Cover Image: Autopsy

Autopsy

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Member Reviews

When I started reading this book, I wasn't sure if I wanted to finish it, because it wasn't what I thought it was going to be like. But I'm glad I didn't give up.
The author doesn't just relate autopsy stories, he gives insight into the system; the difficulties they face; the fact that things are not always as they appear on TV, whilst also relating incidents in his career that intrigued him.
Being a fellow South African I could relate to some of the issues that he raised about working conditions - lack of power/water/labour as its a reality all of us face. And I think something that First World countries can't believe actually happen and possibly consider fiction.
I found his 10 "rules" for a longer life very interesting and very valuable and true.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for allowing me to read this book.
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Autopsy: Life In The Trenches With A Forensic Pathologist In Africa is a fascinating layman accessible memoir by Dr. Ryan Blumenthal relating some of his experiences as a forensic pathologist. Released 13th April 2021 by Jonathan Ball Publishers, it's 224 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. 

This is a well written and absorbing glimpse inside the working life of a forensic pathologist. Dr. Blumenthal has a conversational style of writing which is humorously entertaining and yet respectful and serious. He writes at length about different causes of death, the process of autopsy, deducing whether a death is suicide or homicide, and much more. 

I'm a bioengineer working in a histopathology lab, so much of what he writes about is my regular "day job". I was quite impressed at his facility whilst explaining complex concepts in simple, scientifically correct ways, which allow readers without any medical background to easily process what he's talking about.

He's a renowned specialist in lightning strikes and deaths due to electrocution and he goes into detail in the book about the fascinating elements common to death-by-lightning, including veterinary autopsies on a rare antelope species on which he consulted. 

Four stars. There are some photos and illustrations in the book, but happily nothing shocking or horrifying at all. I found the entire book upbeat and positive and very very interesting. This would make a good selection for library acquisition and for readers of science and nonfiction. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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This book was sent to me as an ARC on NetGalley. However all opinions are of my own.
This book took me a while to read because of the medical jargon - however, I found it very informative and detailed. It was interesting and precise. It also highlights the importance of situations and how we definitely have a lack of forensic pathologists.
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I was so excited to read this book because I love forensic pathology and medical memoir-type books. 

But almost immediately I was cringing and often. I found Blumenthal to be lacking compassion and empathy for anyone that wasn't "innocent" enough for him to treat. 

According to him, he only got in medicine to help the "innocent." Innocent being defined as someone who does everything right -- not a smoker or drinker, someone eats healthy and exercises, and so on. 

Yet, the author views himself as a compassionate and caring person. Which is just, honestly, confusing. 

In the win column, I did really find the forensic pathology content fascinating but the lack of compassion really ruined it for me. There are plenty of other books on similar topics one could read but as I like to read a diverse range of authors and stories, I was excited to read this one – especially coming from an African perspective.

I think this book could have been handled with a stronger editor (or an editor at all – I'm not sure if there was one). Sometimes, the author rambled too much and sometimes they didn't explain things for the everyday layman.
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I finished this book thinking that Blumenthal is very well-suited to a career in forensic pathology where the majority of the people he interacts with are dead. It is an interesting book with lots of geeky clinical detail but he is too judgemental about the health decisions people make. It put me off.
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This book was just fascinating! I love the look into the world of autopsies and could not put it down once I had picked it up due to complete morbid fascination.
This book is written so well with amazing clarity and detail that everyone should read it if this is one of their interests.
I am fascinated by this sort of world and job, and it really just heightened my interest which is exactly what I’d hoped! A really good non fiction to get stuck into - you won’t regret it!
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This book wasn't really what I was expecting. I thought the author might give a general overview of his job as a Forensic Pathologist and then focus more and go into detail with the more unusual cases that he has worked on that are not likely to happen in other countries, such as death by hippopotamus. Instead, I felt the book gave an overview of everything with no real depth. I wanted more than surface level information. And whilst the author did talk about the differences between his job in South Africa and those of his European and American colleagues with regards to facilities and equipment, it came across as more of a complain and a moan rather than explaining how that impacts his job and how he finds ways around those barriers. The book also felt at times like the author completely forgot what he was writing about and just went off in another direction. The links between topics probably made sense to him but as a reader it felt very disjointed. 
And I don't even know what happened at the end, it just suddenly turned to preachy advice about how we should all live our lives the healthiest way possible with no bad habits so that doctors don't have to treat us for self inflicted ailments. Which to be honest, I do agree with but there's a time and a place for that and this book wasn't the time nor the place.
There were some really interesting tidbits in there that saved the book from flopping entirely, I just really, really wish the author had focused more on those. I really wanted to love this book and was so excited to read it but unfortunately it won't be a book I'll find myself recommending to others.
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Brilliant read. Took me a little while to get into in but once it clicked I was away! 
Such a page Turner interesting cases, and how they deal with different challenges 
I really enjoyed this book
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Fascinating look at the different encounters with diseases and conditions from a pathologist in Africa. At times a little repetitive, on the whole I found it readable and mesmerizing
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I often find these kinds of books fascinating, where people who do autopsies share some of their more strange or famous cases. This book, by Ryan Blumenthal discusses cases in Africa, which makes it unique from the start. There are a certain number of people killed by large wildlife, insects, lightening, even malaria. There are a wide array of deaths, related by the author in an interesting manner from his early years of his time at that profession. A read on the shorter side for those who are interested in this sort of medicolegal mystery.
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I was really intrigued by this book because I love reading about forensic science and pathology and I was interested to see how things differ in South Africa. There were some really interesting parts in this book but overall it wasn’t what I expected. I found Blumenthal glossed over the case studies so we didn’t get to actually learn about many particularly interesting cases and how they presented etc. There was a lot of repetition especially with the conditions he’s had to work in. It was also a pretty disjointed read and he went off on a lot of tangents without finishing his original line of thought. On top of that, he was very preachy. The book finishes with him preaching about how he thinks you should live your life and starts with the fact that he quit being a doctor because he didn’t want to treat smokers, drinkers, fat people, or anyone who drives badly because they bring all ailments on themselves and he only wants to help the innocent. He seems to think he’s some sort of superhero and mentioned a few times how little he’s paid and how important he is. All in all some interesting parts but not the author or book for me

I received a copy of the ebook via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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trigger warning
<spoiler> mention of: rape, child soldiers, domestic violence, terminal illnesses, suicide, lynching, parasites </spoiler>

<i>So you want to be a forensic pathologist?</i> 
This book starts of with that question, and all in all it feels like you sit down with an aquaintance after you've asked them about their job. It's a quiet evening, you're holding a cold drink of choice, you have time. He starts to talk.

While this book does contain footnotes, this is mostly about anecdotal evidence, or more specific about stuff Ryan Blumenthal either experienced himself or was told by colleagues. You learn about corpses, but also about what it's like to testify in court or aspects that are special to South Africa as area to happen to work in. 
Like, the wildlife. So many animals that have the potential to kill a human being live in South Africa, from the big ones that make people go on safaris to bees that might kill you as good as a lion. What I, personally, didn't know was that South Africa has an issue with electrical thunderstorms and due to lack of public transport, death by lightning strike is a common occurence there.

The title already suggests it: Life in the <i>trenches</i> - there is a component of war to this work in this place. There are dangers for forensic staff due to the possibility of a corpse being booby-trapped, which a person practising in Central Europe doesn't have to worry about.
And speaking of dangers, yes, Covid-19 is mentioned in the chapter about bacteria and viruses that medical folk have to protect themselves against.

All in all this was... not what I expected nor what I wanted.
The book concludes with life lessons the author came up with. This is very heavily about him wanting to bring justice to the people, but not being able to fight physically, so he went this route. He quotes Sherlock Holmes as his big hero.

I am not saying any of this is wrong, or denying that he is an essential worker in all meaning of the term. 
I am simply saying that this reading experience was not for me.

The arc was provided by the publisher.
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Autopsy is a look into the daily life of a forensic pathologist in South Africa. I find pathology incredibly interesting, so I was excited to read this book. However, I was really turned off early on in the book when the author proudly recounted a story about berating and refusing to treat a dying elderly man while working in a hospital.  I find it arrogant and disgusting that as a doctor he would act that way, with a complete lack of compassion or duty to his patient. 

Autopsy was readable and interesting when the author discussed his duties and job as a pathologist. However, it was a bit disjointed as the author has a tendency to ramble and gets a bit preachy at times. I feel like this one could have used a stronger editor or a co-writer. Just... something to reel it in a little.

I'm sure there are better books on the subject, but if you have an interest in things like true crime and pathology, Autopsy is still a decent read.

I'm grateful to NetGalley and Jonathan Ball Publishers for the opportunity to read and review Autopsy.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Johnathan Ball Publishers for the arc of Autopsy by Ryan Blumenthal.

4 stars- ⭐⭐⭐⭐-  This follows Ryan as he goes behind the scenes of the mortuary to him describing what happens in an autopsy with the instruments explained as what is used in the trade!  Whilst during his career he has dealt with high profile criminals to death disaters, people struck by lightning and even by african wildlife! 

So interesting, unique and detailed! I loved this! Highly recommend
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I love books by forensic pathologists.  I'm enthralled by the processes that happen after death, and the things that can be determined in autopsy.  I was very excited to start this book.  The fact that the author is a pathologist on a differnt continent, in completely different conditions, made it sound all the more interesting.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the way it was written.  The author spends too much time talking about how crappy the conditions are in their facility, and not enough time talking about how different types of death present at autopsy.  I don't need multiple paragraphs about the time the water didn't work.  I'd rather the author had spent that time/space talking about differences in different wildlife attacks.  How does a lion attack present at autopsy?  There was very little information about any particular case.  A chapter at the beginning on conditions at the facility and difficulties of the area would have been fine, but it kept popping up periodically throughout the book.  I was really interested in learning about specifics of the autopsies there.  The author gave multiple examples of times people died by lightning, but didn't talk in much detail about what lightning does to the body or how a pathologist would determine that was the cause of death.  There was also a lot of topic jumping.  After discussing the day the water didn't work, we jump to luminol, then to the day the power saw didn't work, then a little about wildlife attacks.  At times it seemed more like a stream of consciousness journal than a well put together book.  It's readable, but not something that held my interest well.
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I have mixed feelings about this book, I did enjoy it but it took a toll on me to read and I presume that’s the whole point, it’s taken me a couple of weeks to finish it which is unusual for me. 

The depth gone into this book is astonishing and it’s crazy how different parts of the works are in conducting the same medical examinations. 

I was intrigued by this book and I think that’s why I made myself finish it.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for authorising this book!
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This was not what I was expecting, it’s a well written book and great for anyone who is interested in the actual medical procedures of an autopsy, why it’s done, the tools of the trade etc. But I was expecting a little of the nitty gritty details and information about a few gruesome cases at least. This was mostly about the authors day to day work and lots of facts and statistics about the kinds of deaths and autopsy’s in Africa. It wasn’t a bad book and I feel awful giving it two stars but just not what I thought it would be, slow and steady going is how I would describe it.
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This was an easy, fast read but not what I expected. In my opinion the author just barely scratched the surface of the subject of autopsy. It is basically a journal of stories from his life as a forensic pathologist, not in depth cases like I was expecting. 
I would still recommend it to anyone that’s interested in science and pathology but be prepared for pretty simple descriptions and lots of author’s opinions. 

Thank you NetGalley, Jonathan Ball Publishers & the author for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Reminiscent of Atul Gawande (unfortunately, nothing can quite reach his pinnacle or standard of medical non-fiction). I really enjoyed the random facts, stories, cases and novelties that he explored. 
I think that the main negative is his sort of grandiose self-belief and arrogance. He explains things in a sort of condescending way (but a beginner still mightn't understand the medical terms) It's almost like he thought he was writing a how-to guide, rather than a memoir, and it just didn't strike well with me. 
Despite that, many of the cases and stories that he told stuck with me, and I just wanted to tell everyone around me about them. ...Necklacing will forever disgust me and I had never heard of it before this book. 
I liked that he featured the unique challenges of practising in an under-resourced, under-developed and under-funded country (South Africa). 
I think the other point that I really couldn't empathise with was his lack of compassion and desire to not treat an elderly asthmatic man who was a fastidious smoker. When this man had breathing problems, the author remarks that he would prefer to treat real victims...But that's not the job of a doctor to decide, and as a nursing student I couldn't get behind the attitude. 

Sidenote: You may need to have some medical/scientific knowledge to fully enjoy/understand terms - or keep google handy!
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Autopsy was partly interesting anecdotes about all sorts of death and partly a series of lectures, kinda like my dad used to give me. I liked the anecdotes a lot, but the lectures came off very shamey and judgy. The author clearly has a lot of opinions on what he does, what he stands for, and how he thinks everyone else should live. That's super cool for him, but not for me.
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