Skeletons in the Closet: Stories from the County Morgue


A mother calls 911 because her child, despite a fetal monitor, stopped breathing. She didn’t know it, but the fetal monitor her doctor prescribed had a memory chip. Would the monitor’s memory chip preserve evidence of a tragic accident or a murder?

A young couple’s marriage is crumbling, but they decide to take one last family trip. She will never return home. A pool of blood suggests she died from injuries caused by an accidental fall from a ...

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A mother calls 911 because her child, despite a fetal monitor, stopped breathing. She didn’t know it, but the fetal monitor her doctor prescribed had a memory chip. Would the monitor’s memory chip preserve evidence of a tragic accident or a murder?

A young couple’s marriage is crumbling, but they decide to take one last family trip. She will never return home. A pool of blood suggests she died from injuries caused by an accidental fall from a boat dock. So how did she wind up face down in the lake?

For more than two decades, Dr. Stephen D. Cohle has been solving vexing forensic mysteries as the medical examiner for Kent County, Michigan. As a whole, the cases he considers represent a cross-section of crime in mid-America, often committed by a macabre cast of characters: "Jekyll and Hyde" alcoholics who turned homicidal; killers who resorted to the most bizarre methods in concealing their crimes; and the rarest species in the zoo of criminology, a two-woman team of serial killers.

Based on his work with Dr. Cohle, true-crime writer Tobin T. Buhk recounts twenty-one riveting, real-life stories, each with a unique forensic twist. Offering a glimpse into the strange sights, sounds, and smells of the county morgue, these tales of intrigue, deception, and murder will fascinate true-crime buffs, fans of CSI, and readers of mystery and detective stories.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Freelance writer Buhk documents some macabre moments from his friend Cohle's career in forensic pathology. He recounts, for instance, the cases of Dennis Alt and Chris Schoenborn (sexually tortured and strangled), Linda Teeters (beaten to death with a baseball bat) and several others who were murdered during Cohle's tenure as chief medical examiner of Kent County, Michigan. We also meet cops, lawyers, victim's families, doctors and other bit players-few of whom, thanks to this book's numerous shortcomings, we care about. Buhk and Cohle's second collaboration (after Cause of Death: Forensic Files of a Medical Examiner, 2007) is a mess in terms of both structure and content. One case follows another with no connecting material; vapid chapter titles like "Identity Crisis" provide the only (unpersuasive) thematic links. The book's narrative arc is nonexistent, its prose amateurish to the point of distraction: On the rare occasions when a story gains some momentum, readers are stopped cold by such inept sentences as, "Earlier that night Margaret Gillis heard the commencement of a homicide"; "Catherine Wood decided to share her dirty little secret to someone she knew intimately." Told in tedious detail, the stories aren't gripping enough to overcome these issues. Readers who want the inside scoop on what goes on in a morgue should check out Mary Roach's justifiably beloved Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003). Those who want a light look at the subject can stick to CSI or Law & Order. No one need bother with this disposable memoir/morgue tour. Rambling, repetitive, dull, didactic and mildly gross. Agent: Mike Hamilburg/Mitchell J. Hamilburg Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591026037
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 3/18/2008
  • Pages: 380
  • Sales rank: 665,855
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Tobin T. Buhk (Grand Rapids, MI) is a freelance writer and the coauthor (with Stephen D. Cohle, MD) of Cause of Death. In preparation for writing this book, he observed and assisted Dr. Cohle and his forensic team in more than thirty-five autopsies.

Stephen D. Cohle, MD (Grand Rapids, MI), a nationally recognized figure in the community of forensic medicine, is the chief medical examiner for Kent County, Michigan, and a forensic pathologist for Laboratory Pathologists, PC. He is the author (with Tobin T. Buhk) of Cause of Death and (with R. Byard) of Sudden Death in Infancy, Childhood, and Adolescence.

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Table of Contents

Note on the Text     7
Introduction: "Moonlighting"     9
Identity Crisis     33
"The Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead"     36
No Tombstone for "Jack": An Untitled Story in Five Acts     56
Series     75
Scorecard     76
M-U-R-D-E-R? (Till Death Do Us Part)     97
I Fought the Law and the Law Won     119
The Right to Bear Arms     123
Rebel Yell     138
"Hey, You, Get Off of My Cloud!" (Over the Rainbow)     150
Malice Domestic     169
Obsession     170
"It's Not a Weapon; It's a Tea Mug!"     178
A Slap in the Face     184
Punch Drunk     188
Ghosts of Arcadia     194
By Reason of Insanity?     209
"I Did It, but I Didn't Do It"     211
Loved Him to Death     220
Head Case     245
Burying the Evidence     263
Sex, Lies, and Cement (and Counterfeiting): Caveat Emptor     265
The Hand That Feeds     286
"I Shot the Drug Dealers, but I Swear It Was in Self-Defense"     302
Who Murdered the Ice Woman?     318
Accidents     341
Big Cats     343
Klismaphilia     353
Things Ain't Always What They Seem     359
Conclusion: "Double Trouble"     369
Sources     375
Acknowledgments     395
Index     397

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 1, 2009

    An easy book to put down

    My uncle gave me this book because I have been to numerous autopsies and have had internships with various county forensics crews in SW Michigan. I was excited to read the book at first, but quickly became frustrated with the author's writing style. Each case appeared to be written as a stand alone section with only a little thought given to the fact that it would be part of a book. A lot of the terminology was repetitive; if he explained it once, he explained it three times. I think the thing that was most annoying was his repetition of the buzz words "macabre" and "red herring." A little variety would have been nice. I also felt related cases were stuck in just because he could or to show that "hey, I did research-here it is!" It broke up the flow of the reading and at times became confusing switching between the real case and the "bonus" cases. <BR/><BR/>The cases themselves were interesting. Especially for anyone that is familiar with Michigan. One incident actually took place less than a mile from my mom's house. The chapter entitled "Things ain't always what they seem" was great. It was quick, to the point and didn't stray from the case at hand. The addition of the color photo section in the middle was also a nice touch. <BR/><BR/>There are many good qualities about the book, but the writing style and use of the buzz words is the reason I'm only giving it 3 stars. If the flow had been better with less reptition, I would have scored it higher.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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