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Unnatural Causes

Narrated by: Dr Richard Shepherd
Length: 11 hrs and 46 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Science
4.5 out of 5 stars (98 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Unnatural Causes written and read by Dr Richard Shepherd. 

The dead do not hide the truth and they never lie. Through me the dead can speak....

As the country's top forensic pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd has spent a lifetime uncovering the secrets of the dead.

When death is sudden or unexplained, it falls to Shepherd to establish the cause. Each post-mortem is a detective story in its own right - and Shepherd has performed over 23,000 of them. Through his skill, dedication and insight, Dr Shepherd solves the puzzle to answer our most pressing question: how did this person die?

From serial killer to natural disaster, perfect murder to freak accident, Shepherd takes nothing for granted in pursuit of truth. And while he's been involved in some of the most high-profile cases of recent times, it's often the less well known encounters that prove the most perplexing, intriguing and even bizarre. In or out of the public eye, his evidence has put killers behind bars, freed the innocent and turned open-and-shut cases on their heads.

But a life in death, bearing witness to some of humanity's darkest corners, exacts a price and Shepherd doesn't flinch from counting the cost to him and his family. 

Unnatural Causes is a record of an extraordinary life, a unique insight into a remarkable profession, and above all a powerful and reassuring testament to lives cut short.

©2018 Dr Richard Shepherd (P)2018 Penguin Books Ltd

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Do you like Forensic Science?

Do you like Forensic Science? If so, then get this book. A great story which is well read!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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an extraordinary life

I had no idea quite how "foremost" this Dr was before I started listening... but as the story progressed I became more and more invested and fascinated by this man's life and experiences. 9/11, Diana's death, Stephen Lawrence. It's hard to believe that one man could be at the front line of all of these tragedies. Hats off to Dr Shepherd and Thanks for sharing your story with us.

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Good Insight

I found this to be very interesting and enjoyed the book very much. It gives a great insight into the role of a Forensic Pathologist and touches on some well known cases.

There is a good blend of case studies with some details of the author's life which bring a more relatable side to the stories.

Definitely recommend for any true crime enthusiasts.

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Incredible insight

Dr Shepherd takes you on an amazing journey that is pathology, and goes into depth on some pretty intense cases of his career. At times I felt like I was there in the exam room with him. Really moving, especially towards the end. Thank you for sharing your life’s work with us all, Richard.

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Excellent! So much emotion alongside science

Dr. Shepherd discusses his long career in forensic pathology from his first post mortem to his final years as a professional. He speaks with so much respect for the deceased and their families, whilst still detailing the more gruesome aspects of his job. The story also focuses on Shepherd's family and the tension they often felt as Shepherd and his wife had little time for anything besides their medical careers. I was actually quite touched that he so spoke so openly and emotionally about his private life including his eventual battle with PTSD. Overall it was a pleasure to listen to and a little different from the usual forensic science books. Definitely worth a listen.

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Amazing

What an incredible insight. I didn’t want it to end. You’ve led an amazing career and should be proud! Thanks for sharing it with us all.

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Fascinating

I really enjoyed this book a lot. Dr Shepherd manages to be highly qualified and hold positions of great responsibilities while remaining very grounded and humble.
It’s such a fascinating book in how he describes post-mortems as the body telling him the story they can no longer speak. What blessings there are Doctors who wish to speak for the dead in this manner. Thanks Dick.

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A great behind the scenes

This was one I didn't want to end, right when you thought it sounds like the end of the story, he came up with a new story. Great insight into what happens and how good these people are at determining the cause of death.

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Gripping

The first few minutes I found the narrators voice a little monotonous . However, as soon as Dr Shepherd started talking about his work and relaying anecdotes I was hooked. He was clear, at times troubled and conflicted but his voice was almost a balm to some of the horror cases he spoke of. I can remember nearly all the infamous and sad cases he spoke of and he gave a different perspective of those cases. This book also highlights the ridiculous red tape, and bureaucracy Dr Shepherd and his colleagues had to go through and just how the scales of justice can be tipped in either way by interpretation, and different perspectives. I thoroughly recommend this. I was sorry it ended.

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Fascinating wonderful

This is the best forensic book I have had the pleasure to listen to. Stories are fascinating, well written and well read. I liked the personal side as well. I recommend to anyone interested in forensics.

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  • CHET YARBROUGH
  • 30-04-2019

UNNATURAL CAUSES

Dr. Richard Shepard is an English forensic pathologist. In a cathartic examination of his profession, Shepard reveals how obsessiveness is a boon and bane in life. From youth to late middle age, Shepard reflects on his life.

In “Unnatural Causes”, Shepard examines the causes of others’ death. With ever-present foreshadowing, a listener recognizes a man who is going to experience a mid-life crisis.

Shepard explains how political pressure from the public, the police, and the judicial system influences diagnosis of death. The public may want to know the “cause of death” because of preconceived notions. The police may want to know the “cause of death: because of their perception of someone’s guilt or innocence. The judicial system may want “cause of death” based on witnesses for the defense or prosecution. To Shepard, what someone wants is not relevant. Only the truth is relevant.

Both the personal and public crises Shepard faces will resonate with anyone who has obsessively pursued a career and had his/her personal integrity challenged.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • 22-09-2019

Interesting but Lacking

This is a mildly interesting book that discusses the profession of forensic pathologist, including his youthful interest in the subject and the personal effects of the profession upon himself and his family. There are numerous stories unfolding the mysteries of unusual deaths and insider tales of the trade.

Unfortunately the author is unreliable. The book lacks the self-insight necessary in a great memoir. Sometime this is just a lack of introspection, sometimes it is a lack of empathy, sometimes it is a lack of honesty. If this book were just stories about forensics, it would have been fine, but it attempts to be both that, and a memoir about the author and his life. This memoir was far from ripe.

I could not recommend this book even though I enjoyed (and learned from) a number of the stories.

The book is very well narrated by the author.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Grainne Whelan
  • 10-06-2019

Highly recommend

This book came highly recommended by a solicitor colleague and in turn I’m recommending it highly. For the first time ever I have read a book that recognises vicarious trauma and I am deeply grateful for same. It is a fascinating reflection on a distinguished career. It’s is truthful and not at all glamorous. Thank you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Willis
  • 25-10-2018

Dark, Fascinating and Compelling

What a great listen for my first book back on Audible. The topic wasn't something that I thought I would interested in, (I'm not the biggest fan of blood), but this book, while dark and gory at times, kept me listening.

The details of Dr Shepherds personal life are entwined with stories that British listeners will recognize instantly, and this mix cuts through the sensationalism of those stories and presents them, guts and all, in a way that makes them all the more real.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Zoesmydog
  • 21-06-2019

Boring!

Half thru. Can't take another minute. Idgaf about his childhood, kids, wife, etc. I have advanced medical training and am fascinated w forensics. I expected to hear interesting medical cases. Nope 85% about himself. Skip it

5 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 13-06-2019

Great listen!

This doctor is both an interesting person and a dedicated physician. He pulls no punches either in his professional life nor his personal life. I find myself feeling sorry that his story of medicolegal journey won’t be going on due to what I find silly changes in the system. I’d listen to him reading anything

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  • Taiki
  • 09-06-2019

interesting with some vicarious trauma potential

Good but be prepared to yell 'physician heal thyself' repeatedly and roll your eyes at the many points where self justification takes precedence over necessary details.

If you have a special interest in forensic science and disaster planning this is a great listen. Also psychiatry.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-02-2019

An extraordinary story, not for the squeamish

This is a brilliant book narrated in a clear but compelling manner by the author/narrator. Although I don't come from a medical background, I found it fascinating to learn about his trade. The structure of the story was a good editorial decision - listeners are introduced to Richard and the questions are posed: how did he get here and why does he feel the way he does? What follows is an utterly gripping and at times deeply morose tale.

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  • Hamad
  • 25-11-2018

intriguing

Narration was great. It's enlightening to realize what it takes do perform such a difficult and necessary job and the struggles on those who perform it. I enjoyed every bit of it.

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  • Dr Debbie Tranter
  • 23-09-2018

A rollercoaster ride

The best book that I have encountered in years; it was narrated with ease by Dr Shepherd. I couldn't stop listening and continued through the night. It recounts the ups, downs, twists and turns of this leading Home Office pathologists life within forensic & legal medicine. It's a biography carefully threaded through his most memorable cases; it is not intended to be a treatise on forensic medicine. Shepherd exposes how such a demanding role can impact so many lives and how the freedom or confinement of the individual can depend so much on the attentiveness, honesty and impartiality of the forensic professionals. Moreover, if you're interested in how the authorities handle the aftermath of mass disasters, this is a 'must read'. The mental health crisis that the Shepherd suffered in the latter part of his career was no surprise and highlights the sacrifices made by the few who do this job (there's only a small number of Home Office pathologists in the British Isles). Listeners should be aware that it may leave a dark cloud hanging over ones head for a while afterwards. There are many tragic recollections -- the most tragic from my viewpoint were the 'hide and die' and SUDEP cases. The high profile cases affected me much less. Two of the high profile cases that Shepherd was involved with are constantly in the media, even now, over 20 years later; the constant ruminations by the media on these two cases have bored me rigid. It was the anonymous, unheard of cases that made me feel melancholic. The 'spy in the bag' death and Jo Cox murder were not covered; I was disappointed about that, but I'm sure that there was a reason. A wonderful read offered up by a very colourful, clever and candid character. As a side note: Dr Shepherd also appears in the TV series 'Mummies Alive' (brilliant!), 'Autopsy' and Michael Portillo's 'Hidden Britain - Royal London Hospital'. All available on the web and worth watching if you have the opportunity.

51 of 54 people found this review helpful

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  • Eldasensei
  • 07-12-2018

WARNING: Say bye bye to the next 11hrs and 46mins

This book was by far the most compelling listen so far in my 4 years of grinding my way through audiobooks on Audible. Absolute honesty mixed with fascinating and detailed stories from the frontline of criminal forensic pathology which references cases anyone from the UK or Ireland who was born in the last 50 years will remember. Shepherd brings humanity to his description of a job that many people don't even want to think about. There is interesting caselaw that features fascinating insights into complex legal issues that revolve around his findings in the PM room but explained with a brevity and focus that make it simple for a lay person like me to understand. There is the non-gruesome yet frank explanation of causes of death (definite and suspected) and a very interesting look at the tapestry of relationships that a forensic pathologist is involved in which I never thought about before (doctors, other pathologists, academics, consultant, law enforcement, solicitors, barristers, judges etc). Top all of this off with a general underlying feeling that this man just comes across as a bloody (excuse the pun) nice chap with very simple and altruistic goals underpinning his career and you get what is a book that I must have listened to in two days which for juts under 12 hours is a record for me. Wholeheartedly recommended.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 29-09-2018

Bringing life to death

Really loved this book. I've always found the idea of forensic pathology fascinating. This was not only an excellent insight into the work, and touched on lots of high profile cases, but had personal stories describing the impact of such a career on the mental health of the pathologist. Was also very insightful on the changes in the profession over time, and the influence of public perceptions and trends in thinking. Great that it was naratted by the author too, adding additional personal touches. Highly recommend.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • kate louise sullivan
  • 22-10-2018

Absolutely fascinating, unexpectedly gripping.

I found I was compelled to keep listening, and went through from start to finish in a little over 24 hours. At times the detail can be very full on, these were after all most of the major incidents within the last 30 years, and he was a very senior pathologist, so be warned.

The book is candid, meticulous and nothing is held back. His thoughts and feelings are laid out like one of his patients and are scrutinised and dissected with the same clinical rigor. He finds himself unexpectedly as human as any of us, yet with deep pockets of care and empathy and compassion. This truly is an insightful and fascinating autobiography of an exceptional man.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Ned's Mum
  • 19-10-2018

So Human

A humble, compassionate and beautiful, wise book, brilliant. Thank you for the careful work you have done. I wish this
book hadn’t ended it’s so good.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Furgusson
  • 16-10-2018

Fascinating, humble and honest

An absolutely fascinating account of Richard Shepherd's career. He mixes the chronological story of his professional life with really interesting technical insight as well as philosophical discussion on the moral topics that he feels strongly about. Accompanying this is real, admirable honesty about his feelings, his family and the effects that his work had on it. Dr Shepherd, you have my deepest respect.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • 21-10-2018

Authoritative, Authentic and Utterly Fascinating

This review is an absolute honour to write as I have rarely read or listened to a book so richly deserving 5 stars across the board. The story, such as it can be called a story, is incredibly interesting. I am quite squeamish and this book certainly does not hold back but the material is so interesting and so well recounted that I hung on every word. Dr Shepherd can really write and his narration was pitch perfect - better than many voice actors I have listened to. His searing honesty, self - doubt, compassion and humanity really helped to humanise the medical aspects of the book. This is not just a great memoir, it is an outstanding work of literature and I thoroughly recommend it to all listeners and readers.

23 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • 02-02-2019

What an amazing human

One of the most interesting biographies I have ever read
Thank you for looking out for all those people after their deaths

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 22-10-2018

wow

I heard Dr Shepherd on Jeremy Vines radio 2 programme. I thought at the time this sounds interesting. Not my normal listen, but I'd give it a go. I never realised what a forensic pathologist did. oh I have seen tv shows, but this book takes it to a new level

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • lin
  • 26-05-2019

Chapter 15

SUDEP is spoken about in chapter 15. I was not able to see Alan but hopefully he was cared for with respect. Gave me bit peace of mind

2 of 2 people found this review helpful