"[A] stunning memoir . . . . A former journalist, [Lefebure] evokes the physical and emotional terrain of crime scenes and the circumstances of death with adroit detachment, yet also authoritative depth . . . . She is such a wonderful, arch, thinking, intelligent guide to this strange underworld that you don't want Lefebure's wonderful tales to end. . . .[She] has bequeathed us a book which teaches so much about death-taking away much of the worst kind of fear and mystery around it, while reminding us that so much about it remains necessarily unknowable. It's a lesson imparted with the best kind of wry smile."The Daily Beast
"Lefebure's narration provides a welcome alternative to wartime era tales; she's a young, single, professional woman, not a soldier or an evacuated Londoner. A sympathetic narrator and an engrossing read."Historical Novel Society
"A secretary to a formidable London pathologist during World War II reissues her wry, grisly account of murder and corpses, first published in 1955. . . Lefebure's youthful bravery shines through, while the grim conditions showcase her terrific wit. Preserves like a frozen capsule the British grin-and-bear-it spirit and vocabulary of the WWII years."Kirkus Reviews
"Gripping. . . like a pitch-dark version of Call the Midwife, dealing with the end of life rather than the beginning . . . Full of fascinating incidents, it is easy to see why this has been made into a drama by the creators of Downton Abbey. Sunday Mirror (UK)
"A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at mid-century crime-fighting."The Independent (UK)
A secretary to a formidable London pathologist during World War II reissues her wry, grisly account of murder and corpses, first published in 1955. Lefebure was a junior reporter at a London suburban weekly when Dr. Keith Simpson, the Home Office pathologist at Guy's Hospital, tapped her as having the right stuff to be his forensics secretary. An intrepid workaholic who was hardly bashful or squeamish, and thoroughly capable, Lefebure—whose name her colleagues could not pronounce, so she was known as Miss L—was highly intrigued by the forensics work of her swift-moving boss. The work took her across bomb-scarred London to a dozen post-mortems per day, as well as to the various courts and Scotland Yard. The author's job was to type up the reports as the pathologist dictated while laboring over his cadaver, no matter the time or place—e.g., during the bombings by the Germans. She coolly collected specimens of hair or teeth in little bags and labeled them so that the team could figure out the cause of death later in the lab. Her chapters break down in chronological order some of the notable or simply memorable cases she encountered from the spring of 1941, when she visited her first mortuary, where she was impressed by the cleanliness of the operation though put off by "the sound of a saw raspingly opening a skull," to the late autumn of 1945, after the war had wound down, when she was planning on marrying and needed to find her successor—job qualifications: "Typing. Good verbatim shorthand. Tact. Interested in crime. No objection to mortuaries and corpses. Reasonably fast runner." Despite the many ghastly descriptions of ruined cadavers, Lefebure's youthful bravery shines through, while the grim conditions showcase her terrific wit. Preserves like a frozen capsule the British grin-and-bear-it spirit and vocabulary of the WWII years.