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

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It's maybe the reason you noticed the book in the first place. Greenwood's essential question is meant to linger after its sound bites: Even as an academic exercise or a freeway daydream, what does it mean to want yourself gone?
-NPR

Synopsis

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.
 

About Elizabeth Greenwood

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Elizabeth Greenwood grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts. Playing Dead is her first book.
 
Published August 9, 2016 by Simon & Schuster. 272 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Humor & Entertainment, Crime. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Playing Dead
All: 3 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Below average
on May 23 2016

Though earnestly researched, the narrative feels disjointed, and the book is never quite as engrossing as the potential for the intriguing content would suggest.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by John Williams on Aug 07 2016

The fun in Greenwood’s book — much of it admittedly grim fun — is in learning the details...The book’s weakness is in its frame. Ms. Greenwood sells us the project as an investigation and survey spurred by her own desire to fake her death. That desire may have been real, but these pages don’t convince us of it.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Genevieve Valentine on Aug 10 2016

It's maybe the reason you noticed the book in the first place. Greenwood's essential question is meant to linger after its sound bites: Even as an academic exercise or a freeway daydream, what does it mean to want yourself gone?

Read Full Review of Playing Dead: A Journey Throu... | See more reviews from NPR
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