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Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud

by Elizabeth Greenwood

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This is a book about a very interesting subject that was made incredibly tedious by the way it was written. Greenwood couldn't seem to decide whether she was writing a piece of journalism or a memoir; spread throughout the profiles of individuals involved in death fraud are passages that go on at length about her reasons for embarking on this project and snarky asides about her surroundings. Her stated reason for becoming interested in the subject (massive student loan debt), was reiterated over and over again, and every time I couldn't tell if it was supposed to endear me to her quest or if she was simply poking fun at herself; either way it just came off as overly melodramatic and eventually boring, and her very confessional epilogue was frankly embarrassing and really unnecessary. Overall I just wish I had read this exact book by a completely different author. ( )
  redhopper | Dec 2, 2017 |
Best for: Anyone interested in a good (failed) crime story, or the human desire to just leave it all behind.

In a nutshell: Author Elizabeth Greenwood explores the lengths (mostly men, usually arrogant) go through to leave behind their lives.

Line that sticks with me: N/A (didn’t have a pen with me when reading it)

Why I chose it: Do you listen to the “Wine and Crime” podcast? Because it’s great. And they did a whole episode on faking one’s death, including an interview with the author.

Review:
It started with an idea the author had, after realizing how much student loan debt she had, and how unlikely it would be that she could pay it off any time soon. And since student loan debt can’t be discharged through bankruptcy, the author briefly flirted with the fantasy of just leaving it behind the only way she could - if she ‘died.’

While she didn’t end up faking her own death (at least, not exactly, although she does have her own death certificate, courtesy of a contact in the Philippines), she decided to look into the people who do fake their own deaths.

Of course because of the nature of the topic, Ms. Greenwood can only discuss people who failed at faking their own death. There are people who have succeeded, I’m sure, but because they did, we don’t know they did. And while the people who fake their own deaths (and get caught) are overwhelmingly men, it’s unclear if there are women who do it and are just more successful at it, or if women are less likely to do it because they generally feel less able to walk away.

Ms. Greenwood doesn’t just focus on the people who do the faking - she also talks to the investigators who look into possible life insurance fraud, as well as the children whose fathers left. And in one unexpected chapter, she looks into those who believe that famous people (namely, Michael Jackson fans) faked their own deaths.

This is, admittedly, my kind of book. I enjoy books that look into death and crime, and I enjoy non-fiction. So while I was already primed to enjoy it, I think I am being fair when I say that this is a really good book. ( )
  ASKelmore | Oct 8, 2017 |
Interesting overall, but the part about the Believers (who think Michael Jackson / Tupac / Elvis are still alive) went on too long. ( )
  iBeth | Feb 2, 2017 |
It all starts with giving a f**k about not giving a f**k. What do you want to leave behind? Debt? Pain? A sordid criminal past? Why not fake your own death?! Greenwood examines not only the history of death fraud, but the motivations and moxie it takes to do the deed. She asks questions like why is death fraud more practiced by men than women? And what happens to grieving loved ones who discover (or are in on) the deception? And with such a tricky topic to research--the success rate of death fakers is, by its very nature, impossible to quantify--Greenwood turns to the only people whose accounts she can gather: the investigators, the caught, the loved ones left behind. ( )
  Jan.Coco.Day | Dec 31, 2016 |
I've got a bit of a dark side, so when I saw this book on Netgalley, I requested it and crossed my fingers that the publisher would approve my request. It worked, and I was launched into the world of "pseudocide." Yes, the Michael Jackson "Believers" wore a bit thin. Luckily I read the book on my computer. Skipping pages was easy enough. It seemed like a pretty full examination of why, what, and how--even extending as far as Elizabeth Greenwood holding her own death certificate. She got to see what it would be like to be "dead," but not dead. She could have disappeared into the vapor, never to be heard from again, and re-entered the world of the living as someone else. Wow. What an opportunity. ( )
  gentlespirit512 | Nov 22, 2016 |
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"A darkly comic inquiry into how to fake your own death, the disappearance industry, and the lengths to which people will go to be reborn. Is it still possible to fake your own death in the twenty-first century? With six figures of student loan debt, Elizabeth Greenwood was tempted to find out."--… (more)

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