Corpse is a non-fiction forensic pathology novel written by freelance science writer, Jessica Snyder Sachs.
It follows the history of forensic investigations into time of death starting in 44 B.C. and ending in 2001 (the year of publication). The history of forensics is examined in accordance with the OJ Simpson trial. During the trial, time of death became one of the biggest questions. If the victim was killed at XYZ time, OJ couldn't have been the killer. If she was killed at ZYX time, he would be the prime suspect. Since forensics can only give a time of death window, it is considered one of the biggest reasons why OJ Simpson was not convicted.
Jessica Snyders Sachs is a science writer who contributes to periodicals like Discover, National Wildlife, and Parenting. She has also written two other books, one published after Corpse involving the difference between good and bad germs. Sachs is a Columbia School of Journalism graduate. She also completed a masters in a cross-disciplinary program involving immunology, microbiology, and infectious disease.
The story was written to give insight into how pathologists determine time of death. It did so by talking about things like livor mortis, rigor mortis, and algor morris. While it discussed the benefits of each area, it also made note of the fact that none of them are reliable when determining time of death in cases as sensitive as murder investigations. As the years progressed from 44 B.C. to the present day, forensic pathologists realized that each of the listed bodily events (lividity, rigor, and algor) along with things like the appearance of bugs, did not occur after a specified amount of time. It depended upon the environment in which someone was killed, the manner in which they were killed, and even the condition of their bodies before death.
So many of these factors make it nearly impossible to pinpoint an exact time of death, but make it possible to create a window of time in which the murder may have occurred. This is one of the factors that caused the OJ Simpson trial to fail, and Sachs is bringing light to this ever-changing field.
She uses her own observations of autopsies, interviews with pathologists, case transcripts, and in-depth research of forensics in order to craft this story. She seamlessly combines research from 44 BC up until the present in order to share the message of time of death with her audience?
Did I like it? Oh, yes! I would rate Corpse as a 9/10. It would have been a 10 but for me there was one difficult thing about the book. If you're not a pathologist or a scientist of some kind, a lot of what Sachs writes will be over your head. It is very scientific and oftentimes I had to read paragraphs more than once to digest the information.
If you enjoy police procedurals, medical dramas, true crime, or any sort of "crime drama" you will most likely enjoy this book. It was like hanging out in Ducky's lab (NCIS) or spending time with the C.S.I. team members.
Sachs does a brilliant job of showing you the autopsy and showing you the investigation. You can see the stiff bones and you can see the discolored body.
If that kind of stuff grosses you out don't even pick up this book.