Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Unnatural Causes” as Want to Read:
Unnatural Causes
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Unnatural Causes

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  17,913 ratings  ·  1,456 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
Paperback, 442 pages
Published April 18th 2019 by Penguin (first published September 20th 2018)
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 Unnatural Causes, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Hristos Dagres I would say that 15 yo or older can read this book by their own. 14 yo or younger may need somebody to put parts of this book into context.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  17,913 ratings  ·  1,456 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Unnatural Causes
Petra-X Off having adventures
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
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.”

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
India M. Clamp
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Johann (jobis89)
"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
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
Alice Lippart
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Alice (Married To Books)
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
Tanja Berg
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
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!
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
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
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
Tariq Mahmood
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting read about a subject I knew little about. The book is an autobiography the author, his love for extracting the truth from dead bodies. I thought he did a commendable job in presenting his excitement across to the reader. I got to know details of the postmortem, and all the mysteries a dead body hides.

The book reads like a glorified diary with the author's personal life's story juxtaposed with his career.
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
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
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
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This proved to be a fascinating account of the career and personal life of one of the country's foremost forensic pathologists, a gentleman who comes across as genuinely caring about the people he's working for - not just the dead themselves, but their families and wider society. Equally clear is that he cares about the noble principles of truth, justice and integrity, even in the face of incredibly challenging circumstances.

The cases he worked on or was involved in were both run o
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow - this was interesting! This book was packed with everything, from murders to natural death to accidental.

It had a lot of medical words and a lot of extra knowledge that kinda lost me at parts but really that it was the book is about, talking openly about cases this man has come across. I could tell just reading the book that this man is passionate about what he does, how much he cares about each person he comes across. In the work he is in, that is so important.

This book is so intriguing,
Jun 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Christina McDonald
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I've been trying to weave more nonfiction books into my reading lately and have found I really enjoy medical memoirs. Unnatural Causes was high on my list to read, and I wasn't disappointed.

Unflinchingly honest, fascinatingly told and impeccably written, Dr. Shepherd tells of all sorts of death, from serial killer to natural disaster, horrific murders to freak accidents. I read with a sort of morbid curiosity, expecting to be a little grossed out, but everything was told quite clinically. Althou
Sara Marsden
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Laura Peden
Fascinating memoir by Dr Richard Shepherd, a forensic pathologist. I remember watching him on the show Autopsy, where he takes you through the final hours of celebrities before their deaths. Lovely narration by the author although a bit dry. Highly recommend if you’re interested in a book like Stiff by Mary Roach but you don’t want to hear about maggots & blow flies 🤢
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Wirral Libraries ...: True Crime / Medical / Autobiography 1 7 Aug 07, 2020 01:12AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Prison Doctor
  • Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas
  • The Prison Doctor: Women Inside: Stories from my time inside Britain’s biggest women’s prison.
  • The Dark Side of the Mind: True Stories from My Life as a Forensic Psychologist
  • War Doctor: Surgery on the Front Line
  • This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor
  • A Bit of a Stretch
  • All That Remains: A Life in Death
  • The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It's Broken
  • Narsistit Vankilassa: Oikeuspsykologin kertomuksia persoonallisuushäiriöistä
  • Critical: Science and stories from the brink of human life
  • Hard Pushed: A Midwife’s Story
  • The Language of Kindness: A Nurse's Story
  • Rapid Response: True Stories of My Life as a Paramedic
  • Blood Orange
  • Eerika
  • Traces: The Memoir of a Forensic Scientist and Criminal Investigator
See similar books…

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
23 likes · 4 comments
“I am no stranger to joy. I know that joy can be truly experienced only by those who have known adversity. And adversity is an inevitability.” 4 likes
“one of the greatest skills I have learned is not to feel a moral repulsion which others might think is not only justified but required.” 3 likes
More quotes…