A crime writer who thought he could handle anything confronts the worst of everything. Violent and unattended deaths...suicide...forensics...viral pathology...crime scene myths...The stories behind Aftermath, Inc. are stranger than fiction, and utterly human and compelling.
Like most people, true-crime writer Gil Reavill had never actually experienced a fresh crime scene. That is, until he met Tim Reifsteck and Chris Wilson, owners of Aftermath, Inc., a company in the new field of "bioremediation." In the mid-80s, when a sea change occurred in the way biohazard clean-up was handled, no one in traditional cleaning or janitorial services would come within ten feet of a blood-spattered crime scene. Into this void stepped lifelong friends Tim and Chris, who filled a desperate need by founding their company. For the guys of Aftermath, no crime scene is too bloody to clean.
Aftermath, Inc. traces their history, introducing their clients and employees, and the cops, coroners, and detectives they encounter in their work. Gil goes on scene and works side by side with the Aftermath technicians. He tells the stories that led up to some of Aftermath's most grisly clean-up jobs, taking us on a journey through the suburban Midwest where the company is based, home to some of the quietest, calmest, most ordinary blocks in the world, which hide much darker undercurrents beneath.
The issues that the Aftermath crew members face on a daily basis range from the mundane (What's the best way to suppress the urge to regurgitate?) to the lofty (How does being exposed to death on a daily basis alter one's personal philosophy?). Reavill approaches his task with respect and compassion, taking as his mantra a line from the Roman poet Terence-- "Nothing human is foreign to me."
In this grisly, swaggering tale of gut-churning crime scenes and the men who clean them up after the forensics team is done, veteran true crime scribe Reavill (Beyond All Reason: My Life with Susan Smith) holds nothing back. From descriptions of crimes ("The fusillade of bullets tore through Johnson's body.... Blood, bits of flesh and bone fragments exploded everywhere") to hepatitis C "bleed-outs" ("All four walls of the bathroom looked like someone had taken a blood hose and turned it on them"), Reavill grabs the reader by the throat and doesn't let go. He follows the techs from Aftermath, Inc.--a bioremediation outfit in suburban Chicago--as they make the rounds of shotgun suicides, multiple murders and meth lab cleanups; dealing not only with the gross-out of the work but trying to stay sane doing it. While some black humor seeps in around the edges, Reavill mostly depicts a cadre of low-key, hardworking men doing a horrible job with respect and compassion. The narrative pace flags a bit in the last 50 pages when Reavill tries to connect Aftermath's work with larger moral issues, but otherwise, if anything can get CSI watchers to flip off the tube and pick up a book, this is it. (May)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 17, 2007
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