Book Review: Unnatural Causes by Dr Richard Shepherd

or to give the book its full title, Unnatural Causes: The Life and Many Deaths of Britain’s Top Forensic Pathologist. Dr Shepherd is arguably the country’s top pathologist having performed over 23,000 autopsies. Obviously many of the deaths are more macabre and require forensic detective work to help find the probably cause of death, working very closely with the police.

His career starts off in the deep end with one of the UK’s very few mass shootings, this one in the village of Hungerford. He discusses shootings and stabbings, serial killers and possible suicides. The book can get very ‘real’ and it’s definitely not for everyone, however both me and my wife found it to be interesting and absorbing.

Dr Shepherd doesn’t shy away from some of the high profile mistakes that were made. The most prominent would be the sinking of the Marchioness, where 51 people tragically and needlessly drowned. There wasn’t a full and correct manifest, so identifying the bodies proved to be incredibly difficult, especially if the body had been in the water for a number of days. I won’t go into the full details, but suffice it to say that one of the processes used for identification was modified after a public outcry.

His personal life is also written about, the break up of his long term marriage and how he suffered from PTSD, along with his recovery and what the future holds for forensic pathology.

A very well written and interesting book.