Obscure cases of death, disease & murder

By Cynric Temple-Camp

HarperCollins Publishers $39.99


The Final Diagnosis is the third book by Cynric Temple-Camp. The pathologist from Palmerston North covers everything from autopsies and misdiagnoses to murders and Covid. Although the stories are all true and set in New Zealand he made the stories very readable by using a semi-fictional style and a black sense of humour.


In his chapter about Covid he reveals the can-do attitude of his team. With initially only three testing labs for Covid in New Zealand, the turn-around time for results from swabs was unacceptable. In very plain language the author describes the principles of PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing and how they shared the PCR instrument at the Massey University campus that was used to test the national dairy herds for Mycoplasma Bovis. The medical team worked during the night while the Mycoplasma testing carried on as usual during the day, and the people in the Maniototo had their Covid results within 24 hours.


The author dedicates a few chapters to some of New Zealand’s famous murders including the murders by Scott Watson and Mark Lundy. Although he was not always involved as a pathologist, he sheds light on each murder from his own educated perspective and tells us why in his view they are all guilty. He even writes a chapter on Vincent van Gogh’s death and toys with the idea that the artist was murdered rather than that he died by suicide.


Some of the chapters reminded me of the tv series House, where Dr House, a diagnostician, solves the most puzzling of cases with his wits and unconventional ways. In a similar vein, Temple-Camp takes us through the mysteries and problems a pathologist must deal with. At times I wondered if it was ethical to read these stories for ‘entertainment’. The author, however, says we are all fascinated by death and death comes for us all. And he has dedicated the book “To all the fine people whose stories these are. You will be long remembered.” I suppose that makes it okay then?



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