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Dead Center: Behind the Scenes at the…
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Dead Center: Behind the Scenes at the World's Largest Medical Examiner's… (2006)

by Shiya Ribowsky, Tom Shachtman

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Showing 5 of 5
In Dead Center we get to learn about a part of society that most of us probably don’t think about very much – what happens to our bodies when we die. This could be a very morbid or gruesome topic, but the author focuses on a variety of things other than the gore. First, we learn about what challenges face MLI’s (medicological investigators), including everything from identifying cause of death to interacting compassionately with grieving families. We also learn what characteristics make a good MLI. Next, there are stories ranging from the funny or bizarre to the emotional and moving – a recap of some of the author’s most interesting experiences. And finally, we hear about the author’s biggest challenge working as an MLI in charge of identifying all remains found at Ground Zero – a process that took over 4 years.

So, as I said, this could have been horrible and gruesome, but it definitely wasn’t. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is unusually squeamish, since an autopsy and the results of 9/11 on the victims’ bodies are both described. However, these details are described tactfully and for someone of normal sensitivity, I believe that they’re moving but bearable. The author’s training mixing compassion for families with professional detachment lends itself to the perfect tone for this book. He never seems callous. Rather, he takes his responsibilities to the families of the dead quite seriously despite focusing somewhat on his professional concerns in the wake of a disaster.

I found this book to be a fascinating look at a facet of life we largely take for granted. Like the people who create our food, the people who handle death are an overlooked industry. Part of why I love non-fiction is the ability to explore these sort of experiences that I wouldn’t encounter otherwise. Many of the stories he shares are moving and some are even funny (often those that end up not involving a dead person after all). His tone is that of a friend telling you about his interesting job experiences. The many stories are only connected by a loose chronological ordering, but they flow smoothly together. Interwoven with these interesting and emotional stories are the author’s musings on the place of his profession in society, their relation to law enforcement, and other philosophical issues. For me, this changed the book from just a parade of stories for the observing reader to an engaging and educational book which made me aware of societal concerns I was previously ignorant of. This made for both an interesting and an informative read.

This review first published on Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Jun 29, 2014 |
In Dead Center we get to learn about a part of society that most of us probably don’t think about very much – what happens to our bodies when we die. This could be a very morbid or gruesome topic, but the author focuses on a variety of things other than the gore. First, we learn about what challenges face MLI’s (medicological investigators), including everything from identifying cause of death to interacting compassionately with grieving families. We also learn what characteristics make a good MLI. Next, there are stories ranging from the funny or bizarre to the emotional and moving – a recap of some of the author’s most interesting experiences. And finally, we hear about the author’s biggest challenge working as an MLI in charge of identifying all remains found at Ground Zero – a process that took over 4 years.

So, as I said, this could have been horrible and gruesome, but it definitely wasn’t. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is unusually squeamish, since an autopsy and the results of 9/11 on the victims’ bodies are both described. However, these details are described tactfully and for someone of normal sensitivity, I believe that they’re moving but bearable. The author’s training mixing compassion for families with professional detachment lends itself to the perfect tone for this book. He never seems callous. Rather, he takes his responsibilities to the families of the dead quite seriously despite focusing somewhat on his professional concerns in the wake of a disaster.

I found this book to be a fascinating look at a facet of life we largely take for granted. Like the people who create our food, the people who handle death are an overlooked industry. Part of why I love non-fiction is the ability to explore these sort of experiences that I wouldn’t encounter otherwise. Many of the stories he shares are moving and some are even funny (often those that end up not involving a dead person after all). His tone is that of a friend telling you about his interesting job experiences. The many stories are only connected by a loose chronological ordering, but they flow smoothly together. Interwoven with these interesting and emotional stories are the author’s musings on the place of his profession in society, their relation to law enforcement, and other philosophical issues. For me, this changed the book from just a parade of stories for the observing reader to an engaging and educational book which made me aware of societal concerns I was previously ignorant of. This made for both an interesting and an informative read.

This review first published on Doing Dewey. ( )
1 vote DoingDewey | Feb 20, 2013 |
An outstanding first person account of the huge task of identifying the world trade center victims. ( )
  lpg3d | Jun 22, 2010 |
This book was not what I expected, but was still an interesting read. The first half of the book was mostly about the beginning of the author's career, and the second half was mostly about the incredible task of processing and identifying the massive amount of remains of the victims of the World Trade Center attacks of 9-11.

There were some descriptions of deaths the author investigated early in his career as well, some of which were a little too descriptive for some readers.

The book contained alot of the names of those who worked along-side the author, along with kudos for jobs well done, and subtle digs for those who the author felt did not do a good job....which made the book seem more like a speech some of the time.

I found the book interesting overall, especially regarding the enormous, laborious and tedious job of sifting through tens of thousands of bits & pieces of human remains ~ this book brought back the horror and the reality of what happened on 9-11, and for that alone, I found the book a worthwhile read. May we never forget. ( )
  porchsitter55 | Sep 14, 2008 |
How were the bodies of the World Trade Center victims identified? The effort that went into identifing the 911 victims was described in intricate detail. The author presented not only the coroner's efforts but the involvement of the victim's families. ( )
  Fanny | Nov 4, 2006 |
Showing 5 of 5
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shiya Ribowskyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Shachtman, Tommain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061116246, Hardcover)

This work offers the stories of crime, investigation, death, and Ground Zero, by the insider who ran the largest forensic investigation ever attempted, the effort to find and identify the victims of the 9/11 attacks. In his fifteen years with the New York City medical examiner's office, Shiya Ribowski has been the primary investigator on more than eight thousand deaths, a harrowing crash course that put him at the scene of the most gruesome and bizarre crimes in the city's history. There was the encounter with mummified human remains, the traveling freak show, bodies dumped under bridges and the crack dens of the nineties and, most challenging of all, the extraordinary task of identifying the bodies of the victims of 9/11, an undertaking that only recently came to a close in April 2005. In "Dead Center", Ribowsky shares his intimate and utterly unique knowledge of death. From the morgue to the examining table to the darkest corners of the forensics industry, Ribowsky reveals the personal ethics and emotional backbone that allow him to do the job. Weaving together fascinating stories from 9/11 and tales of Ribowsky's career at large, "Dead Center" is a riveting tale of forensic science and murder, and a vicarious thrill ride through New York's criminal underworld.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:24 -0400)

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