41) Corrupt Bodies by Peter Everett
The subtitle of this (non-fiction) book is ‘Death and Dirty Dealing in a London Morgue’ which gives you some sense of what to expect from the contents. It’s also co-written by my friend Kris Hollington, who kindly sent me a copy to read, and I think he’s done a fantastic job helping structure the stories and tales of Peter Everett (who used to run Southwark morgue), and bring them all-too-vividly to life.
I’ll be clear from the outset: this is not a book for the faint-hearted, or those who might be put off by the thought of bodies smelling, being cut open or of learning about the victims of crime of all types. It is thoroughly recommended for those with a taste for the unseen and unseemly side of life and, in particular, London. Everett has some amazing stories to tell – after all, he dealt with 12,000 deaths in his time, of which 400 were murder. Each of these feels like a short story in itself, regardless of whether concerning a gangster, a serial killer or a tragic accident.
What threads the book together are the twin strands of, first, Everett tackling the corruption that is rife in the mortuary system (which is still shocking to read today) and taking on the system to do so, including his own employer; and secondly, connected to that struggle, his own personal decline in terms of physical and mental health as it all becomes too much. I came away thinking that his wife is a very tolerant and forgiving woman (as he gets called out at 3am to a crime scene for the 23rd time….).
It’s great stuff, and well worth a read: the individual anecdotes and stories stay with you, and the overarching narratives weave them together well into a highly readable whole. Recommended.