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Unnatural Causes

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  334 ratings  ·  62 reviews
The dead do not hide the truth and they never lie. Through me the dead can speak ...

As the country'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
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 20th 2018 by Michael Joseph
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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
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
Кажется, я не совсем ясно выразилась: книга британского патологоанатома реально одна из лучших, прочитанных в этом году, да и вообще прекрасный образец того, как надо писать научно-популярную литературу. Более того, в аудиоверсии ее читает сам автор, и по его выговору можно подумать, что читает член королевской семьи или как минимум Алан Рикман, настолько профессионально он это делает.

Автор, обладая колоссальными знаниями (23 тысячи вскрытий за карьеру), не кичится ими, но и не драматизирует, че
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
Kate~Bibliophile Book Club
I love a good medical memoir, so when I spotted Unnatural Causes I was definitely interested to read it. Richard Shepherd is a forensic pathologist who has dealt with some of the UK's biggest tragedies and this is his story.
At times it is a difficult read due to the fact that it deals with "mans inhumanity to man" as he says himself, and it is not nice to read about. His own personal journey and emotions were well written, and it is definitely an emotive read. Recommended for sure if you like m
Aug 30, 2018 rated it liked it
In brief - This covers some fascinating cases and provides much information about the subject area. However I was never really gripped by it. 3 or maybe 3.5/5 and full review nearer publication
Agnieszka Kalus
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sam doktor trochę pompatyczny, lecz ciekawie pisze o pracy patologa sądowego i skomplikowanych przypadkach w swojej karierze.
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
Sara Marsden
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I devoured this book in a few hours, something I’ve not managed to do for a while now.
I love reading about forensic science and this is perhaps the best of the nonfiction books I’ve read on the subject. Shepherd’s enthusiasm for his work and his respect for the people he worked on just shines through the pages. It’s incredible that someone who has such an emotionally taxing job that involves having to become quite resilient and hardened to death writes in such a poetic way with such tenderness t
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Book reviews on

This is such an interesting book; it's right up my street as it sort of combines elements of 'true crime' with medicine and gives me, as the reader, an insight into how forensic pathology works - these combined together makes a truly intriguing read!

Richard Shepherd writes in quite a factual way, so if you're a fan of dramatic retellings then you're probably better looking elsewhere. I am glad of this; it lends the proper respect and care to the work - after a
Gayle Noble
Dr Richard Shepherd has had a long and distinguished career in forensic pathology, and has worked on some of the UK's most famous cases including the notorious Harold Shipman, a doctor who killed many, perhaps hundreds of his patients. Dr Shepherd has also worked on the fallout from some of the worst terrorist attacks and disasters of the last thirty years.

I've always had an interest in forensic science and pathology is definitely one area that fascinates me. Whilst reading this book, I was stru
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
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Didde Elnif
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you're interested in forensics, this is the book. It's a close discussion of cases through the latest 40 years of british crime history. Where Dame Sue Blacks book is about life and death and forensics, this is a much closer look at cases. If I'd known more of the cases (as I would have with a Danish equivalent), I would without a doubt have had an easier time telling them apart, but at one point it felled a bit like enumeration of cases. Overall it's an interesting read and well told read.
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for a copy of this book.

Thoughtful, insightful, interesting and heartbreaking Dr Shepherd's book reminds you that there are people like him who put their all into respecting the dead.

A wonderful read!
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant Book

Having had the pleasure of assisting you with note taking during my time in the police, you have always been a pleasure to work for. Nothing is too much trouble for you. You and your wife are very highly thought of by both myself and former colleagues. I wish you all the best.
Mary Picken
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Unnatural Causes is a must read for anyone interested in crime, whether true crime or fiction. Dr. Richard Shepherd is a forensic pathologist and this book covers a whole host of fascinating and some well-known cases in which he was involved. It is a story told in layman’s terms about the working and domestic life of a pathologist and the inevitable toll that such a life can have on the personal and domestic agenda.

From the book it is easy to see how completely fascinated Richard Shepherd is abo
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Review originally posted to

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

After reading This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay not long ago, I've recently found myself drawn to read more true life medical books - nothing too textbooky, just real accounts of professionals in different medical fields. And so I jumped on Unnatural Causes when I saw it on NetGalley. I was partly so interested in it because my job, in a histopathology la
Ian Smith
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
UNNATURAL CAUSES by Doctor Richard Shepherd - A Penguin Random House book
Review by Ian Smith
This is a book that spans the time between the iconic Sir Bernard Spilsbury to today. Forensic science is commonplace in the press and T.V. shows today but it has evolved considerably over the decades and Dr. Shepherd was at the forefront of much of it.
Intricate details of dissection and other aspects of forensic science are dealt with here but there’s also a background of personal relationship that thre
Asha Hartland-Asbury
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a really interesting and compelling read, but it is not for the faint-hearted. It deals with death in a graphic (but not gratuitous) way that some readers may find too much – if you aren’t comfortable with discussions of bodies, post-mortems, and disaster relief, then give this book a swerve. However, I found that throughout the entire book, Dr Shepherd’s enormous respect for the people he examined was always apparent, and in a way, I found it quite a comforting read. This is a man dedic ...more
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
#10wordreview – Gripping and thought-provoking memoir you won’t want to put down

Dr Richard Shepherd is a forensic pathologist, a man who had dedicated his life to mysteries that surround an unexplained death. In Unnatural Causes, we get to see his story. One of true professionalism and dedication.

Based primarily in London Dr Shepherd faced many unique and fascinating cases as well as well know, high profile cases including the death of Princess Diana, the murder of Stephen Lawrence murder and th
Debbie Littley
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Richard Shepherd is a forensic pathologist who has dealt with some of the UK’s biggest tragedies and this is his story.

From cases such as Dr Shipman, Rachel Nickell and Stephen Lawrence to the everyday person this is a real glimpse into what is a fascinating subject. Dr Shepherd’s passion for his work is evident in every page, the 16 years it took to fulfill his ambition to become a forensic pathologist and the impact the years of study and relentless hours of work impacted on his home life. His
Dr Debbie Tranter
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book that I have bought in years; the audiobook version was narrated with ease by the author. This treasure recounts the ups and downs and twists and turns of this leading Home Office pathologists life and career in forensic and legal medicine. It's a biography sensitively threaded through his accounts of the cruelty of humanity and the trauma of murder cases, sudden natural deaths, the Coroners Court, 'relatives rooms', crime scenes and postmortems. This book exposes how such a ...more
Julie Haigh
A 5 star read all the way through. A fantastic book.

I loved this book. An excellent insight into the life of a forensic pathologist, starting from the 80s, when he qualified. Only a few pages in and it was absolutely fascinating, riveting, just the type of book I love to read. A mix of memoir and true crime.

The author is now in his sixties. He's performed more than 20,000 postmortems. On qualifying, he was based at Guy's Hospital Dept of Forensic Medicine. His first major case had been the Hunge
Anne Williams
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dr Richard Shepherd reviews his life as one of Britain's top forensic pathologists. He describes his early family life, his motivations, his training, the workings of the academic, medical, police and justice organisations involved and of course some of his most significant cases. He also describes the impact his work had on him and his family personally and what could just be an interesting walk through of a career seldom explored takes on another dimension - I was really astounded to learn jus ...more
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I listened to the audio version of Unnatural Causes, narrated by Richard Shepherd himself.

In Unnatural Causes, Shepherd takes you along on his journey as a forensic pathologist, starting from him as a young medicine student, opening up his first body, to him dealing on a daily basis with suspicious causes of death. Throughout his career, he dealt with victims of murder, neglect, family dramas, mass disasters, shootings etc. Given that these are very intense events, it was remarkable how calm Sh
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
23/10 Unnatural causes - Richard Shepard.

A brutally honest and detailed account of this highly professional and experienced forensic pathologist, the book touches on some very serious subjects; mental health, PTSD, death and trauma. Also dealing with the triggers that lead Richard Shepard to realise that he was suffering from PTSD from the years of dealing with many of the most horrific and traumatic cases that hit the news in the latter part of the 20th century, incidents that singly would be
Michelle B
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely fascinating autobiography of a world renowned pathologist. Although I had heard of Dr Shepherd, until reading his book I did not realise just how many newsworthy deaths he had dealt with.
The book is an autobiography, rather than a book about pathology, but as much of his life has been centred around his career as a pathologist, this obviously is a prominent feature of the book.
Dr Shepherd writes eloquently with his career highs and lows. He features not only the cases whic
Alison Eden
Sep 17, 2018 rated it liked it
#UnnaturalCauses #NetGalley A fascinating read and a subject that really interested me. It was good to see behind the scenes on what actually happens as a forensic pathologist which seemed to be a little different from what you see on tv shows like Silent Witness and CSI etc! Some of the cases were famous and harrowing, and I thought I might not want to hear what actually happens with a post mortem but the author showed that pathologists treat their 'patient' with as much care and respect as 'li ...more
Nicola Southall
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A completely fascinating book from Dr Richard Shepard a forensic pathologist who is someone who has completed over 23000 autopsies.
It was sympathetically and honestly written and gives an insight into what happens, how people are identified and what caused death in the event of no one really knowing.
He has covered many well known disasters and helped to get the truth known and people back to their families.
This book covers Dr Shepard’s life both in and out of the mortuary and how his occupatio
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