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Summary

Meet the forensic pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd, in the true crime book of the year - brought to you by Penguin.

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

He solves the mysteries of unexplained or sudden death.

He has performed over 23,000 autopsies, including investigating some of the most high-profile cases of recent times; the Hungerford Massacre, the Princess Diana inquiry, and 9/11.

He has faced 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 a huge personal cost.

Written and narrated by Dr Richard Shepherd, Unnatural Causes tells the story of not only the cases and bodies that have haunted him the most, but also how to live a life steeped in death.

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

Critic reviews

"Puts the reader at his elbow as he wields the scalpel." (Guardian

"Fascinating, gruesome yet engrossing." (Richard and Judy, Daily Express)

"Fascinating, insightful, candid, compassionate." (Obersver

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What listeners say about Unnatural Causes

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A rollercoaster ride

The best book that I have encountered in years; it was narrated with ease by Dr Shepherd. I couldn't stop listening and continued through the night. It recounts the ups, downs, twists and turns of this leading Home Office pathologists life within forensic & legal medicine. It's a biography carefully threaded through his most memorable cases; it is not intended to be a treatise on forensic medicine. Shepherd exposes how such a demanding role can impact so many lives and how the freedom or confinement of the individual can depend so much on the attentiveness, honesty and impartiality of the forensic professionals. Moreover, if you're interested in how the authorities handle the aftermath of mass disasters, this is a 'must read'. The mental health crisis that the Shepherd suffered in the latter part of his career was no surprise 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). Listeners should be aware that it may leave a dark cloud hanging over ones head for a while afterwards. There are many tragic recollections -- the most tragic from my viewpoint were the 'hide and die' and SUDEP cases. The high profile cases affected me much less. Two of the high profile cases that Shepherd was involved with are constantly in the media, even now, over 20 years later; the constant ruminations by the media on these two cases have bored me rigid. It was the anonymous, unheard of cases that made me feel melancholic. The 'spy in the bag' death and Jo Cox murder were not covered; I was disappointed about that, but I'm sure that there was a reason. A wonderful read offered up by a very colourful, clever and candid character. As a side note: Dr Shepherd also appears in the TV series 'Mummies Alive' (brilliant!), 'Autopsy' and Michael Portillo's 'Hidden Britain - Royal London Hospital'. All available on the web and worth watching if you have the opportunity.

91 people found this 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.

43 people found this 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.

12 people found this 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.

21 people found this 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.

8 people found this helpful

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What an amazing human

One of the most interesting biographies I have ever read
Thank you for looking out for all those people after their deaths

7 people found this 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.

14 people found this helpful

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Brilliant

Great book which gives a fascinating insight into this highly skilled but often overlooked and underappreciated profession. Hearing of how Richard's career over the years caused issues with family, children and even his own mental health was really moving at times. The descriptions of the disaster scenes and effects of working within them are very tastefully done. It would have been easy to turn this into a blood, guts and gore shocker book but it's really not like that at all. Thanks for sharing your story Richard.

6 people found this 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

12 people found this helpful

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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.

28 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for CHET YARBROUGH
  • CHET YARBROUGH
  • 30-04-19

UNNATURAL CAUSES

Dr. Richard Shepard is an English forensic pathologist. In a cathartic examination of his profession, Shepard reveals how obsessiveness is a boon and bane in life. From youth to late middle age, Shepard reflects on his life.

In “Unnatural Causes”, Shepard examines the causes of others’ death. With ever-present foreshadowing, a listener recognizes a man who is going to experience a mid-life crisis.

Shepard explains how political pressure from the public, the police, and the judicial system influences diagnosis of death. The public may want to know the “cause of death” because of preconceived notions. The police may want to know the “cause of death: because of their perception of someone’s guilt or innocence. The judicial system may want “cause of death” based on witnesses for the defense or prosecution. To Shepard, what someone wants is not relevant. Only the truth is relevant.

Both the personal and public crises Shepard faces will resonate with anyone who has obsessively pursued a career and had his/her personal integrity challenged.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Shannon L. Nachajko
  • 14-11-19

Give this one a chance

This book starts off very ho hum and I am an Osteologist. It does get much better and I am glad I stuck with it. You will be happy you did to!

7 people found this helpful

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  • Grainne Whelan
  • 10-06-19

Highly recommend

This book came highly recommended by a solicitor colleague and in turn I’m recommending it highly. For the first time ever I have read a book that recognises vicarious trauma and I am deeply grateful for same. It is a fascinating reflection on a distinguished career. It’s is truthful and not at all glamorous. Thank you.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Michael
  • 22-09-19

Interesting but Lacking

This is a mildly interesting book that discusses the profession of forensic pathologist, including his youthful interest in the subject and the personal effects of the profession upon himself and his family. There are numerous stories unfolding the mysteries of unusual deaths and insider tales of the trade.

Unfortunately the author is unreliable. The book lacks the self-insight necessary in a great memoir. Sometime this is just a lack of introspection, sometimes it is a lack of empathy, sometimes it is a lack of honesty. If this book were just stories about forensics, it would have been fine, but it attempts to be both that, and a memoir about the author and his life. This memoir was far from ripe.

I could not recommend this book even though I enjoyed (and learned from) a number of the stories.

The book is very well narrated by the author.

11 people found this helpful

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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.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Zoesmydog
  • 21-06-19

Boring!

Half thru. Can't take another minute. Idgaf about his childhood, kids, wife, etc. I have advanced medical training and am fascinated w forensics. I expected to hear interesting medical cases. Nope 85% about himself. Skip it

22 people found this helpful

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  • Katherine Hamilton
  • 21-06-20

It's worth the time

The narrator is terrible. I loved the content though. He was good and talking about his expereince both professionally and emotionally. I'm a therapist, I loved how he talked about how his childhood affected him as an adult, carrying over into his marriage and parenting style. That makes it sound like he doesn't share the good stuff but he does. It's crazy to think that those guys aren't affected. Just the narrator though.

3 people found this helpful

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  • 520 8698064
  • 02-01-20

unnatural causes

This book was interesting and helpful. The reading was decent and the story which is factual but has the feeling the real.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 30-11-20

Fascinating and interesting read

I would highly recommend this book. It was beautifully written and equally well read. His honest account of his personal life and how it intertwined with his career was a breath of fresh air. I absolutely loved this book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • readaholic
  • 26-03-21

Fascinating

But at times the monotonous narration pulled the story down. At times, it was very hard to like the author and narrator, especially when he described himself as a father and husband. Kudos for honesty and huge respect for the job he did.