After a grisly crime scene has been investigated by a small army of detectives, coroners and CSIs, who cleans up the mess?
Journalist Reavill (Smut, 2005, etc.) answers that intriguing, if rather disturbing, question. He spent a number of months with the crew of Aftermath, a “bioremediation” service established in a moment of entrepreneurial inspiration by friends Tim Reifsteck and Chris Wilson, who happened upon a gruesome murder scene and asked themselves that very question. The answer, at that point, was: sometimes concerned church groups, but usually the bereaved family members of the deceased. Reifsteck and Wilson saw an opportunity to create a market while helping people, and Aftermath was born. Reavill actually worked alongside Aftermath teams cleaning up after murders, suicides and “unattended deaths”—isolated elderly people who often go days or weeks before their corpses are discovered. The technical aspects of Aftermath’s work—how do you get blood out of subflooring? What becomes of the “biomatter” (a hauntingly clinical term) that remains after the body has been removed? What are the hazards of working with human tissues and fluids that have been violently splattered over walls, rugs, furniture?—are simultaneously fascinating, disgusting and subtly disturbing, as living people with all of their eccentricities and passions and regrets are reduced to a thorny waste-removal problem. Reavill’s metaphysical musings on this last point seem rather pro forma, but he presents the hard-to-take information skillfully and with grace, and he offers a sober appraisal of the nature of violent crime. Tangents on Chicago’s unbelievably violent history, the legacy of serial killers in the popular imagination and the history of forensic science provide compelling and welcome digressions from the overwhelmingly grim business of Aftermath.
For those drawn to the dark side of human experience (and equipped with strong stomachs), morbidly fascinating stuff and an essential addition to any True Crime reader’s library.