The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist (audiobook)

A True Story of Injustice in the American South

Foreword by John Grisham
Read by Robert Fass
14.8 hrs • 12 CDs • Unabridged
Nonfiction/True Crime
Target Audience: Adult
Release Date: 02/27/18
This title will be available on February 27, 2018
Library CD Library Edition CD titles are packaged in an attractive, full-sized, durable vinyl case with full color art. Cloth Sleeves keep compact discs protected and in numerical order. 
- 02/27/18 9781478990406

People Who Bought This Also Bought


This is an account of two tragedies.

At the heart of the first is Dr. Steven Hayne, a doctor the State of Mississippi employed as its de facto medical examiner for two decades. Beginning in the late 1980s, he performed anywhere from 1,200 to 1,800 autopsies a year, five times more than is recommended, performed at night in the basement of a local funeral home. Autopsy reports claimed organs had been observed and weighed when, in reality, they had been surgically removed from the body years before. Hayne, the only game in town, also often brought in local dentist and self-styled “bite-mark specialist” Dr. Michael West, who would discover marks on victim’s bodies, at times invisible to the naked eye, and then match those marks—“indeed and without doubt”—to law enforcement’s lead suspect.

This leads to the second tragic tale: that of Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, two black men each convicted in separate cases of the brutal rape and murder of young girls. Dr. Hayne’s autopsy and Dr. West’s bite-mark matching formed the bases for their convictions. Combined, the two men served over thirty years in Parchman Farm, Mississippi’s notorious penitentiary, before being exonerated in 2008. Brooks’ and Brewer’s wrongful convictions lie at the intersection of both the most pressing problem facing this country’s criminal justice system—structural injustice built on the historic foundation of race and class—as well as with the much more contemporary but equally egregious problem of invalid forensic science. The old problem is inextricably bound up with and exacerbates the new.

In The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist, Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington write a true story of Southern gothic horror—of two innocent men wrongly convicted of vicious crimes and the legally condoned failures that allowed it to happen. Balko and Carrington will shine a light on the institutional and professional failures that allowed this tragic, astonishing story to happen, identify where it may have happened elsewhere, and show how to prevent it from happening again.

Review Quotes

“A powerful and instructive story, masterfully told by Balko and Carrington.”

Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author

“A blistering exposé of Mississippi’s bungle-prone process of investigating deaths.”

Garden & Gun magazine

“A clear and shocking portrait…This eminently readable book builds a hard-to-ignore case for comprehensive criminal justice reform.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Those inside the criminal justice system were more interested in closing cases than in identifying the actual perpetrators…A horrifying exposé of how a few individuals can infect an entire state’s criminal justice system.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Notable for its depth and geographic focus…this [is a] stinging exposé of faulty forensics.”

Library Journal

“The authors uncover an unholy alliance of racist cops and prosecutors with questionable death investigations and misapplied forensics. This work should spark both admiration and outrage—and, one hopes, reform.”