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Unnatural Causes: The Life and Many Deaths of Britain's Top Forensic Pathologist

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  30,542 ratings  ·  2,431 reviews
As the UK's top forensic pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd has spent a lifetime uncovering the secrets of the dead. When death is sudden or unexplained, it falls to Shepherd to establish the cause. Each post-mortem is a detective story in its own right - and Shepherd has performed over 23,000 of them. Through his skill, dedication and insight, Dr Shepherd solves the puzzle ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 20th 2018 by Michael Joseph
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Louis Hendrie I read this when I was 14 and got on fine, in fact it sparked my interest in forensics.

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Petra is Darla in the book
Because of the blurb and publicity, I expected a book about Dr. Richard Shepherd's career as the leading forensic pathologist in the UK. So naturally when I get lyrical passages about soaring in a Cesna over Hungerfood I'm thinking this book isn't for me. When the author writes in detail about his childhood and the women in his father's life, I'm thinking I didn't sign up for this, but it's an easy read and the writing improves after the initial overly-descriptive prose. Then - just like that - ...more
Paromjit
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dr Richard Shepherd writes a fascinating and riveting blend of autobiography and memoir about his time as a top forensic pathologist in Britain. He has been involved in too many to count headlining criminal cases, disasters, and terrorist incidents in recent British history. He has carried out almost 25,000 post mortems, a head spinning number, in his search to determine the truth of how a person died. The nature of truth itself is a complex and complicated beast that he has to tussle with. Give ...more
Beata
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr Richard Shepherd wrote a most honest book about his profession and his personal life. I am truly touched by his honesty, but first and foremost, by the respect he shows to all victims on whom he performed post mortem. Each victim received Dr Shepherd's full attention, and was treated with the utmost reverence. All stories are sad, the saddest are those of children who suffered abuse on the part of their parents ....
Honesty which I mentioned refers also to the stress induced by his unique pro
...more
Greta G
“My PTSD is not caused by any particular one of the 23,000 bodies on which I have performed post-mortems. And it is not caused by all of them. It is not caused by any particular disaster I have been involved in clearing up. And it is not caused by all of them. It is caused, in its entirety, by a lifetime of bearing first-hand witness to, on behalf of everyone–courts, relatives, public, society–man’s inhumanity to man.”

Somethingsnotright
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant memoir from the UK's leading forensic pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd, seamslessly weaving together case studies from his work and details of his life story.

Dr Shepherd has worked on some of the  most high profile cases during the course of his career, in the UK and internationally including:

• The Hungerford Massacre (1987) - his first unsupervised major case and the one that left the first scar on his psyche.
• The death of Princess Diana (1997)
• The Clapham Rail Disaster (1
...more
Sara
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When I saw this on Netgalley, I was intrigued. I was already reading a book on the concept of death and what comes after for bodies (Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers) so I was fascinated to read about the work of a pathologist in a world that still feels very inaccessible to the general public. The book encompasses many famous cases that Richard Shepherd has been directly involved with during what could be called the ‘gol
...more
Arna
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book was so fascinating! Part autobiography, part memoir, Unnatural causes is about Dr Shepard’s life and his work including high profile criminal cases and mass disasters. The writing was excellent, Dr Shepard describes everything in detail in a way that everyone can understand and not just in medical jargon.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I loved this book. I’ll admit I didn’t really much about what forensic pathologists do so this work was a real eye opener into all that they do, it’s a lot more than j
...more
Emma
Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
There's something indescribably fascinating about what comes after death. And I don't mean the whole heaven/hell scenario, but what happens during the inevitable breakdown of our bodies, the processed falling apart of that place we inhabit before some event, some failure, or some person takes it from us. As a forensic pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd has dealt with death of all types, from everyday, natural passing to murder sprees like that at Hungerford. Sounds good, right?

However, this suffe
...more
Jo (The Book Geek)
It's pretty rare in the current climate that I give out five stars. In fact, it's near enough unheard of. One could even say I'm stingy, but of course, I entirely disagree. This book was so, so interesting, and quite frankly, I didn't want it to end.

This is an excellent memoir from the outset written by one of the UK's top forensic pathologists, Dr Richard Shepherd. In this memoir he includes his personal life, and the events that he believes shaped it, and his work life, which consist of many
...more
India M. Clamp
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: surgery
Reading about Dr. Richard Shepard (UK Pathologist) was not banal. Truly adored his utterly vivid description of the 911/Twin Towers trailers filled with body parts and his flair for recognizing the distinct smell of burned bodies. His cases are told to us rather void of emotion and in a style lacking melancholic variation in tone.

During his career in the United Kingdom and America performing over 23,000 autopsies (which includes Princess Diana) called in when a suspicious or unexplained death o
...more
Johann (jobis89)
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"I left the room with relief, making a mental note to avoid the bereaved at all costs and stick to the safe world inhabited by the dead, with its facts, its measurements, its certainties. In their universe, there was a complete absence of emotion. Not to mention its ugly sister, pain."

Dr Richard Shepherd is the UK's top forensic pathologist, having performed over 23,000 post-mortems. In Unnatural Causes, he examines the cases that have defined his fascinating career.

One of the BEST non-fiction b
...more
Carolyn Walsh
This book details the life and career of Dr. Richard Shepherd. From an early age he was interested in forensic pathology, a profession very few contemplate pursuing. After years of medical study, he achieved his goal of becoming a renowned UK pathologist. He conducted postmortems while always treating the deceased with utmost reverence and compassion, and spoke to the bereaved families with sympathy and sincerity.

During his career, he was involved in some of the most sensational mass murders, t
...more
Anna Kaling
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Unnatural Causes suffers from a misleading blurb; this book wasn't written to share some of the science behind forensic pathology, but as a kind of therapy for the author as he nears retirement. That's not what I signed up for and why it gets two stars.

I bought the book because I was interested in learning more about the science behind pathology, and how a corpse can help solve its own murder. Unnatural Causes did deliver this, although on quite a superficial level, but the science was overshado
...more
Alice
Fascinating, accessible and a little grim.
K.J. Charles
Absolutely excellent. A fascinating read about the life of a forensic pathologist, full of not just intriguing details about bodies and what we do to them, but also a lot of honesty about the emotional toll on the pathologist and the bereaved. Really compelling and extremely well and fluently written.
Liz Barnsley
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Usually with non fiction I read in dribs and drabs around my other reads – not so with “Unnatural Causes” which I read from cover to cover whilst barely drawing breath.
A fascinating man and a fascinating life – Dr Richard Shepherd tells it how it is and his involvement in so many high profile cases makes this a hugely compelling look behind the scenes, beyond all those news stories and into the true realities. From Hungerford to 9/11 his very honest and genuinely compassionate way of describing
...more
Darcey
Dec 01, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this book was PHENOMENAL.

for someone whose #1 profession isn't writing, Richard Shepherd really has a way with words. Unnatural Causes was captivating, fascinating, detailed (but not too detailed) and wonderfully engrossing. it turned me back into the 7 year old version of myself who would watch nature documentaries and then run and tell my parents the animal facts i'd learnt - except instead i was telling them facts about the process of death, infamous historical events and forensic pathology.
...more
Gary
Jul 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
A Forensic Pathologist is one of those jobs that fascinates me but I know I would never be able to do. I can read about it but would have to look away if ever it was on the television or in real life. Hats off to the people who do this for a living because you must be made of stronger stuff than most of us. This is a fascinating read by Dr Richard Shepherd who appears to have been involved in every high profile case from the death of Princess Diana to The World Trade Centre. Thrown into situatio ...more
Alice-Elizabeth (Prolific Reader Alice)
I'm pleased that Unnatural Causes came up available from the library. It was a raw and powerful read, definitely not one to tackle before bedtime due to the subject content. The author Richard has worked as a forensic pathologist for many years and has worked on high-profile cases including Princess Diana and Stephen Lawrence. Some of the chapters of the various cases were truly shocking and eye-opening. Does give you uneasy feels, however, does a good job breaking down what goes into forensics ...more
Andreea
Mar 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I postponed a lot writing my thoughts on this book.
I loved it so much. Everything about it: the author, the style, the honesty, the openness, the medical and forensic details, the personal stories, the horrors of a system, the change of the system every time something bad happened. I loved it that people learned from their mistakes and took action to make it better, safer, quicker. I loved it when the Marchioness' victims families didn't give up and wanted justice, I absolutely relished all epis
...more
Tanja Berg
This is a very personal memoir of a forensic pathologist. Of course the content is macabre. It also shows how society has changed its attitudes toward certain aspects of death, such as that of infants. From that of feeling sorry for the parents to immediate suspicion. The author also covers the falling apart of his marriage in a most sympathetic and humble manner, readily admitting to his failures as a husband. Definitely recommended!
K.
Trigger warnings: so very many graphic descriptions of autopsies and dead bodies. Also death of a parent, murder, rape, death, mental health, deaths in custody, disasters, terrorist attacks, car accidents, stabbings, death of a child, death of a baby etc etc etc. Look, it's a memoir by a forensic pathologist. If anything to do with death, descriptions of bodies, or murder is a trigger for you? I'd probably give this one a miss.

I was hooked by this book from page 1 and I flew through it, which i
...more
Amaia
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With perfectly beautiful writing, brilliantly introspective, clear and honest, this is the memoir of one of UK’s foremost forensic pathologist, a man passionate and devoted to his work, with utmost reverence for his patients and wonderfully wise. He lets the reader in his life and his mind, in the enthralling complexity of his work with such astonishing details and clear insight, that the reader is completely absorbed and fascinated.

Throughout the book, there is a sense of subdued suffering, a
...more
Kelly
Jun 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have been trying to write this review for ages because I have warring opinions.

Generally, this book was incredibly interesting and I loved that it was easy to read but still packed with information, facts and real cases. It was quite emotive due to the nature of the cases, despite the actual writing tone being matter of fact and as unemotive as the author.

I did not mind the concurrent chronicles of Shepherd's personal life - mainly because I am a nosy bitch. I thought that seeing the impact o
...more
Chris Steeden
Dr Richard Shepherd is a forensic pathologist who is now in his 60’s and has performed over 20,000 post-mortems. This is going to be one hell of a read. I thought.

His first major incident, that he was in-charge of, was the Hungerford massacre. The description of when he went to the scene was just horrific. Real nightmare stuff. Checking out the bodies in-situ where they fell after being shot by Michael Ryan. He killed 16 people. What a start to the book. Gross but compelling.

Shepherd does cover
...more
Carol -  Reading Writing and Riesling
My View:
For a pathologist this author makes a wonderful wordsmith!

This is an intriguing narrative, a creative memoir that discusses the changes in society and attitudes to policing, medicine and science in an easy to read format that is engaging and illuminating. The discussion around autopsies, mass shootings/acts of terror and suspicious deaths are handled sensitively and considerately, the writer’s humanness shines through these sections of the book.

The author is open, honest and empathetic
...more
Charlotte
May 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
I am shocked to see so many positive reviews of this book. From the very first page to the last get ready to read about Dr Richard Shepherd (not pathology). A better title for this might actually have been ‘Me, me and me some more’

I wouldn’t have minded a glimpse into the life of a successful pathologist. Unfortunately I have rarely had the pleasure of reading the musings of a person so convinced of their superiority over everyone in the human race. The book is so completely full of self congrat
...more
Daisy
Jan 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
I am a morbid type. I love a true crime podcast, any murder related shows on Netflix so this book was one I was looking forward to reading. I wasn't disappointed. The author takes us on his arduous journey to becoming a forensic pathologist and if sometimes he comes across as somewhat arrogant you can forgive him as without that level of self-belief it would be easy to have given up for the bunions and earaches of GP life.
He covers many tragedies that seemed to be an ever-present feature of the
...more
Jultri
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5/5. Memoir of one of England's leading forensic pathologist. Captivating insight into what goes on behind the scenes of crimes and at the morgue with details of famous and less famous but no less fascinating real life cases. For me, listening to this book takes me back to a riveting summer spent observing and assisting in autopsies for my elective term at university. While I concede it's a field that provides endless variety and challenges, it is also harrowing and confronting in displaying t ...more
Laura
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star
From the victims of terrorist attacks, murders, serial killers, car accidents and seemingly straightforward natural deaths, one of the U.K’s top pathologists examines the cases that have defined his varied and fascinating career. I loved it and and couldn’t put this book down.

The author documents in his book some of the most high profile unusual, controversial or unexpected deaths that have occurred either on home ground or abroad. He offered support after the 9/11 attacks on New York City, the
...more
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Richard Shepherd was born in West London but grew up in Watford. He trained as a doctor at St George's Hospital medical school at Hyde Park Corner, qualifying in 1977, and then completed his postgraduate training as a forensic pathologist in 1987. He immediately joined what was then the elite forensic department at Guy's Hospital.

Shepherd is an experienced Senior Lecturer and Professor who has tau
...more

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