All That Remains (Dame Sue Black)

About the Author: Dame Sue Black

Dame Sue Black is a renowned forensic anthropologist who started her career as a lecturer in anatomy at St. Thomas’ Hospital, London, in 1987.  Her fascinating journey has seen her undertake work for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the identification of both victims and perpetrators in various conflicts around the world.  She has been deployed to a number of disasters and in 2004 played a crucial role in the DVI response to the devastating Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami that majorly disrupted Thailand.  In 2005 she became a Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology at the University of Dundee and was appointed the head of the new Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, after helping to raise enough funds for its completion, which is now the main centre for the undergraduate and postgraduate courses in forensic anthropology and anatomy at Dundee as well as a training centre for the UK DVI team for police and scientists in advanced mortuary practices.  Her success promoted her appearance in a number of BBC broadcasts and in 2013 she was chosen as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the UK by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.  In 2016 she was promoted to a Dame Commander (DBE) for her services in Forensic Anthropology and in 2018, the book reviewed below won the Saltire Book of the Year Award.

Book Review by Charlotte Lord

All That Remains is a fascinating and emotive insight into the world of a Forensic Anthropologist and connotes an alternative perception of death and dying, perceiving it to be a somewhat interesting and gracious process that should not be entirely feared.  Having worked with death throughout her career, Professor Sue Black provides an engaging introduction, delving into her early career and explores the processes of death in a personal way that makes it sound befriending.  She introduces the reader to snapshots of her own life, family and upbringing which explains her choices for choosing Forensic Anthropology and allows the reader to personally relate to her writing.  This creates the perfect background into what continues to be a captivating journey through numerous anthropological cases, ranging from local examples to more profound and recognisable studies.

The main example that stands out throughout this book is Professor Sue Black’s experience in Kosovo as she confides in the reader of the response efforts undertaken in recovering mass graves, as well as the danger and emotional ramifications experienced whilst deployed there.  Similarly, her insight into the Thailand Tsunami will appeal to those interested in Mass Fatality and DVI response as she talks about her efforts in promoting a UK based DVI response unit and the success in the application of training police officers in mortuary practices, exploring the importance of interprofessional collaboration throughout Mass Fatality events and the need for forensic education across a number of professional backgrounds.  Professor Sue Black’s passion continues to be consistently exemplified through her descriptions of some of the basic learnings and continued development she experiences closer to home, at her beloved University of Dundee, introducing the reader to the process of Cadaver donation and its importance in providing education to many.  She not only provides an educational explanation as to what happens to the cadavers, but reflects on personal encounters with those who were considering donation and explores a number of their relevant worries and anxieties about the process to enable the reader to challenge their own thoughts on ‘life after death’, by offering an alternative that will see you cared for and respected whilst educating future generations.  Her enthusiasm is refreshing and makes All That Remains an emotive, educational and excellent read.  I found myself able to read chapter after chapter with Professor Black’s easily flowing writing style and captivating contemplations.  Despite the lack of reference to radiographic imaging in relation to Forensic Anthropology, I would still certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in a first- hand experience in Forensic Practices.

All That Remains: A Life in Death is available to purchase in hardback, paperback, Kindle and audiobook editions via the Amazon website