What the Dead Know: Learning About Life as a New York City Death Investigator

S. & S. Jun. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9781982179380. $28.99. CRIME
Butcher worked in New York City’s Medical Examiner’s office, primarily as a medicolegal death investigator. for more than 20 years. Her book gives insight into a lesser known branch of law enforcement that entails surveying corpses, scenes, and all types of deaths, including suicides, homicides, accidents, and natural deaths when the decedent’s primary physician isn’t able to provide the basic information necessary to obtain a death certificate. A masterful storyteller, Butcher takes readers on an unforgettable journey into her personal and professional life. Masterfully woven tales include how participation in AA led her to this unique job opportunity, her consideration of how death (and life) vary depending on a person’s relative prosperity or lack thereof, and her sympathy for those who have died, no matter the circumstances. Later chapters focus on loss on a larger scale, including 9/11, and reflect on the toll such events take on victims, families, and first responders. The book also depicts Butcher’s life after she left the job that had become such an enormous part of her identity.
VERDICT An intriguing combination of memoir and true crime. Perfect for readers who enjoyed Mary Roach’s Stiff and Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing