Better Off Dead?

Book review: Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud
by Elizabeth Greenwood

What a fun read this is, considering the weightiness of the subject matter!

Elizabeth Greenwood needs an out from her life – saddled with the burden of crushing student debt, frustrated working a job that will never earn her enough to pay the loans off, she latched on to a throwaway comment made by a friend and became obsessed. He jokingly suggested that she fake her own death and start over fresh. After some research, she’s intrigued because that’s exactly what many have tried – with varying levels of success and with different motivations – to do. Never quite sure whether she’s really serious about doing it herself, she throws herself into studying the paths others have taken.

These include a spectacular amount of failures. Greenwood walks through the minds and methods of some notorious con artists, criminals, those who took advantage of 9/11 chaos, Michael Jackson death truthers, insurance fraudsters, and sometimes just ordinary people who wanted, for one reason or another, to disappear from their lives and start different ones – sometimes on an isolated beach, sometimes with another partner.  She also gets inside details from the people who’ve built careers out of catching the fakers and frauds, making for an even perspective of the attempts and risks at stake. She’s very fair in her analysis and explorations, comparing gender statistics and the reasons behind why anyone would make this choice.

There’s so much here that leads you to think about things that you probably never would have otherwise considered, and that was an unexpected, interesting additional element. Every time I started to read, I disappeared completely into whatever jaunt she was on, ending up in the Philippines acquiring her very own death certificate.

Ultimately, it’s surprisingly uplifting. After her explorations into the afterlife, Greenwood finds a satisfaction, or at least a peaceful acceptance, in the everyday minutiae of her own life that she didn’t have before. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to appreciate what you have, however small or flawed it might seem, and even experiencing it secondhand through her explorations and experience is satisfying.

Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud
by Elizabeth Greenwood

published August 9, 2016 by Simon & Schuster

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