Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Coroner's Journal: Stalking Death in Louisiana by Louis Cataldie

From Goodreads:

The frank and unvarnished memoir of a life spent stalking death in the Deep South.

Baton Rouge is a little town with big-city problems. Rich with Creole history, colorful locals, and a strong sense of community, it's also the home of Napoleonic codes, stubborn cops, and a sometimes-troubled leadership. Baton Rouge-which literally means "Red Stick"-lives up to its bloody namesake.

And after more than ten years as a deputy coroner and then as its chief coroner, Louis Cataldie has seen his fair share of unusual and disturbing cases. They range from the bizarre to the heartbreaking: an LSU professor killed by a barn door; the bones of a young woman found scattered in a churchyard; and as many as three serial killers loose at one time under Cataldie's watch. He has worked the scene of one of the Malvo/ Muhammad Beltway Sniper shootings and had a hand in bringing to justice serial killer Derrick Todd Lee in a controversial investigation that was featured in an ABC Prime Time special with Diane Sawyer and Patricia Cornwell.

Coroner's Journal is an unflinching look at a world that television dramas such as CSI can only begin to show us.

The stories in this book were fascinating and sometimes heart-wrenching (I bawled any time children were involved). I kept getting hung up on the writing though! Cataldie is a coroner, not an english major and it shows. Where was his editor?? Sometimes when I write a blog post I'll go through and rewrite a sentence here and there- the key, though, is to delete the original version so you don't have two sentences next to each other saying basically the same thing. This is like Editing 101, yes? It was weird coming across those kinds of mistakes in a published work.

Also, Cataldie was needlessly melodramatic and occasionally included details that were clearly for shock factor. His book is chock full of bodies but he declined to detail the process of slicing someone open for autopsy until halfway through, when he described it on a four-year-old boy who had been killed in a fire. I mean, really? That's an emotional sucker punch and totally unnecessary.

All that being said, I came out really liking Cataldie. He seems like a good guy who genuinely cares for the victims that come to him. He played a big part in the post-Katrina cleanup and spent months IDing bodies and returning them to families. Good guy, good stories, should probably change editors (call me!) if he decides to write another book.

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