Review: Unnatural Causes – Dr Richard Shepherd

Unnatural Causes

Unnatural Causes

Dr Richard Shepherd

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9781405923545

RRP $34.99

 

Description:

A gripping memoir by one of the UK’s most prominent and experienced pathologists. His work has turned cases on their heads and put murderers behind bars. But his obsession with trying to learn what the dead are telling us began in medical school during his first autopsy. Holding the heart of the patient in his hands, he thought of his late mother, who’d died young from coronary heart disease. He wanted to help the living by learning about death. And, in the case of his criminal work, he wanted to see justice.

 

Intelligent, insightful, chilling – sometimes bizarre – and always unputdownable.

 

Unnatural Causes is the true crime book of the year from an expert who’s opening his records and sharing his casebook for the first time.

 

 

My View:

For a pathologist this author makes a wonderful wordsmith!

 

This is an intriguing narrative, a creative memoir that discusses the changes in society and attitudes to policing, medicine and science in an easy to read format that is engaging and illuminating. The discussion around autopsies, mass shootings/acts of terror and suspicious deaths are handled sensitively and considerately, the writer’s humanness shines through these sections of the book.

 

The author is open, honest and empathetic.  This is a sensitively and intelligently written book that will appeal to lovers of memoir, history, true crime and social science.

 

 

 

Best True Crime Read of 2016

I didn’t have to think twice when I was deciding which book deserves this accolade. I think this is a book that all people should read –  yes it might make you feel a little uncomfortable at times, yes it is sometimes brutal and it is hard to believe that this sort of thing is happening in modern Australia ( and this issue not endemic  to Australia – it is world wide.)

 

This narrative is exceptionally well written. It is emotional, it is challenging, it is heartbreaking and it shares shocking life altering truths.  Thank you to all the brave women and families who shared their painful intimate stories. Thanks you to Megan Norris for revealing these stories with candour and without sensationalism .  Education is the key. Awareness is needed.

 

The most moving book I have read in such a long time:

 

Megan Norris

Look What You Made Me Do, Fathers Who Kill

Megan Norris

 

 

Doesn’t Time Fly?

Here it is December 2016 already.  I cant believe it – this year has flown by, life has been busy; a grandson was born and he is now 8 months old.  Recipes have been tried and tested and many books have been read and reviewed – around the one hundred seventy mark thus far.

I am enjoying sharing the joy of reading with my grandson (with  appropriate titles) – it is never too early to encourage a love of reading.

Recently I invited a couple of ardent readers to share some of their favoruite reads on my site – to broaden the type of book reviews available here.  I hope you find some new favourite books and authors.  Thank you Bec and Brenda.

 

The reading year has not yet wound up – there is a blog tour ahead; the launch of Rachel Amphlett’s new police procedural series, Scared to Death. There is a   Q & A with debut Perth writer Anthea Hodgson, a Christmas menu to compile and share and a series of “best of 2016 reads” for you to comment on and…more reviews.

scared-to-death-blog-tour4-19-23-dec

 

Seasons greetings to you.

Christmas pavlova

 

 

Dedicated to the Covert Operatives – Kate Kyriacou – Guest Post

The Sting

The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer

Kate Kyriacou

Echo Publishing

ISBN: 9781760067427

kate-kyriacou_1

Welcome Kate to my blog.

Kate Kyriacou is the Brisbane Courier-Mail‘s chief crime reporter. She has won awards, both at a state and national level, for her work as a crime writer.
 Dedicated to the Covert Operatives 

You see and hear a lot of things as a journalist. You sit in court, you stand at crime scenes. You talk to investigators, lawyers, witnesses. You talk to families, grieving families who have lost someone.

 

So many things stay with you. I once walked into a house set up for a kid’s 18th birthday party. There were balloons and streamers and presents. But he’d died that morning – along with two of his mates – in a car crash on a country road.

 

But there is nothing quite like the total immersion that comes with writing a book. Day after day I sat reading through research, court transcripts and articles on an eight-year investigation into the kidnapping and murder of a 13-year-old boy. Thousands of pages. Many, many phone calls.

 

I wrote The Sting after sitting through the trial into Daniel Morcombe’s murder. Covert police had spent months posing as members of a criminal gang, convincing their suspect, Brett Peter Cowan, that he was on his way to being one of them. Soon he would be earning big money, living a life of fast cars and parties – a brotherhood. He’d never been part of anything, so by the end, he was hooked.

 

It was incredibly rare to get such an insight into the workings of a covert operation. In court we heard recordings, testimony from covert officers and had access to pages and pages of transcripts. Later, I was given access to one of the covert officers and gained more insight through my own research.

 

It’s a horrible thing to enter that world. To listen to the things a man like Brett Cowan likes to talk about. It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like for those covert officers. I know they hated him, hated having to laugh along every day, join in on his jokes. And the secrecy of the operation meant they had nobody to talk to at the end of each day. The judge talked about it in court before some of the recordings were played. Just be aware, she told Daniel’s partners who sat in the public gallery, that these covert officers are saying things and responding to things in order to further the investigation. They don’t really find him funny. They don’t really mean the things that they say. This is not who they are.

 

I dedicated the book to those guys. Because of the work they do, their identities can’t be revealed. And that means they can’t get the public recognition they deserve for the incredible work they did.

 

But we can read about it…

Post Script: The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer – Kate Kyriacou

The Sting

The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer

Kate Kyriacou

Echo Publishing

ISBN: 9781760067427

 

Description:

The story of the police sting that resulted in the confession of Daniel Morcombe’s killer reads like crime fiction. An elaborately staged fake crime gang, run by a ‘Mr Big’ that lured Brett Cowan in with the promise of a hefty payout. It was the stuff of a TV crime series rather than an Australian police operation. The Sting reveals extraordinary new detail and a shocking insight into one of the country’s most evil killers, and the operation that brought him down.

Go behind the scenes in one of Australia’s most sensational undercover busts, including never-before-heard detail of the covert investigation, including how Cowan was slowly brainwashed into believing ‘Mr Big’.

Read what Cowan’s family think of their black sheep.

 

My View:

A fascinating read! But don’t be quick to judge me – I am not referring to the horrendous atrocities that Daniel Morcombe’s murderer is guilty of, I am referring to the outstanding efforts that the Queensland, West Australian and Victorian police force made to apprehend this criminal; such lengths, the covert officers deserve an academy award for their part in capturing this offender. Their story is fascinating.

 

Kate Kyriacou presents a sensitively written narrative of two parts; the first act introduces the “players” and sets the scene. We meet the offender, the families involved, we get some background on locations and personal histories, insights to the main characters and the revelation of the story of a missing boy, soon to be presumed dead.

 

We meet Daniel Morcombe and his family. We share the fear that all parents share when a child goes missing. We meet Brett Peter Cowan and fear for whoever crosses his path – an opportunistic psychopath that evokes no empathy.

 

A nation trembled in fear when Daniel Morcombe went missing in December 2003.

 

The author provides us with a background to both families involved in this tragedy. We learn of Brett Cowan’s earlier criminal behaviours and the assaults he committed but thankfully we do not get “into his head”. The facts are presented, the behaviours stated simply but we do not “hear “ Cowan’s personal story, we just see his part in it, an observation from the outside and for that I am  grateful.  We get to meet the Morcombe’s – we feel their despair, we feel their pain.

 

Part Two – The Sting! What an incredible effort that the police forces put into eliciting a confession from their prime suspect in this case.  Psychology, role playing, deals and scripted conversations secretly recorded, what a feat!

 

It is a credit to the author, her research and her compulsive style of writing that despite knowing the outcome of this covet operation, I was on the edge of my seat, cheering the operatives on, hoping they found the evidence they needed in time to secure the arrest and conviction of Daniel Morcombe’s murderer. Well written Kate Kyriacou!

 

 

 

 

 

In The Mail This Week 17 June 2016

In the mail this week I received some fantastic reads – a few by authors I have rad before, a few that are new to me. In this stack are a few works of crime fiction; some Australian crime fiction, a couple of true crime, some international crime writers, crime with a paranormal twist, crime written by local author (Ian Andrew)  and…some contemporary reads.   I have started reading “When the Music Is Over” by Peter Robinson – my first DCI Banks read and I am looking forward to reading the new offering from Australian author Fleur Ferris “Black”- I loved her first book “Risk“. So many great reads ahead of me.

 

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Any favourites?

In the mail 17 June 2016

Post Script: A Murder Without Motive the killing of Rebecca Ryle

A very personal look at a senseless crime.

A Murder Without Motive

A Murder Without Motive: the killing of Rebecca Ryle

Martin McKenzie-Murray

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925321357

 

Description:

In 2004, the body of a young Perth woman was found on the grounds of a primary school. Her name was Rebecca Ryle. The killing would mystify investigators, lawyers, and psychologists – and profoundly rearrange the life of the victim’s family.

 

It would also involve the author’s family, because his brother knew the man charged with the murder. For years, the two had circled each other suspiciously, in a world of violence, drugs, and rotten aspirations.

 

 

A Murder Without Motive is a police procedural, a meditation on suffering, and an exploration of how the different parts of the justice system make sense of the senseless. It is also a unique memoir: a mapping of the suburbs that the author grew up in, and a revelation of the dangerous underbelly of adolescent ennui.

 

 

 

My View:

A very personal look at a senseless crime.

 

A community in shock, two families’ lives for ever changed; a teenager the victim of a senseless murder, her death impacting on the psyche of those who knew her, those who were in her orbit and even those who knew her only because of the media attention surrounding her death. The murder of Rebecca Ryle was to have a profound influence on so many including the young man soon to be journalist Martin McKenzie-Murray.

 

The proximity of her death eclipses the innocence of this young Martin McKenzie-Murray; the author lived close to the Ryle’s and was familiar with the everyday places of Rebecca’s life, the personal ‘second hand’ knowledge existing because the author’s brother had at one point associated with a social group that included the perpetrator of the crime as a member, and because of the similarity in ages between the writer and the victim, this death weighed heavy on the mind of the author. Eight years later the author is still haunted by Rebecca’s death and seeks to discover how “the psychic bruising of the suburbs” contributed/affected her life and ultimately led to her death. This book is the result of his discoveries, personal interviews, research, theories regarding urban society and its social constructs. This book is more than a dry summation of facts or court or police records, this is an intensely personal study of the effects of one young person’s death on a community and on the writer of this book.

 

This is a very personal look at a senseless crime – I keep repeating the word senseless, this crime makes no sense; occurring just 50m from Rebecca’s home, a life ending for no apparent reason and the perpetrator with no recollection of his motivation for causing her death (or one that he is willing to share), this crime stunned so many. If you lived in Western Australia around the time of Rebecca’s murder you will have your own memories of this event, memories that cannot be erased.

 

Martin McKenzie-Murray has written a thought provoking and intense narrative. As someone involved in the documentary industry this books reminds me so much of the process of documentary making – the gathering of facts, the research, the interviews, the connections you cannot help but make with the subject of the documentary (book) and those close to your subject. As in documentary making your life becomes entwined with those in your film (book), you relate to them and their feelings. The documentary is a journey (you have made a personal journey in this book). Thank you for sharing your journey; this incident perhaps weighs more heavily on me now than it did at the time because of your book.