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This book chronicles the exploits of a diverse team of death investigators at a coroner’s office in Pittsburgh. Ed Strimlan is a doctor who never got to practice medicine, so instead he diagnoses how people die.  Mike Chichwak is a stolid ex-paramedic, respected around the coroner’s office for his compassion and doggedness.  Tiffani Hunt is twenty-one, a single mother who questions whether she wants to spend her nights around dead bodies.

All three deputy coroners share one trait: a compulsive curiosity.  A good thing too, because any observation at a death scene can prove meaningful.  A bag of groceries standing on a kitchen counter, the milk turning sour.  A broken lamp lying on the carpet of an otherwise-tidy living room.  When they approach a corpse, the investigators consider everything.  Is the victim face-up or down?  How stiff are the limbs?  Are the hands dirty or clean?  By the time they bag the body and load it into the coroner’s wagon, Tiffani, Ed and Mike often have unearthed intimate details that are unknown even to the victim’s family and friends.

The intrigues of death investigation help make up for the bad parts of the job – and there’s plenty of bad stuff.  Grief-stricken families, decomposed bodies, tangled politics and gore.  And maybe worst of all, the ever-present reminder that the end could be right around the corner.

The book also chronicles the evolution of the field, from early rituals performed over corpses found suspiciously dead to the strife-ridden advent of modern forensic pathology.  It also explains how pathologists “read” bullet wounds and lacerations, how someone dies from a drug overdose, or a motorcycle crash, or a drowning, and how investigators uncover the clues that explain those deaths.

Praise for the book

Deadhouse builds in intensity as the reader overcomes squeamishness and conquers misgivings about the nature of the subject and slowly comes to realize how important exploring the cause of death can be, acquiring all kinds of random expertise and miscellaneous information in the process.”  Madeline Blais, author of In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle: A True Story of Hoop Dreams and One Very Special Team

“Forensics buffs hungry for more will welcome John Temple’s Deadhouse as an unusually intimate look inside the county morgue through the experience of two fresh-eyed college interns weighing whether they have the ‘right stuff’ to make a career elbow-deep in the aftermath of murder.”  Jessica Snyder Sachs, author of Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death

“Compelling … Fascinating … Unsentimental … (Deadhouse has) the staccato rhythm of a good crime novel.” Jonathan Potts, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Read the review.

“Temple’s attention to detail is remarkable, as is his ability to humanize the people behind the scenes, who find working in the coroner’s office challenging but rewarding. … Anyone curious about law, medicine or even just societal attitudes toward death will find the book fascinating.” Jason Togyer, The Jewish Chronicle.

“John Temple's Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner's Office, is a fascinating look at a team of death investigators and how they cope with the mortality every day. Temple invests his subjects with a warm humanity, providing insight into lives that are not nearly as glamorous as they appear in television dramas, but far more interesting.” Rege Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Read the article.

“An insider’s view of one of the country’s most misunderstood professions.” Regina Davis, Charleston Gazette.

“Writing evenly and efficiently, Temple will enlighten fans of the CSI television shows. Teens, especially fans of CSI and Mary Roach’s Stiff, will find the perspectives from two college-age interns particularly involving.”Booklist.

“In a sometimes fascinating, sometimes gory, sometimes humorous story, Temple chronicles one the world's most famous coroner's offices in his new book, Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner's Office.” Justin McLaughlin, Fairmont Times-West Virginian.

“Temple shows that studying death tells us a lot about how we live. … Temple has a journalist’s eye for detail.” Chris Potter, Pittsburgh City Paper.

How to order

Order from the University Press of Mississippi.

Order from Amazon.

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Mike Chichwak and Ed Strimlan Allegheny County Coroner's Office Allegheny County Coroner's Office