BODY BROKERS: INSIDE AMERICA'S UNDERGROUND TRADE IN HUMAN REMAINS by Annie Cheney (Broadway Books/Random House), 205 pages, $33.95 cloth. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Modern-day ghouls are just waiting to get their hooks into your cold, clammy corpse and sell you off bit by bit, bone by bone.
That is the message of Annie Cheney's strange, slim exposé of the business of body brokering.
Body brokers are those guys in crematoria and funeral homes who, instead of burning or burying you, secretly cut you up and sell you to medical schools or surgical equipment manufacturers.
Or if you're really unlucky, you're sold to the U.S. military, which blows you up in experiments to help designers come up with better body protection for soldiers.
Cheney takes the reader from the stench of the morgue to a conference centre at a Trump resort in Florida where body parts are probed and dissected unbeknownst to the other guests.
Among the players are quirky ghouls like Michael Brown, a sleazy California crematorium operator who discovered the lucrative business of providing body parts to doctors. Since he never received consent to sell them, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
This is the kind of book that had a lot of potential, about a bizarre and secretive business with creepy characters, written by a driven journalist trying to put these scoundrels under public scrutiny.
Unfortunately, and ironically, this is a book without much body. The reader never really gets a feel for how Cheney unravelled the story.
Why does she spend only a few pages on body parts stolen from funeral homes for medical procedures, an activity that puts public health at risk? This unfolding scandal, which reaches into Canada, seems a much more criminal and immediate threat than anything else covered in the investigation.
This very, very thin book would be a perfect read during a long, slow funeral motorcade.
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