Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner's Office

Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner's Office

by John Temple


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Whenever a dead body is found in Pittsburgh, a team of investigators at the coroner's office begins to probe the mystery. Ed Strimlan is a doctor who never got to practice medicine. Instead he discovers how people died. Mike Chichwak is a stolid ex-paramedic, respected around the office for his compassion and doggedness. Tiffani Hunt is twenty-one, a single mother who questions whether she wants to spend her nights around dead bodies.

All three deputy coroners featured in Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner's Office share one trait: a compulsive curiosity. A good thing too, because any observation at a death scene can prove meaningful. A bag of groceries standing on a kitchen counter, the milk turning sour. A broken lamp lying on the carpet of an otherwise tidy living room. When they approach a corpse, the investigators consider everything. Is the victim face-up or face-down? How stiff are the limbs? Are the hands dirty or clean? By the time they bag the body and load it into the coroner's wagon, Tiffani, Ed, and Mike have often unearthed intimate details that are unknown even to the victim's family and friends.

The intrigues of investigating death help make up for the bad parts of the job. There are plenty of burdens-grief-stricken families, decomposed bodies, tangled local politics, and gore. And maybe worst of all, the ever-present reminder of mortality and human frailness.

Deadhouse also chronicles the evolution of forensic medicine, from early rituals performed over bodies found dead to the controversial advent of modern forensic pathology. It explains how pathologists "read" bullet wounds and lacerations, how someone dies from a drug overdose or a motorcycle crash or a drowning, and how investigators uncover the clues that lead to the truth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781934110300
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
Publication date: 07/17/2007
Pages: 177
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

John Temple, Morgantown, West Virginia, is assistant professor of journalism for the P. I. Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University. He is the co-editor of Cancer Stories: Lessons in Love, Loss, and Hope. He was a staff writer at both the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Tampa Tribune, and his work has been published in American Journalism Review.

Table of Contents

1Tracy's First Night3
3The Crying Room68
4Next of Kin78
5The Courtroom95
6Death, be not Proud107
7The TV Team124
8The Floater141
9Pickles in Court153
10Ed's Last Night162

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