AUTOPSY: The Memoirs of a Medical Detective by

AUTOPSY: The Memoirs of a Medical Detective

By
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KIRKUS REVIEW

With an assist from Dr. Knight, the longtime Chief Medical Examiner of New York (d. 1977) sets down the history of his office, some of the more bizarre and sensational cases to come his way, and his scientific and ethical rules of inquiry. Though the work is often grisly and ghoulish, Helpern avoids flip vulgarisms--an expression like ""dead meat,"" common in police parlance, would not come from him. He treats his cadavers with the kind of dignity and respect that may, alas, diminish book sales. But forensic pathology is an intrinsically fascinating field and it played no small part in the cases of Dr. Carl Coppolino, Alice Crimmins, Peter Reilly, Joan Robinson Hill (made famous by Thomas Thompson's Blood and Money), and Janice Wylie. Not all of Helpern's investigations received so much notoriety, and not all of them were murderous. Dr. Helpern is very proud of the public health aspect of his work--the Medical Examiner is often the first to spot a new virus or toxin. He touches on a variety of medical and social puzzles in his review of his 45-plus years in practice: the predominance of doctors in cases involving violent or rapid death, the mystery of ""negative autopsy"" in which no cause sufficient to explain death is ever found, the continuous popularity of icepicks as murder weapons. . . . Dr. Helpern's professional rectitude and compassion for the living should draw those who don't latch on to this for more prurient reasons--they will be disappointed.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1977
Publisher: St. Martin's