What the Dead Know
Learning About Life as a New York City Death Investigator
by Barbara Butcher
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Pub Date 20 Jun 2023 | Archive Date 22 Aug 2023
Barbara Butcher was early in her recovery from alcoholism when she found an unexpected lifeline: a job at the Medical Examiner’s Office in New York City. The second woman ever hired for the role of Death Investigator in Manhattan, she was the first to last more than three months. The work was gritty, demanding, morbid, and sometimes dangerous—she loved it.
Butcher (yes, that is her real name, and she has heard all the jokes) spent day in and day out investigating double homicides, gruesome suicides, and most heartbreaking of all, underage rape victims who had also been murdered. In What the Dead Know, she writes with the kind of New York attitude and bravado you might expect from decades in the field, investigating more than 5,500 death scenes, 680 of which were homicides. In the opening chapter, she describes how just from sheer luck of having her arm in cast, she avoided a boobytrapped suicide. Later in her career, she describes working the nation’s largest mass murder, the attack on 9/11, where she and her colleagues initially relied on family members’ descriptions to help distinguish among the 21,900 body parts of the victims.
This is the fascinating and stunning real-life story of a woman who, in dealing with death every day, learned surprising lessons about life—and how some of those lessons saved her from becoming a statistic herself. Fans of Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell, and true crime won’t be able to put it down.
“A gritty, humorous portrait of a strong woman who found sobriety while working with the dead.” - Kirkus Reviews
"What the Dead Know is impossible to put down. A must read, it's destined to be a classic." - Patricia Cornwell
"It’s surprising, insightful, and perfect for fans of true crime, or for anyone who wants to understand what it’s really like to be a medical examiner." - Karin Slaughter, New York Times and Internationally Bestselling Author