From Publishers Weekly
Cornwell's foreword may attract readers to this unremarkable account by the chief coroner in Baton Rouge, La. Flat writing and the occasional platitude ("How sad. This is someone's daughter") detract from what could have been an interesting professional memoir by a dedicated public servant whose duties include ordering psychological evaluations and commitments, as well as the more familiar forensic work. Instead, the scenarios, whether an autoerotic hanging or the evaluation of a psychiatric patient, are brief and lacking dramatic tension. Some readers may also be put off by the short prologue added after Hurricane Katrina, which is the "incomplete accounting" the author labels it; the value and heroism of the doctor's work are not adequately captured by his words. His perspective on a number of serial killer cases—and the mistakes made by law enforcement in investigating them—will be new to many and are indicative of the frankness and professionalism that have apparently marked his career. (Mar. 16)
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Although there have been many recent books written by coroners, medical examiners, and forensic pathologists, few of them have given the reader much of a look at the day-to-day life of someone whose profession is death. This account does just that. The author, a coroner in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has had a hand in some famous cases (the Beltway sniper shootings and the Derrick Todd Lee serial-murder case, for example), but it is descriptions of cases that didn't grab headlines--the family tragedies, the senseless accidents, the pointless brutalities--that give the book its weight. Rarely has there been such a detailed picture of what a coroner does and how the job affects his or her private life. The fact that Cataldie played a crucial role in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will give his book extra publicity; expect plenty of demand. David PittCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved