playing dead review

I really like books about esoteric topics. ‘Playing Dead‘, a book about how to fake your own death, by Elizabeth Greenwood? That practically screamed my name. She takes real-life attempts at death fraud and closely examines why they were attempted, what went wrong, and, most importantly, why they were caught.

Examples range from the relatively understandable (faking your death to get out of a marriage or run away from debts) to the downright weird (Michael Jackson is actually…alive?). This isn’t just a bit of tabloid-y journalism, though – Greenwood really delves into the psychological reasons why someone would throw away their lives, deceive their family, and disappear, never to be seen again. She often talks about her individual longing for freedom from student debts, and really seems to empathise with those who have attempted to commit pseudocide.

What I found the most interesting was her interest in the practicalities of death fraud – do you arrange for a body to be found? Are your loved ones in the know? Where can you go, once you’ve ‘died’? Greenwood goes through some of the motions of pseudocide herself – she procures a death certificate – death by traffic collision. A fascinating section follows, in which she describes how this feels, and how tempted she is to actually follow through.

Overall, this is a truly fascinating look at what has become my new favourite obsession. I would highly recommend this for anyone with an interest in crime and psychology, or anyone who is also interested in a bit of escapism…


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