Non Fiction

All That Remains by Sue Black


I received this book as an advance copy via NetGalley because I have had a morbid fascination for this science for a while. I did not get along with it when I first read it closer to its publication date and I set it aside. For some strange reason I started it yesterday and the pages just flew by! I wonder if this has happened to many of you?

I do not like reading of war and strife and suffering of any kind but I have always had a strange affinity to reading murder mysteries (Not thrillers, but the mysteries where there is one murder or many, and an analysis is performed on the surroundings ). I could even watch the TV serial Bones without flinching. I believe most people could not stomach the detail that the human body was explored on it, but I never faced any issues but I turn away and cry at almost any sign of trouble otherwise.

I thought this would be a book that would help me understand what drew me into the orbit of liking forensics. The first time I picked up the book, and the first few chapters provide a lot of detail about the author and her childhood. This did not hold my attention for long but when I started reading it all over again yesterday, it did not matter any more. The reason the author gives for going into those details is to indicate her approach to death as a whole. The question of identity:

[how much alterations can a biological entity sustain while remaining recognisable as the same individual and maintaining its traceable identity]

that goes along with it as well as the value that human life has. This is not a collection of success stories though, it is a mixed bag. It is informational, detail oriented but very interesting. There are facts slipped in ,ones  I might carry these with me to be used to play a role in some gathering where I can pull one of them out and astound my audience. After such a long time in the occupation of a forensic anthropology, Sue Black has provided a very comprehensive look at what goes on in her head and how she got there. It is not just an outlook on death but as she put in her title, all that remains after it.

I would recommend this as a must read for anyone with an avid interest in anything to do we us as people and what comes as part and parcel of a person who spends her time trying to find important answers in our physical remains.

6 thoughts on “All That Remains by Sue Black”

  1. Fantastic review! I just finished this one last week! I also loved the little facts she slipped in, they were so fascinating, I can’t wait for the occasion to use them 🙂 I had some issues because I got a little squeamish at times and I wasn’t crazy about the heavily memoir section (but this may be because I kept crying when she described her parents’ deaths, it hit too close to home!) But the way she describes her work and the significance of it was incredible. The chapters on Kosovo were horrifying but she made them so meaningful too. It was tough to read at times (emotionally, I mean) but a really good book overall. Great to hear your thoughts on it, you made me appreciate it more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!!☺️☺️coming from you(considering the kind of books you review), this just made my day.
      My favourite fact was the one about the height changes 🙂
      Since there are so many places at war constantly, I am guessing the Kosovo situations are more frequent than I can even imagine 😦 most of the book was emotionally draining I agree.
      It gave me a whole new appreciation for the job though!! Something TV dramas cannot completely convey.i actually put the book away because of the memoir part a couple of months ago, but somehow on this reading attempt it did not bother me as much.
      I now am really looking forward to your review of the book 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was really so excited to see you review it!! It gave me a whole new appreciation for the job, too. It’s one of those things I’ve wondered about before watching forensics shows but to see her unpack how the science of it works was so fascinating. And so much more complex..

        And it’s funny you say that you put it away because of the memoir portion because I did the same for several weeks. But when I picked it back up it’s like it was turning into a different book. I think it’s hard when a writer has interesting work to write about but also wants to incorporate a personal aspect, sometimes it works, elsewhere it doesn’t…I thought she eventually pulled it together well though. Thanks for sharing such an excellent review!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ooh that’s so strange! If we did the same thing, I’ll keep my eye out now to see if anyone one else says they did that too ☺️
        I did find her clinical approach to even personal deaths inspiring in a way considering the reasons she gave
        Also I have to say this is a very satisfying conversation , if you know what I mean.. It’s been ages since I’ve discussed something I read to this extent! So thank you once again!!☺️☺️👍

        Liked by 1 person

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