A Posthumous GSQ Review: Spoiler Alert (You’re Gonna Die)…

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imageToday I have a book for those for whom the stench of a decomposing corpse fires up curiosity, rather than the vomiting reflex.  We received Spoiler Alert: You’re Gonna Die by Korttany Finn and Jacquie Purcell from the publisher via Netgalley and found a delightful little book in Q&A format that is the perfect introduction for those wishing to scratch the itch of curiosity surrounding what happens to the dead immediately after death.  Let’s begin with the blurb from Goodreads:

One thing that you can be sure in life, is that it is going to end. How’s that for a buzzkill? A real life coroner challenged a few thousand internet strangers to ask her anything. The result is a collection of morbid and slightly embarrassing questions all about The End. Spoiler Alert: You’re Gonna Die! will leave you with a new perspective on life. Print

The Good

imageIf you have any sort of interest in the workings of the death trade – that is, those people whose job it is to deal with the dead in any manner – then this is a concise and easy-to-read introduction that should suit you perfectly.  The questions and answers are divided into a number of categories both for ease of reference and so (I assume) you can skip over the bits that don’t interest you/gross you out/make you feel a bit weird for being too interested in them.  The book covers a pretty broad range of content, from information about the types of qualifications and work experience that you might need if you are thinking of getting into work in the post-life industry, to lesser-known methods for body disposal for those who think burial or cremation is too mundane, to what exactly goes on during an autopsy.  The book never gets too in-depth on any one topic so I wouldn’t recommend it for those who really want specifics on a certain area – although if you are looking for a book of that nature I would certainly recommend Working Stiff by Judy Melinek or Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlyn Doughty or even Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach, which I read way back in that mystical time before I started blogging – but it’s certainly a thorough and accessible introduction.

The introductions to each category written by Korttany Finn are quite funny and Jacquie Purcell has mastered the art of dry humour, so you won’t get too bogged down in the sadness and unsightliness of close encounters with corpses.

The Sad

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The saddest part of my reading experience here is that I wanted it to be longer.  I wasn’t prepared for such a concise tome and so I was disappointed that it wasn’t more in-depth.  Also, although this is no fault of the authors, there were a whole lot of questions in the first section that are specific to the USA (and in some instances specific to the state in which Purcell works), which prompted the slightly irritating realisation that if I wanted to know about how things work in Australia, I would have to research it myself.  As my natural laziness prevents me from doing any such research, I will have to live with this feeling of slight irritation, until someone publishes and places in my hands a book which focuses on post-death practices in Australia.  **Newsflash! I just did a microsecond of research and found out that coroners in Australia are mostly lawyers or magistrates and one of the main roles of the coroner’s court is to investigate deaths that may have an impact on public safety (eg: bushfire related deaths) in order to improve policy and practice around these events to ensure that they are prevented or minimised in future**

The Quirkyimage

The fact that this book features answers by a coroner, as opposed to a funeral director or someone who does the work of handling corpses in some capacity, the perspective is slightly different from other books I’ve read on the topic.  It took me a few moments to realise that I wasn’t actually 100% sure what a coroner does, although I had some ideas.  Those who love crime shows like CSI will probably think they have a good idea about what a coroner does, but this book might change their minds!

Also, the book grew out of a question and answer thread run by Purcell on a parenting blog, so it’s good to know that the questions in the book were actually asked by actual people and therefore, if you have ever idly pondered similar questions, you are not as weird and morbid as you think you are.

Overall I found this to be an interesting interlude on my quest to read lots of books about death, with some fascinating information that I certainly hadn’t considered before.  If you are interested in this topic, but you’re looking for a reasonably quick read, then I’d certainly recommend you pick this one up.

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*I’m submitting this book for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge*

Until next time,

Bruce (and his psyche)

 

Mondays are for Murder: Morgue Drawer Four…

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Thank you for joining me for another edition of Mondays are for Murder. Today I have a book that I’ve been stalking for a while, waiting for it to come on special somewhere so I could pounce on it. Obviously that happy day came so I added it to my Kindle with great haste and efficiency. I speak of the first book in Jutta Profijt’s Morgue Drawer series, Morgue Drawer Four. I should also mention that the particular version I read was a translation from the original German, so I feel it is only fair to mention that the translator is Erik J. Macki, because he has done a wonderful job here.

Anyway, on to more murderous things. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Coroner is the perfect job for Dr. Martin Gänsewein, who spends his days in peace and quiet autopsying dead bodies for the city of Cologne. Shy, but scrupulous, Martin appreciates his taciturn clients–until the day one of them starts talking to him. It seems the ghost of a recently deceased (and surprisingly chatty) small-time car thief named Pascha is lingering near his lifeless body in drawer number four of Martin’s morgue. He remains for one reason: his “accidental” death was, in fact, murder. Pascha is furious his case will go unsolved–to say nothing of his body’s dissection upon Martin’s autopsy table. But since Martin is the only person Pascha can communicate with, the ghost settles in with the good pathologist, determined to bring the truth of his death to light. Now Martin’s staid life is rudely upended as he finds himself navigating Cologne’s red-light district and the dark world of German car smuggling. Unless Pascha can come up with a plan–and fast–Martin will soon be joining him in the spirit world. Witty and unexpected, Morgue Drawer Four introduces a memorable (and reluctant) detective unlike any other in fiction today.

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The Usual Suspects:

Given that Pascha (who also goes by Sascha, for reasons that were fairly obscure to me) was a bit of a shady wheeler-dealer when alive, it doesn’t take much foresight to predict that the usual suspects in this case are likely to be similarly shade-loving. There are sex-workers, car smugglers, petty criminals, and bar owners all thrown into the mix as poor, put-upon Martin risks life, limb and sanity to bring Pascha’s possible murderer to justice. And prove that there was in fact a murder in the first place.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

The investigation is pretty much a comedy of errors as Martin – law-abiding, waistcoat-wearing, three-wheel-car-driving Martin – attempts to question a parade of unsavoury characters without having his face bashed in. In the early part of the book there are very few clues to go on, and the pace dragged a bit, but by the halfway point there are some definite leads – and some extra, unexpected corpses – and the lads begin to unravel the tangled motivations of those involved.

Overall Rating

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Three poison bottles for a series opener that has great potential for guts, glory and German comedy

After having anticipated reading this for quite a while, I found myself both gratified and mildly disappointed in this tale. The story didn’t have quite the murder-mystery punch I was hoping for in the actual investigation side of the plot, but it certainly made up for that in the hilarious banter and distinctive, vivid voice of Pascha. The translator really needs credit for bringing across both the meaning and the comedy behind the meaning, because he has brought Pascha from German into English in living, bawdy colour. The relationship building between Martin and Pascha was really at the forefront of this book, rather than the murder, but now that the relationship is established, I am very interested to see how this series will pan out. If you are looking for a murder-mystery series that balances death with a strong, funny character pairing then I’d definitely add this one to your list.

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*Bruce just ticked another book off Mount TBR*

Until next time,

Bruce