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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: The Education of a Coroner: Lessons in Investigating Death

The Education of a Coroner: Lessons in Investigating Death The Education of a Coroner: Lessons in Investigating Death by John Bateson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**

The Education of a Coroner is about the experiences of one man and his coworkers in the coroner's office of Marin County, California, throughout his career, which spanned from the late 70s through the new millennium. The rapid changes in technology, philosophy, and techniques in just under 40 years is incredible. The cases are morbidly fascinating, especially considering Marin County is one of the wealthiest counties per capita in California. Each chapter brings new insights into the unique and often completely misunderstood life of a coroner.

The story
Ken Holmes worked in the Marin County Coroner's office for 36 years before he retired amidst political and financial upheaval. In his career he went from working as a coroner's death investigator, hired straight out of a simple mortuary job, to being elected as County Coroner for three terms. He personally handled cases involving everything from Golden Gate Bridge suicides to the death of Robin William's mother. He also helped hunt down the infamous Trailside Killer, a serial killer who overpowered, sexually assaulted, and then killed female hikers in parks around Marin County. Despite all the blood and gore, Holmes loved his job. He maintained that the most important and rewarding part of his job was helping effected loved ones work through the aftermath and find not only answers, but also peace. The author manages to tell the stories not only of Holmes, but of each case, with detail and keen insight. This reader is at once intrigued, angered, appalled, moved, and then intrigued again. I had no idea how the coroner fit into the law enforcement community, nor did I know what the professional and training requirements entailed. The author includes details on every aspect of the daily life of a coroner. This book is both educational and fascinating!

Literary analysis
I thoroughly enjoyed this book for both it's educational value and it's fascinating look at true crimes. It almost reads like an episode of Dateline mixed with CSI; it certainly feels like the writing of a crime reporter, although I found I didn't mind it in this case. I loved coming away with not only insider knowledge of some really interesting death scenarios, but also a much better understanding of the role and work of a coroner.

This book is a quick, engaging, easy read. I did note that for some reason Chapter 10 seemed to be riddled with grammatical errors. I received an ARC though, so this may have been corrected before final publication. Otherwise this book was a pleasure to read.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading about true crime and/or anyone who aspires to running for local government!

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