Playing Dead

Playing Dead

A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
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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 she sets off on a 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 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 (yes, he's alive--or so some would have her believe), talks to people contemplating pseudocide, and gathers intel on black market morgues in the Philippines, where she may or may not succeed in obtaining 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 you'll be caught. (Disappearing while hiking, however, is a great way to go.)

Playing Dead is an utterly fascinating and charmingly bizarre investigation into our all-too-human desire to escape from the lives we lead, and the men and women desperate enough to lose their identities--and their families--to begin again.
Publisher: New York :, Simon & Schuster,, 2016
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
ISBN: 9781476739335
1476739331
9781476739342
147673934X
Branch Call Number: 364.163 Greenwoo 2016
Characteristics: xix, 246 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm

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jquick99
Sep 04, 2017

Read Frank Ahearn's book instead.

She spends a lot of time writing about what she learned from many interviews with Frank, who wrote a similar book. So, instead of writing Frank says this or that, she should just advise the reader to read his book. When NOT mentioning Frank, she discusses a few cases, but they (or at least what she writes about them) are boring. She feels the need to interview the cons in person, which seems more like an excuse to go on a boon doggle, on someone else's dime. REALLY boring book and glad I got from the library and didn't spend $26.

LPL_MeredithW Mar 25, 2017

An interesting look at the clandestine industry around death fraud - a.k.a., faking your own death. Recommended for fans of Mary Roach!

m
MplsTA
Mar 08, 2017

I did not find the cases of "faked death" she wrote about very interesting.

I think the best part of the book was her interview with Frank Ahearn who is the author of the book "How to disappear". In Playing Dead, he talks about his days as a skip tracer and privacy consultant and how today he helps people disappear. Not everyone wants to skip out on money they owe. Ahearn talks about security issues for women who are stalked and how to erase the digital "footprint" and live life off-the-grid if need be.

l
Liber_vermis
Dec 19, 2016

The author claims to have been motivated by her six-figure student loan debt. I was enjoying the book, especially the chapter on "The Canoe Man", but was put off by the chapter on "The Believers" who think that Michael Jackson faked his death and remains alive. This non-fiction book lacks an index and bibliography (although several books and movies are referenced in the text). The short story, "The Willow Walk", by Sinclair Lewis is a fictional "Jekyll and Hyde"-style tale of embezzlement where the thief contrives to make himself disappear.

LoganLib_Bailey Nov 28, 2016

An interesting look into the phenomenon of pseudocide, with a few real life success stories and a lot more failures.

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