MLA Gold Award Site

Excerpt from Body Brokers by Annie Cheney, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Body Brokers

Inside America's Underground Trade in Human Remains

by Annie Cheney

Body Brokers
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2006, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2007, 240 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Fourteen months passed. Then, one afternoon, the telephone rang in Joyce's house.

When she answered it, a woman asked, "Are you the mother of Jim Farrelly?"

"Yes," Joyce said. "What is this regarding?"

"I'm a victim's advocate."

Joyce wondered if one of her sons was playing a joke. "But my son is dead," she said.

"Yes, I know," the woman said.

Could it be identity theft? Joyce pressed the phone to her ear and took a deep breath. "I don't understand," she said. "What is this about?"

The female caller paused. "I'm calling to tell you that your son has been the victim of a crime."

"A crime?" Joyce almost laughed.

""Ma'am," the woman's voice was somber. "We have identified your son's body parts at a crematorium. His body was dismembered."

Dismembered? But Jim's ashes . . . He'd been buried. He was fine. Joyce said, "I'm going to have to call you back."

Later, Joyce would recall that final night in the hospital. In retrospect, it seemed odd to have left Jim alone. And yet, what could she have done? No one had invited her to the morgue. Did the hospital even have one? Joyce had never thought to ask. The nurses, who had been so solicitous when Jim was alive, said nothing about his corpse. Joyce had signed some papers at the funeral home. But she never saw Jim's body. Now, Joyce wondered: Where had they taken him? Why hadn't she been there for her son?

Corpses lead a perilous existence. Whisked from the arms of family and friends, they embark on a journey under the care of strangers. In most cases, those to whom we entrust our dead take care to ensure that they're laid to rest safely. Most morgue workers, funeral directors, and crematorium operators keep careful track of each body. Indeed, many care for them as they would the dead bodies of their own relatives. Still, body brokers have been known to haunt this dark landscape, hunting for body parts, which they can later sell.

At each stage of the journey, there is ample opportunity for theft. At the hospital, a nurse or an attendant shuttles the corpse first to the morgue, where it's stored in a steel refrigerator. If a family requests it, an autopsy may be performed. As it happens, an autopsy is an ideal situation for body brokers inclined to theft. Pathologists routinely take samples of specimens relevant to their investigation–a slice of kidney, for instance–which get preserved in paraffin blocks and transferred onto slides. An honest pathologist may remove a whole brain and keep it fixed in preservative for weeks. Otherwise, the brain matter will not yield its secrets. This is perfectly legal as long as the doctor has permission from the deceased's family.

But consent forms vary in their specificity, and pathologists often work with unlicensed assistants known as dieners, a word derived from the German for servant. Dieners do the work that no one else wants to do: They dissect bodies, cutting through bone and muscle and removing whole organs so that the pathologists can weigh and examine them. They are responsible for cleaning up the morgue and assisting pathologists. A diener may work with a pathologist, while at the same time harvesting body parts for tissue banks. Stealing body parts is easy for a diener, and the money is good. Dieners often become brokers.

Excerpted from Body Brokers by Annie Cheney Copyright © 2006 by Annie Cheney. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: All Tomorrow's Parties
    All Tomorrow's Parties
    by Rob Spillman
    In this absorbing memoir, co-founder of Tin House magazine, Rob Spillman, recalls his artistic ...
  • Book Jacket: The Never-Open Desert Diner
    The Never-Open Desert Diner
    by James Anderson
    James Anderson's debut novel, The Never-Open Desert Diner, starts off as an entertaining ...
  • Book Jacket: The Vanishing Velazquez
    The Vanishing Velazquez
    by Laura Cumming
    Author Laura Cumming spins out a tale of obsession and ruin in her latest book, The Vanishing Vel&#...
Win this book!
Win The 100 Year Miracle

50 Copies to Give Away!

The 100 Year Miracle is a rich, enthralling novel, full of great characters.

Enter

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

A page-turning novel set in the world of 18th century female pugilists.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Alaskan Laundry
    by Brendan Jones

    A fresh debut novel about a young woman who moves to Alaska and finds herself through the hard work of fishing.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H Now B C?

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.