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Sometimes a book with this amount of “science” is hard to read. Not this one. Professor Black writes as she talks. You can almost hear her soft brogue as you read. Grabs you by the hand and leads you through the science, no problem. I laughed as I recognised the Scotland we both grew up in, as we are contemporaries. We both went to Aberdeen university at the same time, she to Sciences and I went to Kings College for Arts. I WISH I had known her then. I actually cried through a few parts of this book, I knew of the conflicts she described - but found tears flowing as her words brought it back to life from the bones of the deceased. The court cases she describes are so interesting, as are her contributions. There are no embellishments, no extras. It is as if she is there, chatting to you. She is an amazing, yet terribly modest woman. Sue Black has written an extraordinary book, a memoir, a history, a social commentary, a call to arms of a sort, a woman’s tale of life,love, hard work & sheer bloody determination. I first “met” Professor Black on the BBC “Cold Case” series ( much loved & how I wish there were more) with her team of brilliant scientists in Dundee University. It was addictive viewing. Not for the slight gore, but for the history they brought alive of the everyday people they investigated, including wonderful facial reconstructions. The world is a far better place for this lovely lady, and thank you Sue for ALL your work and the love and care you put into everything you do. I’m sorry though, I still can’t help but smile at your Uncle and the Heinz Tomato soup. I, myself, am partial to it and when my time comes, would be quite happy to follow his example.. after half a bowl....
* I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book. *
Sue Black is one of the UK's leading forensic anthropologists. Her area of expertise is identifying people from their mortal remains. In this book she describes her work, its challenges and her philosophy about death.
At the outset, Black talks about the fact that death is an inevitable part of life, and discusses the significance that people place on a good death and on the ultimate disposition of their remains.
She then segues into how she got started as an anatomist and the empathy she learned towards the dead through her dissecting activities. This sensitivity towards their memory and towards that of their families has clearly been a cornerstone of her work.
Perhaps the most gripping parts of the book are when Black describes her work identifying remains as part of war crimes investigations in Kosovo, and then in Thailand identifying the victims of the tsunami there. There is some heartbreaking stuff here, but it is also intensely interesting throughout.