Unnatural Causes
Shepherd (Richard)
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Back Cover Blurb
  1. Top forensic pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd has performed over 23,000 autopsies. A detective in his own right, he must solve the mystery of sudden or unexplained deaths: how did this person die?
  2. In the pursuit of the truth, he has tackled serial killers, natural disasters, ‘perfect murders’ and freak accidents. His evidence has put killers behind bars, freed the innocent and turned open-and-shut cases on their heads. Yet all this has come at huge personal cost.
  3. In Unnatural Causes he tells us the story not only of the bodies and cases that have haunted him most, but also how to live a life steeped in death.
  4. Richard Shepherd
    • Was born in West London but grew up in Watford. At the local grammar school he was introduced to a medical textbook smuggled into the classroom by a friend which opened his eyes to the world of crime and murder, setting him on a lifelong quest to understand death in its many forms. He trained as a doctor at St George's Hospital medical school at Hyde Park Corner, qualifying in 1977 and then completed his postgraduate training as a forensic pathologist in 1987. He immediately joined what was then the elite forensic department at Guy's Hospital.
    • He has been involved nationally and internationally in the forensic investigation of thousands of deaths from unnatural causes, from headline-making murders to mass natural disasters, and many sudden and unexplained deaths that his investigations showed were from natural causes or due to accidents. His skills and expertise still remain in demand around the world.

Amazon Reviews3
  1. Positive Review (5 stars)
    • This is an eminently readable account of the life of a forensic pathologist. Dr Shepherd balances his professional work with the effect on his marriage and his personal life and thus the reader gets to know him as a person, as a human being. The personal details are important as they make the autobiography more rounded, offsetting the cut and thrust of the professional side against the ordinariness of the home life, the fantastic, bizarre even, against the mundane. It would have been easy to have just concentrated on his work, to ignore the private side, but that would have been a mistake and one that, fortunately, Dr Shepherd doesn't make.
    • How he got on with the various authorities and his colleagues, giving evidence in court, was also interesting, as was the whole Post Traumatic Stress Disorder saga, which, it seems, will remain with him, even though he will find it easier to cope with as time goes on.
    • For me, the book has provided useful insights (for the benefit of someone who is writing a crime thriller) into post mortem procedures, effects of different trauma, accidental or deliberate, on a body, how a body decomposes, etc, etc. A thoroughly gripping book from start to finish and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
  2. Negative Review (1 star)
    • So I had this book recommended to me by another medical colleague who raved about 'the honesty' and openness of the author and this juxtaposition with his scientific insight and knowledge. I have to say that I found his writing smug and somewhat arrogant in that he seemed always to have thought about critical difficulties ahead of them happening such as "I remember thinking to myself at the time of Rachel Nickell's death that it was unlikely that Colin Stagg was the murderer" but then doing nothing about it. Additionally, he seemed to get certain things absolutely wrong. The Sally Clarke case was the tipping point for me where Shepherd speaks highly about the now very discredited work of Prof Roy Meadows and others yet says next to nothing about the fact that Sally Clarke's conviction was overturned because their work was nonsense! He bemoans the fact that they were unlucky and how any professional would have made the same call, but this just sounds like an unwillingness to consider that they were plain wrong to me!
    • If you want a book that pretends to be a casebook on a Forensic Pathologist's work, and you don't mind having to wade through some padding, this might be worth a shot. If you find it a bit tedious to have to read someone's opinions on matters through the lens of a white middle class male4 who is clearly very pro establishment and doesn't want to question or even consider what the alternative might be, steer clear.

In-Page Footnotes ("Shepherd (Richard) - Unnatural Causes")

Footnote 2: Footnote 3: Footnote 4:
  • Penguin, 2018
  • Sub-Title: The Life and Many Deaths of Britain's Top Forensic Pathologist
  • Present from Chris
  • On loan to Julie

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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