The Education of a Coroner: Lessons in Investigating Death

December 27, 2019 - Comment

An “entertaining” (Booklist) account of the mysterious, hair-raising, and heartbreaking cases handled by the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job—from high-profile deaths and serial killers to inmate murders and Golden Gate Bridge suicides.Marin County, California is a study in contradictions. Its natural beauty attracts celebrity residents and thousands of

An “entertaining” (Booklist) account of the mysterious, hair-raising, and heartbreaking cases handled by the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job—from high-profile deaths and serial killers to inmate murders and Golden Gate Bridge suicides.

Marin County, California is a study in contradictions. Its natural beauty attracts celebrity residents and thousands of visitors every year, yet the county also is home to San Quentin Prison, one of the oldest and largest penitentiaries in the United States. Marin ranks in the top one percent of counties nationwide in terms of affluence and overall health, yet it is far above the norm in drug overdoses and alcoholism, not to mention the large percentage of suicides that occur on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ken Holmes worked in the Marin County Coroner’s Office for thirty-six years, starting as a death investigator and ending as the three-term, elected coroner. As he grew into the job—one that is far different from the forensics we see on television—Holmes learned a variety of skills, from finding hidden clues at death scenes, interviewing witnesses effectively, managing bystanders and reporters, and preparing testimony for court to how to notify families of a death with sensitivity and compassion. He also learned about different kinds of firearms, all types of drugs—prescription and illegal—and about certain unexpected and potentially fatal phenomena, such as autoeroticism.

Complete with poignant anecdotes, The Education of a Coroner is “riveting and complex…supremely entertaining reading material and…a fascinating and wildly informative dive into the mysterious world of death and decay” (Kirkus Reviews).

Comments

Anonymous says:

Interesting I’m torn with this book. On one hand, the individual cases are fascinating and the variety involved in a coroners work is intriguing, i can’t help but feel that those who perform these duties are horribly under qualified.It disturbs me that someone who has no real medical training can give a medical opinion (particularly in a court of law), I’m concerned with Mr. Holmes’ integrity (given how he allowed peer pressure to influence him into changing his ruling regarding the detention…

Anonymous says:

A coroner’s journey: finding humanity in deaths If you are familiar with the San Francisco Bay area or you have ever visited, you are in for a coroner’s journey to the highs and lows of Marin County. Bateson’s account of Coroner Holmes’s career is honest and compelling, starting in the 1970s. Bateson’s strengths lie in taking Holmes’s notes and recollections and rounding them out with researched facts and relevance. Interesested in learning previously unpublished info on the Trailside Killer? San Quentin? Oddities in death? In addition to…

Anonymous says:

Meh. I really wanted to love this book, but didn’t for several reasons. I found Ken Holmes to be arrogant, full of himself and sexist at times. A lot of the stories told in this book are given from the perspective of “I was right and they were wrong” and aside from that narrative seem completely pointless. Holmes touts over and over again how awesome he thinks he is. He also specifically negatively highlights multiple times that a person in a story is female when it has no baring on the story…

Comments are disabled for this post.

The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties including, but not limited to, amazon.com, endless.com, myhabit.com, smallparts.com, or amazonwireless.com.