), but still an enjoyable read, and I did learn a lot about it. It has a lot of facts without being overly dense or boring.
Ashley
fantastic overview. one definitely does not need a scientific background to understand the reading. well written; recommended for anyone interested in learning about the history of forensic entomology and time of death.
John
My first venture into the world of forensic medicine, I am happy to say before I saw CSI. Very grisly if you want to look at it that way, but very educational and immensely interesting.
Erin
This book is grotesque and not for people with a weak stomach, but it is completely intriguing. The author investigates the history of determing the time of death. I learned a lot!
Sarah
I didn't abandon this because it was bad; I just eventually got grossed out. I honestly don't know why I picked it up in the first place, but I do like my medical history.
Ginger
This is possibly the most boring forensics book I've read. But I learned an important lesson--forensic anthropology is fascinating; forensic entomology is disgusting.
Jessica
Sachs doesn't delve into the details of the exemplar cases, which is unfortunate, but still does a nice job showing how the different forensic disciplines come together.
Carrie Clevenger
Wonderful resource on the Death Industry. I really enjoyed the at-times graphic reality because as we know, death is nothing pretty. Worth its weight in information.
Steve
I like a book where I walk away from it having learned something I never knew before. This book delivered a mental paycheck in that category way beyond what I expected.
Patricia
Excellent history of forensics with methods and tales. Not to be read at the dinner table but fascinating, especially for anyone who reads mysteries.
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