Death as a Living

Investigating Murder in the American Heartland

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Pub Date 21 Dec 2021 | Archive Date 01 Dec 2021

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For more than 30 years, involving more than 1,000 cases, Doyle Burke has been a death investigator, first with the Dayton, Ohio police department, then with a county coroner’s office. In this book, he shares his tricks of the trade: how detectives solve cases, what they look for, the importance of forensic science, and the irreplaceable value of instinct.

Along the way, Burke offers humorous trial anecdotes, thoughts on race and policing, stories about the fatal toll stress took on fellow officers, and, perhaps most movingly, details about the three fatal shootings of police officers – one of them one of his first friends on the department, another the son of his sergeant – that he had to investigate.

Part memoir, part police procedural, and part true crime anthology, Death as a Living reveals the inside world of homicide and death investigation—the triumph, tragedy, humor, and truly bizarre situations one finds when working that beat.

For more than 30 years, involving more than 1,000 cases, Doyle Burke has been a death investigator, first with the Dayton, Ohio police department, then with a county coroner’s office. In this book...

A Note From the Publisher

NOTE TO READERS: An early version of this ARC contained a fiction disclaimer on the copyright page. This book is a work of nonfiction. This error has been corrected in the current version.

NOTE TO READERS: An early version of this ARC contained a fiction disclaimer on the copyright page. This book is a work of nonfiction. This error has been corrected in the current version.

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ISBN 9781950301034
PRICE $19.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 48 members

Featured Reviews

A stunningly good book. Required reading not only for true crime fans but for anyone that loves a good story. The writing itself is nothing short of masterful. Unlike the typical memoir, the storytelling is non-linear but the stories flow from one to the next and, at the end, you have the author's whole story. One of the best books I've read this year and one of the best true crime books I've ever read.

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A detective (a real detective with twenty-two years of experience in Homicide) writes memoirs. Thus, the first line of a true-crime TV series is born.

'Death as a Living' by Doyle Burke and Lou Grieco is a captivating book, one that could be both entertaining and horrifying at the same time. Wrapped in an everyday casual language, stories from different years - without strict order but with their inner logic - tell us a story of a man who dedicated his life to hard, stressful work. Doyle Burke spent 29 years in police and 22 of them in Homicide in a small town in Ohio. His work was of a particularly high-risk category. It involved quick decision-making, routine background checks, and hours of interacting with people, both innocent and guilty of crimes. There were terrible times when despite all efforts, the bad guys got away from the prosecution. There was a relief when justice prevailed, and the victim's relatives could get the answers to what happened to their loved ones. There were times for personal joy and times for grief over dead friends.

The book contains all details that true-crime lovers anticipate seeing in this kind of narrative. What's the difference between CSI TV series and real life? How is the detective work organized? What units do work together on a homicide? What evidence is needed to put a killer under bars for a long time? In what cases and how does a killer gets the death penalty?

Though the book is fun, the cases described in it are far from the definition of entertainment. Fictional vampires and werewolves are little sheep, compared to the killers that detective Doyle Burke had encountered during his career. The saddest thing is that motives to kill always, except for self-defense, seem senseless in comparison to the scale of destruction. Some cases changed the detective. After reading his book, I will never forget these victims, too.

I would recommend the book to those who love well-written memoirs and those who want to see the insides of detective work. The book deserves its own TV show. For me, it is the most remarkable nonfiction book of this year.

Thank you, Netgalley and the author, for an ARC of the book, in exchange for an honest review.

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This book deserves 5 stars, even though the author and I have different opinions on a couple of things. This is everything I want in a true crime book. It's well written, giving the most attention to the cases and the victims in particular. The way it's narrated makes you want to devour it in one sitting (unfortunately, I couldn't do that). The author highlights the job of the police department and the detectives, as was expected, but he isn't a self-centered and opinionated white man, which means a lot to me.
Really great book if you like true crime!

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I'm a former deputy DA. I can't stand watching most TV shows and movies that involve criminal law and police work because in general, they don't accurately depict reality. Same for a lot of so-called "true crime" books and legal thrillers - I can't get through more than a few pages before I roll my eyes and toss the book aside. That being said, I read Death as a Living cover-to-cover (virtually) and enjoyed every word of it.

Doyle Burke has crafted a riveting memoir of his career as a homicide detective in Ohio. If you're looking for salacious and gory details about all the horrible things humans do to each other, you may be disappointed because Burke doesn't sensationalize the crimes he investigated. Instead, he puts the violence and horror into context, providing the history and background of the place and people and offers up his thoughts on society and crime. Yes, there are definitely certain scenes that may be upsetting to some readers (i.e. violence/death involving children). Unfortunately, that cannot be avoided due to the nature of the subject matter. Burke, however, gives only as much as is necessary to understand the scene and visualize what it was like for him to carry out his duties in one of the most stressful and difficult fields of work. And carry it out he does, with respect, honor, and a touch of humor. I appreciated his calm voice throughout, and was genuinely sad when the book came to an end.

I highly recommend this book if you're interested in reading about the reality of working as a homicide detective, though I'm sure the job has changed quite a bit since Burke retired (and probably not for the better). This book is also about the human side of being a cop: the physical, mental, and emotional toll on the officers and their families. I hope Burke will write more books in the future.

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This is brilliant, harrowing, honest, and fascinating account of some of the cases most remembered by a long serving policeman in the USA.
I have a keen interest in books about crime/criminal psychology/policing and the law, and this is one of the best books I have read recently on the subject.
Absolutely gripping and compelling stuff.
Easily worthy of 5 stars, I hope the author shares more of his stories with us soon.

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