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Doyle Burke wears his ring, which he bought at pawnshop, everyday. It’s a gold skull with ruby eyes, and Burke wears it to remind himself of the career he chose and the victims he represents.

For most of us, death is a part of life – but one part that we think about only reluctantly. For Burke, death is his living – mostly violent death. For more than 30 years, involving more than 1,000 cases, Burke has been a death investigator, first with the Dayton, Ohio police department, then with a county coroner’s office.

Burke is one of Ohio’s preeminent homicide detectives, teaching classes around the state. In this book, he shares his tricks of the trade: how detectives solve cases, what they look for, the importance of forensic science, or the irreplaceable value of instinct. He shares the inside stories of his most important cases, some of which brought national attention, including:

  • A baby dies from a mysterious patterns of burns, which fit no known cause or prior case of child abuse.
  • During the Christmas holidays, a series of seemingly unrelated homicides occurs, until detectives realize that an unknown group of spree killers is at work.
  • The triple axe murder on a quiet residential street.
  • Three elderly people murdered by a self-professed Satan worshipper, who demands the death penalty, promising to kill again if he doesn’t get it.

Burke explains the different facets of the work. How he made death notifications. Why detectives dress they way they do. How to get a good confession from a suspect. Along the way, Burke offers humorous trial anecdotes, thoughts on race and policing, stories about the fatal toll stress took on fellow officers, and, perhaps most movingly, details about the three fatal shootings of police officers – one of them one of his first friends on the department, another the son of his sergeant – that he had to investigate.

Part memoir, part police procedural and part true crime anthology, Death as a Living reveals the inside world of homicide and death investigation, showing the triumph, the tragedy, the humor and the truly bizarre situations that working that beat entails.

His co-author, Lou Grieco, is a former reporter who covered many of the cases in the book during his 20 years with the Dayton Daily News.