Brian Masters

Down On The Body Farm

A Matter of Life and Death: Conversations with Pathologists


Canongate 375pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

In separate conversations with eighteen eminent medical men and women engaged in various branches of pathology, Sue Armstrong rigidly limits herself to asking the questions, thus enabling the doctors to describe what they do, why they do it, and what they strive to achieve in their work. The common thread that unites them all is the desire to serve life or, as Professor Derrick Pounder says, ‘we’re in the business of investigating the dead in order to assist the living’. In the light of prurient entertainment and imaginative fictions, this needs to be stated more firmly than ever, and the point of this book is to celebrate the cool science of forensic pathology over the misguided myths and mistakes of traditional medicine. In so doing, it clarifies some triumphs of discovery as well as coughing up some astonishing curiosities. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,
    • 'It is a scent of animal wrath, of instinctive need, of brutal life which affects the cultured nostrils of our civi… ,