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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but should have been spellbinding., January 22, 2012
This review is from: Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician (Kindle Edition)
Having read the book, I don't understand the reviews which say this makes people fear death even more (after all, why worry about what happens to your body when you've finished with it?) or that it shows lack of respect for the dead (not something that came across to me at all). I can only assume, regarding the privacy issue, that if the author had contravened her employer's procedures that she would have been called to task, so I don't feel I can comment much on that. It's not made clear whether details have been changed, or if the situations she writes about are "generic" autopsies, more about her experiences than about particular cases.

However, my beef with this book is that it's just badly written. The appearance of a second name suggests she had a ghost writer/some help, but if that is the case then it just suggests that between them, they still managed to do a lousy job.

There are lots of interesting, and sometimes affecting, stories here. One that has stayed with me is the accidental death of a little girl, the autopsy and the family's grief are both moving, and the sadness the staff feel for the situation is palpable.

Other anecdotes are revolting, or grimly amusing, or fascinating in a grisly way. Overall there is a lot of information, a lot to capture one's interests.

However, the writing is in its best chapters merely passable, and frequently dreadful. I wanted to go through it with a red pen! There is much too much focus solely on Williams' life away from the mortuary; the occasional reference is fine, and some things (like time spent with her loved ones after the little girl's autopsy) shed some light on how what she does for a living affects her away from work.

However there are many sections (and indeed two entire chapters) which are about boring, family things, have no relevance to her work, nothing in them of any interest regarding her personal life, and which any decent editor should have removed from the book without blinking. Chapter ten is the worst offender, an account of a bank holiday spent with family. I'm sure she had a lovely break, but nothing happens in the chapter is of any interest or has any relevance to anything; frankly, it's just plain _boring_. If it was written about by a good writer with a sense of humour and a deft touch, it may just have been passable (though IMO still would not have added anything to the book). As it is, I reached the end of the chapter thinking, "Why on EARTH did anyone leave that chapter in the book?" Painfully dull though that chapter was, it's sympomatic of a problem the book has throughout. There are just too many extraneous details, unnecessary repetitions, and bits of information that are just not interesting. Williams, or her ghostwriter/edtior(s), doesn't seem to be able to differentiate between the interesting and essential things about her story and the things which should have hit the cutting room floor.

Overall then: this book was, mostly, an enjoyable read. However, that was purely because of the subject matter. The writing is amateur, bordering on immature at times, and it would benefit hugely from a decent editor doing some pruning (or hacking, in a few places) to remove the sheer weight of dead wood. A great shame: in talented hands, I am convinced this would be an absolutely riveting book. As it is, it's just passable.
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