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 teaches creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She is the author of Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud and Becoming a Yoga Instructor.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Aug 9, 2016
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9781476739366
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Language
English
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Genres
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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Two men in England photographed each other stealing thousands of dollars from gambling machines. An armed man successfully robbed a pharmacy and was captured after he boasted about it on social media. A burglar spent some time cleaning the house he was robbing, and even restocked some groceries, before he was discovered fast asleep in the homeowner’s bed. (“He did burn an old saucepan, but that happens!” reported the homeowner.) Two drunken louts stole a penguin from an aquarium and tried to release him into a canal when they were sober (he was returned to the polar enclosure, unharmed). Another man attempted to hold up a bank using a cucumber as a weapon. Two fellows tried to rob a bar where the town’s police department was holding a retirement party for one of its members.

For every Moriarty, there are a thousand stupid criminals who get caught in the act, or who boast about their success on social media, or whose acts are so outrageous that the police have little difficulty tracking them down. Throughout history, these criminals have been easily captured, and have sometimes even died during an ill-fated escape. New criminals are apprehended every day thanks to their own genius, their exploits captured on YouTube and Instagram.

Veteran reporter Jack Kirchhoff has recorded more than one hundred of the most ridiculous, absurd and bizarre crimes that have landed on the police blotter in recent years. Hilarious and outrageous, this book will make you shake your head and perhaps second-guess your own plans to commit petty larceny.

 

Standing in an ID parade of incompetence, waiting to be picked out as Britain’s stupidest criminal, we’ve assembled a line-up of bungling burglars, asinine assailants and thick thieves. Dipping their stolen bucket of opportunity into the well of other people's stuff, only to fall into the well themselves (and get the bucket stuck on their head), this book chronicles the crimes against common sense committed by these dim-witted deviants. Also featured in this compendium of criminal idiocy are: the bank robber who used a No. 72 bus as his getaway vehicle (it was almost as though the police knew where he was headed to next); the bag snatcher who robbed an elderly lady of the bad she'd just used to clear up responsibly after her dogs; and the burglars who left their four-year-old son, and a wallet containing full ID, at the crime scene. Also rounded up for routine questioning are the bank robbers who gifted the police a dropped map marking the preferred route from bank to hideout, and armed robbers who raided a laundry van to steal used towels whilst their intended target, a wages van, drove slowly past. Charged with being in possession of an idiotic plan and sentenced to a life term of stupidity, they're reversing the getaway vehicle into a police car and handing over their belt to the custody sergeant with the inevitable consequence of their trousers falling down. As thick as thieves indeed. It's a case (admittedly, a rather easy one) for the police to dial M for Muppet. This is an ideal gift book that will make you laugh out loud.
Winner of the NBCC Award for General Nonfiction

Named on Amazon's Best Books of the Year 2015--Michael Botticelli, U.S. Drug Czar (Politico) Favorite Book of the Year--Angus Deaton, Nobel Prize Economics (Bloomberg/WSJ) Best Books of 2015--Matt Bevin, Governor of Kentucky (WSJ) Books of the Year--Slate.com's 10 Best Books of 2015--Entertainment Weekly's 10 Best Books of 2015 --Buzzfeed's 19 Best Nonfiction Books of 2015--The Daily Beast's Best Big Idea Books of 2015--Seattle Times' Best Books of 2015--Boston Globe's Best Books of 2015--St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Best Books of 2015--The Guardian's The Best Book We Read All Year--Audible's Best Books of 2015--Texas Observer's Five Books We Loved in 2015--Chicago Public Library's Best Nonfiction Books of 2015

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In 1929, in the blue-collar city of Portsmouth, Ohio, a company built a swimming pool the size of a football field; named Dreamland, it became the vital center of the community. Now, addiction has devastated Portsmouth, as it has hundreds of small rural towns and suburbs across America--addiction like no other the country has ever faced. How that happened is the riveting story of Dreamland.

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