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Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Unnatural Causes written and read by Dr Richard Shepherd. 

The dead do not hide the truth and they never lie. Through me the dead can speak....

As the country's top forensic pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd has spent a lifetime uncovering the secrets of the dead.

When death is sudden or unexplained, it falls to Shepherd to establish the cause. Each post-mortem is a detective story in its own right - and Shepherd has performed over 23,000 of them. Through his skill, dedication and insight, Dr Shepherd solves the puzzle to answer our most pressing question: how did this person die?

From serial killer to natural disaster, perfect murder to freak accident, Shepherd takes nothing for granted in pursuit of truth. And while he's been involved in some of the most high-profile cases of recent times, it's often the less well known encounters that prove the most perplexing, intriguing and even bizarre. In or out of the public eye, his evidence has put killers behind bars, freed the innocent and turned open-and-shut cases on their heads.

But a life in death, bearing witness to some of humanity's darkest corners, exacts a price and Shepherd doesn't flinch from counting the cost to him and his family. 

Unnatural Causes is a record of an extraordinary life, a unique insight into a remarkable profession, and above all a powerful and reassuring testament to lives cut short.

©2018 Dr Richard Shepherd (P)2018 Penguin Books Ltd

What members say

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A rollercoaster ride

This is the best book that I have encountered in a long time; it was narrated with ease by Dr Shepherd. Once I started listening, I couldn't stop and continued through the day, evening, night and into the next morning. It recounts the ups and downs and twists and turns of this leading Home Office pathologists career (and life) within forensic and legal medicine. It's a biography carefully threaded through his cases over the years; it is not meant to be a treatise on forensic pathology. This made the book quite unique and exposes how such a demanding role can impact so many lives. The mental health crisis that the author suffered in the latter part of his career was no surprise, but it was sad to read about and highlights the sacrifices made by the few who do this job (there's only a small number of Home Office pathologists in the British Isles). Readers/listeners should be aware that it can leave a sombre cloud hanging over ones head for a while afterwards. At least it did for me. There are many tragic recollections from the author -- the most tragic from my viewpoint were the 'hide and die' and SUDEP cases. The high profile cases affected me much less, even though new details emerged here. It was the anonymous, unheard of cases that made me feel sad. A wonderful read offered up by a very colourful, clever and candid character.

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Essex
  • 21-10-18

Authoritative, Authentic and Utterly Fascinating

This review is an absolute honour to write as I have rarely read or listened to a book so richly deserving 5 stars across the board. The story, such as it can be called a story, is incredibly interesting. I am quite squeamish and this book certainly does not hold back but the material is so interesting and so well recounted that I hung on every word. Dr Shepherd can really write and his narration was pitch perfect - better than many voice actors I have listened to. His searing honesty, self - doubt, compassion and humanity really helped to humanise the medical aspects of the book. This is not just a great memoir, it is an outstanding work of literature and I thoroughly recommend it to all listeners and readers.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Bringing life to death

Really loved this book. I've always found the idea of forensic pathology fascinating. This was not only an excellent insight into the work, and touched on lots of high profile cases, but had personal stories describing the impact of such a career on the mental health of the pathologist. Was also very insightful on the changes in the profession over time, and the influence of public perceptions and trends in thinking. Great that it was naratted by the author too, adding additional personal touches. Highly recommend.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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So Human

A humble, compassionate and beautiful, wise book, brilliant. Thank you for the careful work you have done. I wish this
book hadn’t ended it’s so good.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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WARNING: Say bye bye to the next 11hrs and 46mins

This book was by far the most compelling listen so far in my 4 years of grinding my way through audiobooks on Audible. Absolute honesty mixed with fascinating and detailed stories from the frontline of criminal forensic pathology which references cases anyone from the UK or Ireland who was born in the last 50 years will remember. Shepherd brings humanity to his description of a job that many people don't even want to think about. There is interesting caselaw that features fascinating insights into complex legal issues that revolve around his findings in the PM room but explained with a brevity and focus that make it simple for a lay person like me to understand. There is the non-gruesome yet frank explanation of causes of death (definite and suspected) and a very interesting look at the tapestry of relationships that a forensic pathologist is involved in which I never thought about before (doctors, other pathologists, academics, consultant, law enforcement, solicitors, barristers, judges etc). Top all of this off with a general underlying feeling that this man just comes across as a bloody (excuse the pun) nice chap with very simple and altruistic goals underpinning his career and you get what is a book that I must have listened to in two days which for juts under 12 hours is a record for me. Wholeheartedly recommended.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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wow

I heard Dr Shepherd on Jeremy Vines radio 2 programme. I thought at the time this sounds interesting. Not my normal listen, but I'd give it a go. I never realised what a forensic pathologist did. oh I have seen tv shows, but this book takes it to a new level

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Absolutely fascinating, unexpectedly gripping.

I found I was compelled to keep listening, and went through from start to finish in a little over 24 hours. At times the detail can be very full on, these were after all most of the major incidents within the last 30 years, and he was a very senior pathologist, so be warned.

The book is candid, meticulous and nothing is held back. His thoughts and feelings are laid out like one of his patients and are scrutinised and dissected with the same clinical rigor. He finds himself unexpectedly as human as any of us, yet with deep pockets of care and empathy and compassion. This truly is an insightful and fascinating autobiography of an exceptional man.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating, humble and honest

An absolutely fascinating account of Richard Shepherd's career. He mixes the chronological story of his professional life with really interesting technical insight as well as philosophical discussion on the moral topics that he feels strongly about. Accompanying this is real, admirable honesty about his feelings, his family and the effects that his work had on it. Dr Shepherd, you have my deepest respect.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant

One of the best books I've read/listened to in a very long time.
I have been re-telling Dr Shepherd's stories to my family and friends since finishing this book. Captivating, fascinating, and beautifully written.
With regards to Audbile, this book was narrated perfectly.

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Great book, buy it now. you won't regret it

This book is a fascinating insight into one mans career and life within a field not understood or talked about much. It has much to say about humanity and sometimes its lack there of.

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  • Hamad Al Dhefairi
  • 25-11-18

intriguing

Narration was great. It's enlightening to realize what it takes do perform such a difficult and necessary job and the struggles on those who perform it. I enjoyed every bit of it.

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  • C. Willis
  • 25-10-18

Dark, Fascinating and Compelling

What a great listen for my first book back on Audible. The topic wasn't something that I thought I would interested in, (I'm not the biggest fan of blood), but this book, while dark and gory at times, kept me listening.

The details of Dr Shepherds personal life are entwined with stories that British listeners will recognize instantly, and this mix cuts through the sensationalism of those stories and presents them, guts and all, in a way that makes them all the more real.