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Publisher's Summary

A darkly comic inquiry into how to fake your own death, the disappearance industry, and the lengths to which people will go to be reborn.

Is it still possible to fake your own death in the 21st century? With six figures of student loan debt, Elizabeth Greenwood is 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.

©2016 Elizabeth Greenwood (P)2016 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

"Ms. Greenwood takes us on a romp through the world of the living dead - not zombies, but real folk who decide the best way to go on with life is to fake death. It's a delightful read, and for anyone tantalized by the prospect of disappearing without a trace it might even provide some useful tips - though Greenwood is careful to caution that 'pseudocide' is rarely painless." (Erik Larson, New York Times best-selling author of Dead Wake)
"Exuberant and ironic, witty and compassionate, various and keenly-focused, Playing Dead is eccentric investigative journalism. A terrific subject, where the deadly (excuse the pun) serious and absurdly comic meet and mesh." (Margo Jefferson, author of Negroland)
"Elizabeth Greenwood is as entertaining and gifted an archeologist of subcultures as she is an able explorer of issues like anonymity, the right to privacy, and how much control people can ever exert over their identities. An energetic and insatiable writer, her generous mind infuses every page of this astonishing book." (Heidi Julavits, author of The Folded Clock)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Some flat spots, but overall fantastic.

I'm quite intrigued by the subject, so this book pricked my interest. It turns out that faking your own death is very difficult to execute and get away with without getting caught and serving jail time.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Listened to it twice!

I loved Ms. Greenwood's inquiry into the world of death fraud. Her perspective was personally-relevant and thought-provoking.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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playing dead

easy listen, enjoyable story of various people and their experience at attempting to disappear. not a how to book, light on any actual ideas and steps which can be used to vanish. a story of a young woman fresh out of college and saddled with a huge student loan debt. her only escape is daydreaming about faking her death and beginning anew. enjoy just don't expect too much.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Loved it

playing Dead is written well. it's clever, funny, surprising, entertaining, and insightful. Elizabeth Greenwood one day had an idea to escape her massive student loan debt: she could fake her own death! this epiphany started a five-year journey into the phenomenon of death fraud. she researched all angles, interviewing people who investigate death fraud, make a living helping people disappear, fake their deaths, or who mourn the loved ones they believe have died. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this quirky subject, written by someone with a great talent for storytelling.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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So informative and addicting

I loved everything about this book. The research is really well done and i love the authors voice. Elizabeth is a writer to watch out for! I would recommend this book to anyone into non-fiction, especially if you are into little known cultural idiosyncrasies. Five stars!!!!

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Circles

Any additional comments?

Playing Dead is fun for a little while. A short while. But there just isn't that much to cover. a few very interesting stories, and then. . . a few more stories. Actually the stories are great. <br/><br/>What runs the book in circles is that the author herself seems to have realized she didn't have enough material to make a book, so she decided to take the book from the angel that she would fake her own death to get rid of credit card loans. But -- since we know know know she isn't going to really fake her own death, it is just wasted space like a dog chasing its tail in circles. Pointless. <br/><br/>She runs to a lot of shady people who explain why she doesn't really want to fake her death. As she weaves her own totally pointless story through very interesting stories, the reader wants to raise their hand, "Could you make this less about you and more about the real subject please?"

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Very Interesting Topic

This book was basically a long research paper on death fraud. With that said, I enjoyed it and it was presented in easy to digest way with sections to cover all aspects of the topic.

The Michael Jackson section seemed out of place and long winded.... I could have done with out that all together.

Still, overall a good listen and a well researched subject.

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Leaves one unsatisfied

Interesting, but doesn't live up to hype. WA hoping for something more than a memoir.

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interesting

I was intrigued to read it this book and thought that it turned out to be a great experience

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Interesting story

Wish she could have found a woman who 'played dead'. The reader sounded sad and melancholy. Went on a bit about Michael Jackson. A little too long in my opinion. But overall it was kind of interesting and her interview for PBS was a great highlight of the book. That's the reason why I thought it

1 of 2 people found this review helpful