All That Remains by Dame Sue Black. It is very different: a look at life as a forensic anthropologist dealing with analysis and identification of corpses and skeletal remains.

A sensitively written volume, it explores the many facets of death but it is anything but horrific or disturbing; her openness in discussing her early life and the deaths of those close to her at the beginning sets the tone for the book. It is crammed with curious facts regarding world-wide burial rites and customs eg Japanese relatives placing cremated bone fragments in urns feet first so that the deceased remains upright in death. She emphasises the importance of respecting remains and helping relatives seeking closure by identification of loved ones killed by natural disasters like tsunamis or war, like Kosovo. And she highlights much noteworthy research e.g. castration lengthens life and the development of the risk assessment tool, the micromort

Wanting to use modern embalming techniques for dissection bodies but lacking funding for a new facility at Dundee University, Dame Sue Black and her friend, crime writer Val McDermid, launched a Million for a Morgue campaign. They produced a Killer Cookbook, had donors bidding to become characters in novels and voting for which participating writer from Stuart McBride, Jeffrey Deaver, Lee Child, Jeff Lindsay, Peter James, Tess Gerritson, Kathy Reichs, Mark Billingham or Harlan Coben would have their name on the new facility. The Val McDermid Mortuary opened in 1974. Sue Black also helped save WW2 codebreaking headquarters, Bletchley Park.

A great book to keep and re-refer to.

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Author bio

Glasgow born Anne Pettigrew was a Greenock GP for 31 years and a light-hearted medical columnist in The Herald and medical press. A Glasgow graduate of 1974, she also has an Anthropology Masters from Oxford.