The Temperature of Death
Lord Orsam's most recent book is a fascinating look at methods of estimating time of death and whether they are accurate and effective. No one with any interest in historical crime and murder should fail to read this book. It is, one could say, essential reading. Currently only available in paperback from Amazon.co.uk, they are practically giving it away at a price of £15.72.
Estimating time of death on the basis of the temperature of a dead body is a controversial technique which has troubled and worried the medical and legal professions for hundreds of years despite fictional pathologists in detective dramas on television and film seemingly being able to do it with ease and accuracy. Having reviewed the medical literature on the subject, and examined records of many murder cases and inquests, David Barrat, author of The Islington Murder Mystery and The Camden Town Murder Mystery, sets out a detailed history of the subject, with a focus on two mysterious and fascinating nineteenth century case studies, both of which were cause célèbres of their time: the death of Elizabeth Gardner in the City of London in 1862, and the subsequent trial of her husband for her murder, and the sudden death of Alice Gulliver in West Haddon in 1873. He considers whether there might have been miscarriages of justice due to an over-confidence by the medical profession in their ability to inform a jury in a court of law as to when a murder had occurred. In placing the history and development of the estimation of time of death within the context of real-life murders and cases, this is a book which will interest anyone who has ever wondered whether it is really possible for a medical examiner to fix the time of death of a suspected murder victim.