Skip to main content

‘Past Mortems’ – Life and death behind mortuary doors

A new book by Carla Valentine, pathology technician at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), reveals her experience of working with the dead and what she has seen behind the doors of our mortuaries.

Published on:

Carla’s gap year was spent as an embalmer’s assistant, when her career began. She then trained and subsequently worked as a mortuary technician for eight years. She is now Technical Curator at Barts Pathology Museum at QMUL, with over five thousand specimens in her care.

Past Mortems tells Carla's stories of those years, as well as investigating our attitudes towards death - shedding light on what the living can learn from dead and the toll the work can take on the people who carry it out.

Carla Valentine said: “Past Mortems was a joy to write as it not only brought up good memories of my previous work as a mortuary technician, but also enabled me to compare and contrast that role with my current one at the Pathology Museum.

“Both vocations require me to elicit stories from the dead and tell them to different audiences, and give me a unique perspective of my own mortality. I hope, from my book, readers will feel like they’ve learned a lot about what it means to live a life in death.”

Carla’s warmth and humour aims to guide the reader through the forensic process of treating the deceased, as well as shedding light on past and present attitudes to death. Drawing on both Carla’s own experiences, as well as the ‘death history’ canon from Philippe Aries to Thomas Lynch, Past Mortems is described as a “privileged insight into the mysterious club through which we all eventually become members”.

Past Mortems is published by Sphere and available to buy online.

Back to top