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Edited by R A Burnett. Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene, 2004, £15.00 (paperback), ISBN 1 90166 011 7145
Students of the Certificate or Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology will find this an excellent source of operational knowledge; mortuary managers will want to buy the editor a drink for the bibliography alone; pathologists will be reminded just how difficult it is to operate a mortuary in these days of Department of Health reports, Health and Safety Executive guidelines, and CPA visits. Such big praise for such a relatively small book, but then discussion about the size and colour of the publication surprisingly takes up about half of the introduction by the editor; the theme shall be maintained!
It is bigger than the 1991 “Red Book” which, according to its introduction—“in many mortuaries it takes pride of place on the bookshelf along with the much bigger format Yellow Book…”—well, not in mine it doesn’t, because it was/is such an annoying little book to use, with a scanty contents page and no index. The 2004 Red and White Book (should have kept to one colour to maintain the chromatic flow) has undoubtedly expanded in its scope and amount of text and, as such, is a better source of information. However, because of the barely improved contents page and persistently non-existent index, it is still difficult to use; the contents page in this handbook takes you to the country, then to a region and strands you there. I don’t need the sophistication of satellite navigation to find my way around a book, but even the cheapest road atlas has an index to take you straight to the town. It troubles me that the introduction prides itself in the fact that each “part” is designed to be complete in itself, with minimal cross referencing and, therefore, some duplication and repetition is inevitable; who really wants to read the whole book over and over again to spot the duplications—that is, facts pertaining to the same subject area? I don’t, and neither I suspect does any busy APT or pathologist. This is a shame because there is a veritable mine of information here. The price of £15 (including post and packaging) is easily affordable for the most cash strapped of organisations (even UK NHS hospital trusts). Having said that, on publishing the second edition, please will the Royal Institute of Public Health as publishers invest in a better word processing package with an index facility (even Microsoft Word will do it on a desk top) and pass the few pence on to the reader; it will be money well spent.