Title: The Education of a Coroner
Author: John Bateson
Source: Free ARC from Scribner
Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Scribner via NetGalley. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
Goodreads Summary: “In the vein of Dr. Judy Melinek’s Working Stiff, an account of the hair-raising and heartbreaking cases handled by the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job—from high-profile deaths to serial killers, to Golden Gate Bridge suicides.
Marin County, California is a study in contradictions. Its natural beauty attracts thousands of visitors every year, yet the county also is home to San Quentin Prison, one of the oldest and largest penitentiaries in the country. Marin ranks in the top one percent of counties nationwide in terms of affluence and overall health, yet it is far above the norm in drug overdoses and alcoholism, and comprises a large percentage of suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Ken Holmes worked in the Marin County Coroner’s Office for thirty-six years, starting as a death investigator and ending as the three-term, elected coroner. As he grew into the job—which is different from what is depicted on television—Holmes learned a variety of skills, from finding hidden clues at death scenes, interviewing witnesses effectively, managing bystanders and reporters, preparing testimony for court to notifying families of a death with sensitivity and compassion. He also learned about different kinds of firearms, all types of drugs—prescription and illegal—and about certain unexpected and potentially fatal phenomena such as autoeroticism.
Complete with poignant anecdotes, The Education of a Coronerprovides a firsthand and fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a public servant whose work is dark and mysterious yet necessary for society to function.“
Review: Admittedly, I’m in the midst of playing catch up on books I read, mostly over the summer, that I didn’t manage to review straightaway (those rascally triplets on summer break!). It’s been long enough that I can’t recall any specific details, but I can still easily recall how I felt about it and why I was interested to begin with. Just keep in mind that my thoughts have been blurred by time. And as is always the case, different strokes for different folks.
With the exception of craft/art/children’s books, I don’t review a lot of nonfiction, but this particular book appealed because I love to watch legal/law enforcement/medical drama’s and documentaries. But also, when I was in my early teen’s, I wanted to be a pathologist and/or medical examiner. What can I say? When you want to be a doctor, but you don’t want to cut into living people and you love a good mystery….
So, I went in excited. And I’ll admit, I learned a thing or two while reading the book. But. The author’s perspective didn’t always mesh with mine, occasionally uncomfortably so. However, there is a lot of information about suicide, suicide investigations, and the way in which suicide ripples through a family and community. Given that he worked in the coroner’s office responsible for the area covered by the Golden Gate Bridge, Bateson has more experience with this particular subject than most in his line of work. And because of his time in the coroner’s office, he went on to do a lot of good work in suicide prevention.
One of the things that I will always remember about this book is how much I learned about the politics surrounding the coroner’s office. You’d think that something like an autopsy, or a death investigation, would require a medical degree, but shockingly, that is not so. If you’re interested in learning about the difference between a medical examiner and a coroner and just some of the ridiculous politics that surround it, this is an eye-opening read.
For me, this book was pretty meh. It’s the first of this kind that I’ve read, and it left me wanting. Fortunately, there are plenty more fish in this particular sea.