Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud

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“A delightful read for anyone tantalized by the prospect of disappearing without a trace.” —Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of Dead Wake

“Delivers all the lo-fi spy shenanigans and caught-red-handed schadenfreude you’re hoping for.” —NPR

“A lively romp.” —The Boston Globe

“Grim fun.” —The New York Times

“Brilliant topic, absorbing book.” —The Seattle Times

“The most literally escapist summer read you could hope for.” —The Paris Review

Is it still possible to fake your own death in the twenty-first century? With six figures of student loan debt, Elizabeth Greenwood was tempted to find out. So off she sets on a darkly comic foray into the world of death fraud, where for $30,000 a consultant can make you disappear—but your suspicious insurance company might hire a private detective to dig up your coffin...only to find it filled with rocks.

Greenwood tracks down a British man who staged a kayaking accident and then returned to live in his own house while all his neighbors thought he was dead. She takes a call from Michael Jackson (no, he’s not dead—or so her new acquaintances would have her believe), stalks message boards for people contemplating pseudocide, and gathers intel on black market morgues in the Philippines, where she may or may not obtain some fraudulent goodies of her own. Along the way, she learns that love is a much less common motive than money, and that making your death look like a drowning virtually guarantees that you’ll be caught. (Disappearing while hiking, however, is a way great to go.)

Playing Dead is a charmingly bizarre investigation in the vein of Jon Ronson and Mary Roach into our all-too-human desire to escape from the lives we lead, and the men and women desperate enough to give up their lives—and their families—to start again.
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About the author

Elizabeth Greenwood grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts. Playing Dead is her first book.

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8 total

Additional Information

Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Aug 9, 2016
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Humor / General
Social Science / General
True Crime / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Elizabeth Greenwood studied sculpture at St. Martins School of Art, and in Florence and Rome. She had a classical education, preferring Greek to Latin for the richness of its vocabulary and her sculpture with its reference to Greek mythology reflects this predilection; she is also a dedicated writer. Apart from poetry, she enjoys producing emblematic fiction based on Mary Poppins philosophical song a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, thus fulfilling the writers task as entertainer cum moralist, Both creative activities date from early childhood. Although they were largely ignored, she was fortunate in having been born into a family where close relatives had universal minds, uniting a passion for Literature with a keen interest in Politics, the Cinema and Science, especially Space Science. Officially, she began her writing career by producing educational scripts for the BBC World Wide Services which taught her the invaluable benefit of dedicated researching. In later years, to counteract a tendency to create works of the imagination, she has applied herself to the discipline of academic work in the field of biblical studies with particular regard to the Dead Sea discoveries, now well-documented, which give insights into the rise of Christianity. Her particular interest in Sherlock Holmes as an innovative detective relates to his having been born in America in a play on Broadway where it was an immediate success, with a famous actor in the lead while Conan Doyle, the British creator of Sherlock Holmes, was serving with the Friends Ambulance Service as a volunteer front-line surgeon during the Boer war in South Africa.
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